meditation

You don’t need any equipment to experience the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of meditation. Just a little time and space

Meditation has gone mainstream. Masses of meditation apps compete for your mindful attention; celebrities like Arianna Huffington and Jerry Seinfeld are touting its effectiveness; and business magazines claim it's the golden ticket to success. Not only can meditation increase productivity and profits, it’s good for mental and physical health.

“All forms of meditation, to some degree, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, decrease stress-related cortisol, reduce respiration and heart rate, reduce the metabolic rate, increase blood flow in the brain, increase activity in the left prefrontal cortex (which is observed in happier people), strengthen the immune system and lead to a state of relaxation,” says M.D. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine.

“Meditation also reduces pain, work stress, anxiety, and depression, promotes cardiovascular health, improves cognitive function, lowers blood pressure, reduces alcohol abuse, improves longevity, promotes healthy weight, reduces tension headaches, relieves asthma, controls blood sugar in diabetic patients, alleviates PMS, reduces chronic pain, improves immune function and raises quality of life.”

Even if you’re convinced of its powerful benefits, the myriad types of meditation and avenues to approach it from can seem overwhelming. You may want to start with a simple breathing meditation, follow a guided meditation, or attend a class. 

Or, if you’re already a dabbler, you may want to take it up a notch by increasing the length and frequency, or adopting a more advanced method. You don’t need anything fancy to start or deepen a meditation practice (although accessories like cushions, malas, incense and soundtracks, abound), but it can help to create a dedicated quiet space where you can sit comfortably.

If you’re ready to explore the many mental, physical and spiritual benefits that come through the practice of meditation, click through for three simple tools...

Focus on something simple

Focus on something simple

You don’t need any equipment to experience the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of meditationjust a little time and space.

“Straightforward and simple (but not easy), meditation is essentially training our attention so that we can be more awarenot only of our own inner workings but also of what’s happening around us in the here and now,” says meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg in her book Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation.

Training your attention on a single point of focus, like your breath or a mantra, is a great way to get started.

The key to feeling successful is recognizing that thoughts will arise, and that becoming aware you’ve strayed from focusing on your breath or mantra is the practice.

The more you practice, the better you’ll become at paying attention to what your mind is focused onwhich you can imagine has incredible benefits for increasing productivity (recognizing it’s not time to check Facebook) and reducing stress (recognizing negative patterns that don’t serve you).  

“If you have to let go of distractions and begin again thousands of times, fine. That’s not a roadblock to the practicethat is the practice. That’s life: starting over, one breath at a time,” says Salzberg. “When a thought arises that’s strong enough to take your attention away from the breath, simply note it as not breath.”

Using a mantra can bring more meaning or inspiration to the practice of meditation.

“The word mantra comes from two Sanskrit words: man, which means ‘mind,’ and tra, which means ‘vehicle or instrument,’” says meditation teacher davidji in his book Secrets of Meditation: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace and Personal Transformation. “So our mantra is our mind vehicle… our mind instrument. It is a tool to transport the mind from a state of activity to one of quieting down into stillness and silence.”

You can choose a traditional mantra like om, or use a word with personal meaning like love or peace.

“When you have a consistent daily meditation practice, instead of only having sporadic tastes of the bliss of present-moment awareness, you begin to experience that bliss more and more in your everyday life,” says davidji. “The present-moment awareness you experience in meditation begins to flow throughout each thought, each conversation, each keystroke and each breath.” 

A beautiful tool to use with a mantra are mala beads. Vancouver-based Mala Collective offers sustainably-harvested, Bali-made necklaces and bracelets, plus free guided meditations if you prefer instruction.

Follow along

Follow along

There are many excellent apps, like Calm (pictured above), and online resources that provide guided meditations. Sometimes, it takes less discipline to have someone else tell you what to do. That’s the beauty of guided meditations!

New and noteworthy meditation apps are coming out regularly, so do a little digging to see what you connect with—the right music, tone of voice and layout are very individual.

Some of the top apps to begin your search with include CalmHeadspace, and Buddhify.

Calm lets you choose from a wide variety of free soundscapes (rainfall, waves crashing, crackling fire) to a variety of guided free and paid themes and multi-day series, plus an unguided meditation timer with soundscapes.

Headspace has a free guided foundation program—10 minutes a day for 10 days—plus a large collection of paid programs that focus on health, performance, relationships and more, in varying lengths of time.

Buddhify facilitates on-the-go meditation to encourage mindfulness throughout your busy day, with dozens of tracks for at home, at work, bedtime, walking, travelling, mealtime, difficult emotions and managing pain—for a small fee.

Another excellent resource to check out is the Oprah and Deepak 21-Day Meditation Experience, a regularly occurring guided meditation series that’s free to follow along with or available to purchase after each series finishes.

Participate in group meditation

Participate in group meditation

Gastown’s Moment Meditation (pictured above) is a boutique mindfulness studio offering group classes. Committing to an event ensures you’ll actually make the time to practice meditating, and it’s a great way to meet new teachers and students to support and inspire you on your mindfulness journey.

Moment Meditation is a new boutique mindfulness studio in Gastown exclusively offering 30- to 45-minute group meditation classes and “Quiet Space” for self-guided practice. Choose from “Happy,” “Focus” or “Calm,” and even a “Lunch Date & Meditate” class that includes a post-class takeaway lunch from local restaurants like Nuba and Tacofino.

Many local yoga studios offer meditation workshops, like Semperviva Yoga, One Yoga for the People and STRETCH Yoga Studio. Check out Carolyn Anne Budgell’s two-hour meditation workshop on Sunday, December 10.