As a young artist, I am constantly trying to create structure and stability for myself within the hectic world of working freelance. I find guidance in podcasts, blogs, and twitter feeds written by professional artists and entrepreneurs who are happy to share their behavioral patterns and “life hacks” with people like me, hungry for any tips that might just be the key to success.
After mining the internet for such information, the most frequently cited practice is some form of daily meditation.
Up until a month ago, meditation was something I only did in yoga class. As many of you know, the ambiance at Five Pillars feels much like a high end spa — the warm lights, the sweet smell of essential oils, and the nurturing voice of my teacher allow me to escape into the present moment, and experience a sense of restorative peace that feels a lot like the moments during and after a great massage. Meditation is easy there — it feels effortless. This was not my experience when I first tried meditating at home. I quickly realized the thing I missed most was a soothing voice guiding me through the meditation. My mind was quick to wander in the silence, and I didn’t quite know what I should be thinking about … or not thinking about.
A friend recommended I download a guided meditation app like Headspace or Calm to make this new practice a bit easier. At first, I scoffed – of course there are apps to help you “unplug” and free the mind. But after doing a bit of research, I realized apps like Headspace have over 4,000,000 meditating users from over 150 countries around the world. I had to try it out.
The app is pristine. The design is simple and playful, which makes the experience of working through it accessible and fun.
It starts with “Take 10.” 10 minutes for 10 days straight to get more “head space.”
You begin on your first day with a cute animation, just the first of several instructional animations you’ll watch over the course of your 10 day journey. The first animation gives you 5 quick tips on how to begin the process:
Quick Starter Tips:
Find a place you will be undisturbed for 10 minutes – ideally with some peace and quiet.
Try to practice at the same time every day – it’s easier to create a new habit this way.
Meditating first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day.
Don’t worry! On some days it will be hard and others easy, gently stay with it.
Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Either works fine.
You then begin the 10 minute session with Andy as your guide, a British man with an uplifting voice. Not only does he help you focus on your calming breath, but he offers new ways to interact with passing thoughts.
The first few days were glorious. Perhaps it was just my excitement about finally being a “person who meditated every day,” but within the first three days of my practice I felt more clear headed, grounded, and relaxed. The intense feelings of change seemed to level out as I continued my journey, and now that I’m deeper into the practice the effects are more subtle. However, I know what I am doing is good for my mental health.
Overall, I feel less anxious and stressed, and in moments when those feelings arise, I have a few more tools at my disposal to handle them. Through this journey, I have realized that “bad”/negative thoughts are inevitable, but it’s how I relate to them that counts.
There have been countless studies that show the positive, long term effects of consistent meditation. Not to mention the positive effects of the focused breathing that come with meditation. But most surprising to me has been how easy it is to actually do it every day. It is a quick 10 minutes that I dedicate right when I wake up. And on those days when I oversleep and am rushing out of the house, I use the subway ride to work to get in my 10 minutes. This small effort allows me the same sense of rejuvenation that an hour long yoga class usually provides, and on days when I can’t get to the studio, I cherish that 10 minute gift.