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Get Your Resolutions Back on Track and Start Meditating

We are now officially in July, which means the year is half over. Or there’s still half a year left, depending on your point of view. Either way, the odds are high that some New Year’s resolutions you eagerly wrote down in your bullet journal six months ago have fallen by the wayside. And even though we’ve heard plenty about the mental health benefits of meditation (including stress relief, reducing feelings of anxiety and depression and improving sleep), that doesn’t make it any easier to make it a consistent practice.

Because the question of when and how to meditate can seem daunting, SPY went to the experts for advice.

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Eddie Cohen is the founder of the New York-based company Walden, which makes ultra-comfortable, high-quality cushions and mats, as well as incense, oils and other products that help people create a space in their home that encourages a regular meditation practice. Tory Schaefer is the National Director of Yoga Operations for Life Time, which has locations all over the U.S. and offers online classes. We asked Cohen and Schaefer about who could benefit from meditating and their answers were identical: everyone.

“Everyone who has breath in their body can meditate,” says Schaefer. “Who should be making time? People who think they don’t have time really need to step up to the plate and dedicate five minutes at the same time every day. If they think they don’t have five minutes, then they should dedicate 10 minutes every day!”

  

What Are the Benefits of Meditation?

“To me, the largest benefit of practicing mindfulness meditation is that it helps you slow down,” says Cohen. “Feelings, thoughts, emotions are inevitable — the only thing that we can control is our reaction to those experiences. Meditation helps slow down the reaction time — it’s almost like disengaging the clutch of a manual car. You’re able to see the emotions as they are and label them. For example, if you’re super anxious about something, instead of letting the anxiety control your lived experience, you’re able to just note that feeling as being anxiety and decipher what is reality versus what is fiction.”

Schaefer notes that “waking up to life as it is happening right now” is another major benefit of regular meditation practice. “You step into the best you that has been sleeping under a pile of to-do’s and all the things that we subject our physical bodies to, in an attempt to numb ourselves from the endless stories we tell ourselves in our minds,” says Schaefer, who adds that meditation can help people focus and be more productive, be a better listener and a more caring and loving parent and partner.

  

How to Meditate

Meditation doesn’t look the same to everyone. If you’re new to meditation, it may be a good idea to begin your practice at home without any distractions until you become accustomed to the practice.

There are several YouTube series, meditation apps like Calm and Headspace and meditation books that break down step-by-step how to meditate as well as explain types of meditation. The type of meditation you choose will impact how your meditation practice looks and feels, but most types of meditation focus on deep breathing, scanning the body and reflection. Time spent on a daily meditation varies, but even as little as 10 minutes per day can have a big impact on reducing anxiety and improving focus.

Schaefer adds that people should start with small goals and be realistic. “It is often the expectations that we put on ourselves that get in the way, such as, ‘I need to have more time, I can’t quiet my mind, my house is too noisy or I’ll start tomorrow.’ Meditation is nothing more than a single breath realized. When that one is over, begin again and move on to the next.”

“Keep trying,” says Cohen. “It requires patience and commitment before you see real results. But once you get there, it’s transformative.”

  

Helpful Meditation Guides

Once a meditation practice has been established, people will be able to reap the benefits of centering themselves and entering a state of mindfulness that helps to deal with stress and anxiety outside of their allotted daily meditation time. “It’s nice to limit distractions, but eventually you should be able to sit with all the beeps, dogs licking your ear, even a child climbing on your back,” says Schaefer. “Remember, meditation isn’t about clearing the mind and having one space in our lives that is peaceful. It’s about being in reality as it is, without attaching to it or creating a story in our mind about why it is the way it is….it just is. In return, the world becomes our peaceful space.”

Until a meditation practice has been established, several apps and books can help those new to meditation find a practice that works for their needs, whether it’s meditation for anxiety, meditating with crystals, meditating through yoga or meditating from the comfort of their bed.

  

Life Time Digital App

BEST APP

The Life Time Digital App is open to members and offers classes via livestream, virtual training, classes on demand and more. “It has something for everyone with a meditation section that is continuing to grow and partners the mind aspect with the body, with physical and nutritional practices,” says Schaefer.

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The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness

BEST FOR MEDITATION NEWBIES

Cohen recommends John Yates’ book, which breaks down the practice of meditation for those who new to their practice. Written by a neuroscientist-turned “meditation master,” the book outlines a 10-stage program that aids in understanding mindfulness and holistic health. “I don’t like dependencies, and this book helps build up a robust and independent practice,” says Cohen.

