Meditation 101: How to feel more zen—anywhere
"I feel idiotic repeating a mantra."
Mantra, shmantra. "When you say 'meditation,' people still picture robes, shaved heads and chanting," says Rich Pierson, cofounder of Headspace (GetSomeHeadspace.com), a meditation company, along with Andy Puddicombe, a joke-cracking former Buddhist monk. But all you have to do is focus on steadying your breath, Pierson says. You'll feel more relaxed, and your heart rate will slow, the Indian Journal of Medical Research reports. Close your eyes and count your slow inhalations and exhalations silently up to 10, then repeat. Or use the free Headspace app to guide you. "It's so simple. There's nothing New Agey about it," Puddicombe says. (Except the Zen feeling, obviously.)
"I can't clear my mind. It's always racing."
Don't sweat the noise in your head; it's normal. The trick is to stop judging yourself for it. "When your mind wanders to what you'll cook for dinner or whether you can squeeze in a workout later, don't think, Crap, I'm supposed to be meditating," Pierson says. Go back to your breathing, and start counting again.
"I don't have a good place to concentrate."
There is no law of meditation that mandates locking yourself up in absolute silence, cross-legged in a beautiful white room. Though a quiet spot is ideal, you can meditate anywhere, under almost any circumstances. "If you're distracted by sirens outside or the sounds of people chatting around you, pay attention to the noise, instead of stressing about shutting it out," Puddicombe advises. "After a minute or two, your mind will get bored and you'll naturally return to your rhythmic breathing."
"Sitting quietly makes me sleepy."
News flash: If you need a nap after meditating, you probably needed one before. Meditation heightens awareness of any sensation or feeling, like fatigue or happiness, Pierson says. And if you're sad? Recognizing that emotion, rather than fighting it, can lessen its intensity, a study from Stanford University finds. " I've tried so hard. But I just can't do it." Look, you don't need to be an advanced, award-winning meditation expert; you merely need to set aside the time to try it. But don't struggle too much. "We call meditation a 'practice' for a reason," Puddicombe says. "Your mind isn't always going to be in a place of calm, spacious clarity. That's precisely why meditating can help."