We live in a technology driven world that can often overload the senses and cause an incredible feeling of overwhelm. I find myself seeking a recalibration every day to pull myself away from that constant hum of technology. I have found that centering through a daily meditation practice.
I was first introduced to the concept of modern meditation on a 21-day retreat in Costa Rica in 2016. Before my trip, I thought meditation was just for monks, hippies, and the uber-spiritual. But at this retreat, everyone was my age, mostly coming from big cities like NYC, SF, and LA and they had found and adapted a practice to work for them. The time I spent learning here was messy and I never felt like I was doing it right. But still, I continued to show up. I only felt that I had one successful moment throughout those first 21-days where I was fully able to tap into my subconsciousness. It was slight, a very slight feeling of mentally leaving my physical body and entering a more internal place. I remember thinking, is THIS meditation? I felt something, it was different and I wasn’t sure if it was right, but I was curious to learn more. Returning from Costa Rica, I wanted to find a way to continue my develop my practice. I wanted to keep exploring that idea and see how I could find my way back to that original feeling.
For the next two years, my practice continued to morph. I used my practice when I was stressed out working in NYC, finding ten minutes to quietly slip away from the office, ground myself in the grass, and steady my thoughts. I now meditate for ten minutes daily and definitely notice when I miss a day. I am currently working towards a one-year run streak and have recently surpassed 200 consecutive days. My practice is not always perfect, sometimes I am unable to quiet my mind wondering why I even try to meditate in the first place. But I still sit there, with my eyes closed, taking that time to disconnect from the world and reconnect with myself.
The noticeable effects I have felt so far:
-Stress Reducer - The ability to re-center my focus when I am feeling frazzled
-Sensory Gain - I feel more in touch with my breath, my physical body, and my mind
-Pause - Taking time daily to pause and sit with my thoughts, rather than constantly moving
-Creativity - Sometimes when I a stumped on a project or an idea, I will meditate on it. Sometimes, nothing comes and I just let thoughts about that project drift away out of mind. Other times, I run through options in my head and something new I hadn’t thought of before will pop into my mind and be the answer to what I was seeking.
I use the app, Headspace, for daily, personal meditations. Headspace was created by meditation and mindfulness expert, Andy Puddicombe. Andy created the app after experiencing the practice of meditation by Tibetan Buddhist monks in Northern India. Transitioning back to western culture, he wanted to bring the practice to the masses in a more approachable, modern way.
The app makes it very easy for beginners:
-They provide animated videos to give you tools to use during your meditation
-They track the clock. No more squinting at your watch to see how long you’ve been sitting. You can set their meditations to 10, 15, or 20 minute intervals.
-They guide the meditation taking you through a series of exercises to guide you deeper and waking you up near the end.
-They have many different 10- and 30-day sets based on what is causing you stress incl. Mindful Eating, Productivity, and Sleep
-Mini meditations. Having a super stressful day? Feeling extra frantic energy? They have mini series 3-10 minutes to help calm your breathing and bring you closer to a homeostasis state.
-They track your progress. At the end of each meditation, they let you know how many total minutes you’ve meditated for and how long you current run streak is. You get little badges and awards as you progress. I’m working towards the 365-day run streak.
Additionally, I found an incredibly supportive in-person community in New York City where I could discuss my practice and dive deeper into various topics. Jesse Israel left his swanky job in the music industry to pursue his passion of bringing meditation to the masses. Thus both Medi Club and The Big Quiet were born.
Medi Club is a collective of thousands of New Yorkers that share meditation as a common thread. We come together to meditate, collaborate, meet new people and discuss topics relevant to modern living.
Medi Club is the community’s monthly gatherings happening in New York City. Each gathering begins with light bites and drinks while up to 250 people arrive and get comfortable. Then, the group comes together to sit in silence for a 10-15 minute guided group meditation, usually ending in a sound bath or group musical experience. Community members share their latest projects and a topic of the evening is presented. Everyone breaks up into small groups of 5-10 people to discuss the topic. This is where the human connection gets DEEP. I was able to instantly connect to strangers and leave as friends. Many of the people I met through these gatherings know more about me than very close friends and family members.
The Big Quiet is their larger arm, bringing meditation to the masses. They have hosted events with thousands of attendees sharing mass group meditations. I attended two of their events - at Summerstage in Central Park and at the top of the Observation Deck of the new One World Trade. These events are truly something special. To share moments of silence with thousands of strangers, all looking internal with their eyes closed, is indescribable. The energy is simply palpable.
For a time, they even featured mini Medi Clubs called Circles, which is where community members hosted more intimate, weekly gatherings of 5-20 people in their homes. During stressful weeks, I found myself seeking these circles out in a variety of neighborhoods across Manhattan + Brooklyn. At one of these circles is where I met one of the founders of a New York based meditation studio, MNDFL. Think yoga studio meets meditation. They have group meditation classes throughout the day you can pop into in between meetings, before the gym, whenever. Or a private meditation room with a living wall, if you prefer to guide yourself. They have since opened several locations throughout the city.
There is now even a mobile meditation bus, BeTime, that pops up around the city for when you need a super quick stress reliever.
Now that I am spending more time on the west coast, I am anxiously awaiting these communities to spread west.
If you are new to meditation, there are a variety of different types of meditation out there including several other apps including Calm and 1 Giant Mind. I recommend finding a practice that you connect with and exploring that one deeper.
Some additional resources.
Medi Club + The Big Quiet (NYC meditation community)
MNDFL (NYC meditation studios)
BeTime (NYC mobile meditation bus)