Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön once said, “If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.” I’m not a Buddhist, nor an ordained nun like Chödrön, but I completely get what she’s saying. My mind always goes to food when I meditate—more specifically, cheeseburgers. My brain also travels to my to-do list, whatever show I’m bingeing on Netflix, or current stressors. Which is exactly why I need meditation, but also why I can never seem to stick with it.
Merriam-Webster defines meditation as the simple act of engaging in a mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. And loads of studies show that it’s basically a miracle nondrug for the brain.
Like many couples, my husband and I wade through life’s distractions, like a constant stream of text messages or the need for quick answers on an iPhone. If daily meditation can help keep us in the present, it’s kind of like a free form of counseling for a better relationship, right? We decided to give it a try for a month. Here’s what we learned.
1. You can meditate anywhere.
Joey Klein, the author of The Inner Matrix: A Guide to Transforming Your Life and Awakening Your Spirit, tells SELF, “Any place or position is OK for meditation because you are engaging in an internal process; you can do that in a city, in the woods, lying down, or sitting up, and you can even engage certain internal processes while you are walking or working out.”
My husband and I both pictured meditation as sitting still in a cross-legged position, so we appreciated the myriad options for zoning out. Walking meditation is quite pleasant but difficult to do as a couple with the temptation to talk. Hiking meditation is pretty awesome (it’s so much easier to keep quiet and be in the moment when you’re surrounded by nature), but the best was in-flight meditation, which instantly quelled airport anxiety.
2. Lie-down meditation is a recipe for a nap.
We did most of our meditating in the evening, sitting in bed. But unlike walking or sitting in lotus position, engaging in this casual style of meditation promptly led us both into deep sleep before our timer went off. Klein says that this is common for the newbie meditator and instead recommends sitting comfortably in a chair with your back straight, or on the floor with your back relaxed. But even when we fell asleep, it felt like a success.
3. It’s hard to remember to do it every day.
Unlike my daily exercise routine of running or yoga, it’s hard to remember to meditate, and we completely forgot a few times. Klein says consistency is important when it comes to seeing the benefits of meditation and that skipping days will reduce the efficacy. “Think of meditation as lifting weights for the mind and the brain,” he suggests. “Just like you want to work out each day and not miss your workout—it’s the same idea.” We started setting a daily meditation reminder, and by the end of our month, it was rarely needed.
4. When you do it, you’ll totally chill the eff out.
Does it feel like humans get annoyed way too often? It feels like I spent too much of my life being annoyed about things that don’t actually deserve the frustration (like big groups blocking the sidewalk, people wearing sunglasses indoors, or someone showing me a video on their iPhone). Surprisingly, meditation helps. I noticed this while nonchalantly dropping my husband’s dirty clothes into the laundry bag that sits 1 inch from where he leaves the pile.
And my husband feels that his road rage is improving. A recent paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science confirms that meditation can do this. Researcher Rimma Teper and her colleagues at the University of Toronto write that, despite the common misconception that meditation “empties our head” of emotions, mindfulness actually helps us become more aware and accepting of emotional signals—which helps us to control our behavior.
5. It’s important to be prepared.
There’s zero equipment required for meditation, but my husband and I both discovered that it’s easier to focus when you’ve applied Chapstick to your lips, moved hair out of your face, and are not hungry. I once meditated hungry on the sofa in front of leftovers, and the smell of onions was incredibly distracting.
6. Using an app can make a huge difference.
We downloaded the Inscape app, created by Khajak Keledjian, the owner of New York City’s newest luxury meditation center of the same name. The handy subscription-based app is loaded with guided meditations for those who can’t visit the swanky studio in person. While my husband found the app’s “voice” to be distracting, I enjoyed the soothing tone and appreciated the guidance. It’s here that I learned to count while breathing, which helped to alleviate thoughts of cheeseburgers.
7. Speaking of counting, it really is the easiest way to get in the zone.
Klein says that a great universal practice for beginner or advanced meditators alike is to concentrate on the breath. “Begin by sitting down, closing your eyes, and relaxing the body from your head to your toes,” he instructs. “Next, place your focus on the breath and inhale through the nose for four seconds. Pause gently at the top of the inhale. Exhale through the nose for four seconds. Pause gently at the bottom of the exhale. If your mind becomes distracted, gently bring the focus back to the breath. Then repeat this breath pattern for 20 minutes.”
8. In the end, meditation was a lot like couples therapy.
Klein says, “One of the most important aspects of a healthy and vibrant relationship is how couples connect with each other. It’s so easy in our fast-paced modern society to forget to take the time to connect with each other in an intimate and focused way.” That’s why he recommends meditating as a couple. “Meditation helps to create a deep and profound connection with ourselves and access experiences like joy, peace, love, and compassion. If we connect with each other in that space, it helps to bring those qualities into our relationship.”
After a month of daily meditation, that advice completely rings true. For us, it felt great to engage in something nondigital together each day that was good for our minds and souls. And while we didn’t speak, we soaked up the relaxing and positive vibes at the end of each day and let it really set the tone for our interactions. Daily meditation is definitely something we’ll continue as a couple.
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