When people say they don’t have time to meditate, I ask them, ‘Do you have time to feel like sh*t?’” So says meditation guru Gabrielle Bernstein at our first meeting, and I have to admit, she has a point. The ancient practice is suddenly trending, with a new study practically every week touting its pros: stress reduction, anti-ageing, stronger immunity. It appears literally to change our overtaxed brains, turning down activity in the areas involved in anxiety and turning it up in the areas that keep emotions in check. The cons are...none, basically. It’s like a wonder drug with no Rx needed and no side effects. So I’d added it to my to-do list. The problem: I never did it. There were memos to prepare, runs to run. Even if I could find the time just to sit in silence, how could I stop the thoughts about everything else I should be doing?
Experts will tell you there’s no wrong way to meditate, as long as you’re a) in a comfortable position in a quiet space, b) focused on something specific, and c) holding a non-judgemental attitude. Yet my first attempt was a flop. I had signed up for a group class. I rushed in, behind schedule and panting, and all I could focus on were the sweat beads slowly tracing their way down my spine, how uncomfy my meditation cushion was, and the puzzle of how meditation requires you to sit even though being sedentary is bad, yet meditation is good. I left feeling no less stressed than I was when I walked in.
All of which brought me to Bernstein, the author of Miracles Now. “I’m trying to meditate, and I’m mad at myself that I can’t,” I tell her. “It’s like I’m trying to win at meditation.” She assures me that she hears this from clients a lot and adds that trying to meditate for 45 minutes the first time out is like starting an exercise plan with a triathlon. In fact, less than five minutes is enough.
Bernstein teaches me a beginners’ Kundalini meditation: I take long, deep breaths for three minutes while repeating the mantra sat nam (truth identified), then simply sit quietly for a minute. Afterwards, I feel both energised and relaxed. Then Bernstein gives me a directive to meditate daily. Bubble = burst.
Wonder drug or not, meditating is harder than popping a pill. So I pick up a few more tools. I download the app OMG. I Can Meditate!, which targets specific moments—conflicts, office stress, walking. I also happen upon a YouTube video called F*ck That: A Guided Meditation. It has Enya-like music and expletive-laced instructions. (“You’re here now, in this place with your inner stillness. Those b*tches can’t get under your skin. They can’t even.”) After I stop laughing, I find it surprisingly useful.
I start meditating more and more, if not everyday. I repeat my mantra at a friend’s bachelorette party, during transit, on a beach in Spain. And the more I do it, the less my mind wanders. I start to plan my day around my meditation classes. I receive multiple compliments. Meditation really does have endless benefits.