OMMMMMMMMMM, said the skinny, pale-faced hippie. Her legs were tangled in a tendon-defying, bewildering pretzel that would challenge the likes of Houdini. As wafts of incense filled the air, her thumb and index fingers formed perfect circles of eternal peace. She sat as still as a Buddha statue, a deep, serious furrow on her statement uni-brow.
Before I started meditating, the above stereotype was my idea of meditation. It seemed impossible and maybe even a waste of time to just sit there, hyperventilating (Ahem, I mean breathing deeply). And how does one just turn off their freaking brains and stop the deluge of annoying and distracting thoughts?
You know, if someone tells me to just let my thoughts float on by, I’m going to be thinking about pointless crap, like whether astronauts really eat that freeze-dried astronaut ice cream stuff and if Justin Bieber and Kourtney Kardashian really are hooking up.
As a particularly anxious, antsy, let-my-thoughts-take-me-on-a-wild-ride-through-the-jungle type of person, I have dabbled in meditation at various times in my life, only to drop it after a few weeks of practice. I got bored or it didn’t seem to be doing much for me. Probably I was quitting right when it was getting hard. (When it gets hard, the good stuff usually happens, right?)
Then, a friend told me about Headspace. Cue the heavens opening and swells of Hallelujah filling the air. Headspace is an app that teaches you how to meditate. It guides you through the process, including how to overcome your own barriers, and provides amazing visuals that keep everything clear, easy, and meaningful.
One visual that has stuck with me is a little dude in the middle of two roaring lanes of traffic, just sitting quietly in the median. Cars are zooming and horns are beeping, but the little dude is calm. All that traffic, all those distractions–that’s life. The noise and the distractions are external and inevitable, but if you can just stay within yourself and keep your mind calm and clear, you too can be that peaceful little dude.
The peaceful dude that created Headspace is Andy Puddicombe, a meditation and mindfulness expert. In his early twenties, he spent ten years traveling the world studying meditation. (Meanwhile, I spent my early twenties watching 90210 and reading Sweet Valley High books). During his travels, he became a Tibetan Buddhist monk before training with the Moscow State Circus and getting a degree in Circus Arts.
Most notably, Andy is also the voice of Headspace. His soothing deep baritone and velvety British accent will guide you through the various meditations. You may find yourself developing a small, school-girl-sized crush on him as you listen. Just sayin’.
You can also use the app to set up “mindful moments” and get messages during the day to help keep your mind calm and clear. Andy is thoughtful like that.
The best part is, meditating with Andy is cheap. The first foundational pack is 10 meditation sessions that are 10 minutes each, and it’s FREE. It’s a great way to try it out, learn the basics, and see if you like it.
After that, you can do a month-to-month membership for $12.95/month or a year membership for $7.99/month. This unlocks a magical library of meditation options focused on meditation foundations, health, relationships, and performance. There are sessions on depression, self esteem , stress, anxiety, sleep, change, appreciation, acceptance, change, creativity, focus, happiness, and balance.
The premise is simple. The pace of life is frantic; sitting quietly a few minutes a day will help you have a clearer, calmer mind. Headspace emphasizes mindfulness and really being present in each moment. If you can learn to focus on your breathing and calm yourself, you can transport yourself to that state of relaxation even in the midst of life’s heart-pounding, nail-biting moments.
Incredibly, meditation has been around for at least 6000 and perhaps as long as 15,000 years, in countries spanning the globe. To have this kind of longevity and cross-cultural appeal, you have to figure that meditation meets some sort of primal human need for serenity. Serenity now!
To learn more about Headspace, go to http://www.headspace.com or search for Headspace in the App store. The only thing required is an open mind. Pretzel legs and uni-brows are completely optional.