There's Never Been a Better Time to Start Meditating — Here's Expert Advice to Get Started

De-stress and relax by learning how to meditate.

Young Woman Praying or Meditating in Home
Photo: Getty Images

If you’ve ever considered learning how to meditate, now is the perfect time. It’s completely normal to feel stressed out or overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but taking care of yourself is important. