Meditation 101

As part of our Permission to Pause campaign, we’re sharing 7 days of mindfulness tips from experts on unplugging, eating healthy, positive mantras, and more. Here, we hear from Suze Yalof Schwartz, CEO and Founder of Unplug Meditation, the author of Unplug: A Simple Guide To Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers, and the creator of the Unplug Meditation App. And don’t forget to check out Restore, created to help you experience moments of mindfulness, rest, and recovery.

I wasn’t always a calm, centered, in-control human being. In fact, I was a classic type A personality and overachiever: insanely busy, impatient, and racing through my life at two hundred miles per hour. In that life, I was a fashion editor and “makeover guru” working at Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Glamour Magazine with regular appearances on GMA, The Today Show, CBS Early Show and more. My mother-in-law, watching me struggle with balance, suggested I learn to meditate. I went on a search to find the best places to learn in the LA area and found there was nowhere I could pop in, practice, and leave. After a long journey of taking classes everywhere I could find them, and learning different meditation styles from various teachers, I knew I was ready to give meditation the makeover it needed.

I started Unplug, the world’s first secular drop-in meditation studio to share meditation in its simplest, cleanest form. Our clients range from ages 6 to 96, from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to the everyday stressed-out. Meditation has changed my life in so many ways, and I’m thrilled to be able to introduce others to it. The best way I can describe meditation is that I feel like I’m experiencing my life in high def.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott

So what is meditation?

Meditation is a practice that teaches you to unplug from distraction and experience the present moment. That’s it. Really. Meditation teaches you to consciously direct your attention where you want it to be, especially when you’re off in distraction or reaction land. Meditation teacher Davidji has an analogy for this that I love. He compares our brains to cell phones with texts, emails, and other alerts streaming in all the time. When we train our brain through meditation, the thoughts still flow in, but we’re not disturbed by them. We can see the thoughts that are spam, and drag them to the delete folder, or, even better, put them on silent. Meditation teaches you to proactively choose where to put your energy rather than reactively responding to every blip and bleep that comes your way.

Follow along with Davidji as he guides you through 16 Seconds of Calm, a technique to connect you with the present moment.

The process is the practice, and it goes something like this:
Let go.
Drift in the gap.
Notice and acknowledge the thoughts resurfacing.

If you think about it, everything applies to that formula of coming back to the center. And by center, I mean the here and now in mind, body, and soul. Don’t expect that every time you meditate you’re going to have a life-changing epiphany. In fact, a lot of the time, nothing happens. You’re not practicing to achieve anything; getting yourself to sit quietly and breathe at least once a day is the achievement. Davidji compares meditations to snowflakes because no two are ever the same. Once you understand that every meditation session will be different, you stop looking to duplicate. The cool moments are not something you can have on demand.

Physical Benefits of Meditation

There are so many strange and wonderful things that may happen when you meditate that we’ve devoted a whole post to this topic later in the week. Just to tease you, I can tell you that meditation can lead to increased happiness, improved health, and better sleep. Check back later in the week for more.

Ready to Unplug

Hopefully, you’re fired up about sitting down to focus your mind. Here are the basics of getting set up before you take your first deep, clearing breath:

  • Meditate in the morning: While there are studies that show the brain is in the best place to meditate right when you wake up, meditating in the morning also sets you up to be calmer, more focused, more productive, and just plain nicer to yourself and others throughout the rest of your day.
  • There’s no perfect place to meditate: Some people create a special meditation space, and beautiful, serene places can be idyllic, but really, it doesn’t matter once you close your eyes. Mainly, you want to choose a place that’s relatively quiet where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Sit comfortably, whatever that means for you: That might mean settling in on a flat cushion, legs crossed, in bed with your legs straight out, in a chair with your hands on your lap. You can even lie down. Position yourself however is most comfortable so you can focus your mind without distraction.

Taking It To The Next Level

With the above, you can get your meditation practice flowing now. But if you want to go even further with tips to make sure you’re successful and consistent, and even more ways to extend and shakeup your meditation routine, check out my book, Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers. And through my partnership with Athleta, experience our Unplug Meditation App at 50% off using code ATHLETA (offer available 8/1/17-8/31/17).

I’ll leave you with a mini meditation Tapping to Delete Stress with Lena George, who describes the technique as “acupressure for the emotions.”

So unplug for a few minutes each day … and then a few more … and a few more. Then just keep going. You got this!

Interested in more Unplug meditations? Check out our playlist on Athleta’s YouTube channel here.

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