You don't need to own this season's Lululemon collection or have Buddha figures around your home to enjoy the benefits of practicing meditation. As you may know, there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation:
- It's "granola."
- You don't have time for it.
- It's not actually beneficial at all.
- You're just not the "type" to get into it.
Each one of those is just simply not true. There are more and more research findings that suggest meditation has a slew of health benefits, anyone can do it, and you need only a few minutes a day (or however often you can make it happen) to start seeing such tangible results as a calmer mood, less anxiety or depression, and even the cessation of physical pain.
Better still? There's a smorgasbord of online tools at the ready to help you strive for inner peace--or at least work toward reducing your stress and lowering your blood pressure a little. You can practice meditation just about anywhere, including the morning commute. Anyone can do it. I want to say that it's a passion of mine, but to be honest it's more like an ongoing mental project that continuously develops and never ends. There's no "ohm" or "lotus pose" required, just a few minutes of mindful movement toward stillness and quieting your mind.
Here are some of the best online tools I've found to help you get started:
1. UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
For those who think mediation is steeped in hocus pocus, looking to one of the most well-respected research universities in the country for meditation guidance is a good start. Plus, guided meditation is a must for people new to it who might flounder otherwise. UCLA provides introductory podcasts you can play anywhere you like. You can use headphones at work during a brief break. They range from three to 12 minutes. You probably normally spend that much time perusing Facebook or lingering in the break room anyway, so do something a little more productive with it.
2. Simply Noise
The idea of sitting in total silence is terrifying for some, while others simply don't have the ability to ignore the uncontrollable noise of the world, be it barking dogs, honking car horns, or neighbors pulling into their garage. Achieving a quiet mind is step one of meditation, and this free online white noise website is a great tool. As an added bonus, it can soothe babies and even help everyone at home sleep sounder. Play it during your meditation to help block out distractions.
Almost any entrepreneur can tell you how often he or she loses track of time during the course of a normal workday. You put your head down, start typing, and before you know it, several hours have passed. For many who try meditation and who want to bring it into their lives more, taking the time "getting away from you" is one of the main things stopping them. Calm.com works with you to create short breaks every few hours (or more often), during which you can meditate for two to 20 minutes. Music and guided narration walk you through the sessions. Just visiting the website and taking in the relaxing settings that make up much of the home page is a relaxing endeavor in its own right.
There seem to be nearly endless meditation "techniques," but Transcendental Meditation is one of the most common and "easiest" for beginners (not that any type of meditation is easy). Some experts say it's like signing up for a beginning yoga class instead of Bikram or aerial yoga right off the bat. According to the Mayo Clinic, concentration and effort are minimal with TM, and it's a fantastic introduction to meditation.
5. Headspace Meditation
Prefer your meditation on the go? There are many apps available, but Headspace Meditation is one of the best reviewed, with 4.5 out of 5 stars and nearly 10,000 reviews. Many recommend that first-time users start with the more simple Take10 program (10 minutes per day as a meditation introduction), then move on to handpick from thousands of guided or unguided approaches ranging from two to 60 minutes.
6. Yogi's Anonymous
Yoga is a practice that is thousands of years old, but it wasn't designed to make you look good in a tank top (ancient Indians didn't really care about that). All those positions, or "asanas," like Warrior 2 and Downward Dog, were actually designed to stretch the body in preparation for hours of seated meditation--the last thing you want is a cramp in your leg when you're pursuing inner peace. It's why yoga instructors tout the importance of savasana as the final pose, although you're probably not actually meditating in that stuffy yoga studio. With this online yoga studio at your fingertips, you can get in the mood for meditation with yoga just like the old-school yogis did it.
Even beginning meditation can take as little as two minutes per day. In my experience it actually becomes more easy as time goes by (although it's never truly "easy") and you'll start seeing benefits soon after starting. One thing to keep in mind: There's no judgment in meditation. If you fall off the wagon, that's OK. Achieving a more peaceful life from the inside out takes time--but it's a little easier when you have online tools helping you out.