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The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S. N. Goenka

BEST FOR UNDERSTANDING MEDITATION

Schaefer recommends The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S. N. Goenka for those who are new to meditation, as well as anyone who has already begun a meditation practice. Goenka makes it simple to understand the “Vipassana technique” or “the development of insight,” which is the type of meditation embodied and practiced by the Buddha. “It gets to the heart of what meditation is and how to implement it into life,” says Schaefer.

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Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day

BEST FOR MAINTAINING FOCUS

For those looking for a crash course on how to better tame a wandering mind, Schaefer recommends watching Dr. Amishi Jha’s TED Talk, which includes the renowned neuroscientist’s findings on how people can optimize their ability to focus even in high-stress situations. Dr. Jha has also written a book to help people looking to focus their attention, noting that many of us miss out on half of life’s moments because our attention is unfocused.

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How to Set Up a Meditation Space

Both Cohen and Schaefer recommend setting up a space in the home specifically for meditation. “When you take time to dedicate a small corner of a bedroom or office, you are more likely to integrate the practice into your life,” says Schaefer. “You want to start as comfortable as possible.  Play around with different configurations of cushions and or pillows. There isn’t a specific way you have to sit. If you need to have your back against a wall for support, do it. If you need to sit in a chair, make it happen.”

Cohen agrees, adding, “We find that having a space encourages use and builds the ritual.”

  

Walden Meditation Cushion + Mat Set

BEST CUSHION AND MAT SET

SPY is a big fan of the Walden Meditation Cushion + Mat Set. The high-quality cushion is made with gel-infused memory foam and natural, hypoallergenic buckwheat fill. As for the mat, it has a medium-density foam that provides comfort and support for the ankles and knees when in the seated position. We’ve had our Walden Meditation Cushion for over two years and it still looks and feels new even with daily use.

Read More: The Best Meditation Cushions To Set Your Zen at Home

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Weighted Eye Mask by Walden

BEST FOR WEIGHTED MEDITATION

For those who need a little help blocking light when meditating and enjoying the benefits of a weighted sensory experience, we like the Weighted Eye Mask by Walden. Ideal for those who like to meditate while lying down, the eye mask is filled with flaxseed and lavender, offering a gentle aromatic scent to help create a feeling of peace and calm.

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Curie in a Candle

BEST SCENTED SETUP 

If you want some help getting the right scent for your meditation practice, there are plenty of clean-burning candles that can help light your way towards a more fragrant space. Available in lightly scented White Tea, Orange Neroli and Grapefruit Cassis fragrances, the coconut soy wax candles are hand-poured in the USA and offer 55 hours of burn time, which means lots of time to meditate.

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Canopy Humidifier With Aroma Kit

BEST FOR ESSENTIAL OILS

Another great option for cleansing the air in your meditation space is the Canopy Humidifier with Aroma Kit. The two-in-one Canopy is a humidifier and an oil diffuser packaged together in a small, dishwasher-safe minimalist unit. As a humidifier, the Canopy reads the room’s moisture level and ensures optimal levels. The humidifiers’ smart sensors, which run until the unit is completely dry, leaving no standing water behind that could create mold. Users can also add an aroma puck and fragrance oil .

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White Sage Smudge Stick

BEST FOR CLEARING THE AIR

Prepare your meditation space by cleansing the air and removing bacteria that could be floating in your home with the White Sage Smudge Stick from Shaman’s Market. The White Sage Smudge Stick can help to purify an atmosphere and remove negativity, which can help set the stage for positive meditation practice. A relaxing scent, the White Sage Smudge Stick can be used by those who are new to meditation or have an established practice.

 

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Chakra Healing Crystals by Alchemy Abstract

BEST TO SET INTENTIONS

If you want to incorporate crystals into your meditation practice, this collection from Alchemy Abstract is a great place to start. The crystal collection includes a guide for each stone, helping users choose which crystal to focus on during their meditation. The set also includes a storage bag and a Cleansing Palo Santo Stick.

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Good Earth Decaffeinated Lemongrass Tea

BEST PRE-MEDITATION SIP

The Good Earth Decaffeinated Lemongrass Tea has a touch of sweetness thanks to notes of mango and peach and includes peppermint, which can help to soothe digestion issues. We like that it’s decaffeinated, making this a great option for nighttime meditation.

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