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Meditation is the New Yoga

Geraldine Campbell

Once the purview of patchouli-scented, super-spiritual types, meditation has reached a tipping point. With everyone from Oprah to the U.S. Marine Corps embracing some form of meditation (the latter is testing Mind Fitness Training as a way of helping soldiers relax in combat), it’s clear that you can have your full-caf latte and peace of mind, too.

“People have always been interested in meditation,” says Dave Romanelli, author of Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment, “but American culture needed yoga first. Now that yoga has been part of pop culture, we are ready for something different.”

The benefits of meditation are many: You can expect to sleep better, worry less, and be more aware and focused. Meditation has been shown not only to make you feel less stressed, but also to physically lower cortisol levels. It makes you more compassionate, less prone to depression and loneliness, and can even help you lose weight.

Here, our step-by-step guide to starting your own meditation practice.

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Andy Goldsworthy finds meditation in nature.

Know yourself.

Like with yoga, there are different forms of meditation. Mantra meditation involves chanting a word or mantra, for example, while mindfulness meditation teaches you to be present and aware. Concentration meditation involves focusing your thoughts, while reflective meditation centers around contemplation. Choose a form of meditation that speaks to you. Think of the various forms of mediation, says Romanelli, “as so many doorways to your inner world. All it takes is one to change your life forever.”

Start small.

Meditation doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment—or about adopting a completely new lifestyle. Many practices require as little as 5-10 minutes of your day.

You guessed it. There’s an app for that.

Many meditation gurus have created apps for your smart phone so that you can practice meditation almost anywhere. Romanelli has teamed up with Happier, an app dedicated to teaching your brain to be happier and sharing moments of happiness, to create a weeklong series of 10-minute sessions called “Meditation Vacation.” Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, has an app called Headspace—and he’s partnered with Westin Hotels and Virgin Atlantic airlines to make it easy for Up in the Air-types to meditate. And Deepak Chopra’s new app, Living in Love includes 22 guided meditations and 22 musical tracks that you can mix and match.

Consider TM.

Transcendental meditation, an ancient form of meditation that involves transcending thought to reach a state of rest, is clinically proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. TM has also been endorsed by the American Heart Association for its ability to lower blood pressure. There’s a catch, though. “Our technique cannot be learned through a book, app, or in a group,” says Carole Smith, a certified teacher of Transcendental Meditation for the past 40 years. TM starts with one-on-one instruction, followed by several days of group instruction, at which point your ready to do the recommended 15-20 minute sessions on your own.

Do it daily.

Whether you meditate first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or after you get home from work, set aside a dedicated time. Meditating at the same time every day makes it easier to make your practice a habit.

Create a meditation space.

In the beginning, it’s important to have a place where you can meditate without interruption. You don’t have to meditate sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed and your palms facing up, but it’s easier to stick with your practice if you’re in a place that’s free from distractions. That said, if the subway is your only spare time, by all means, get your meditation in on the way to work.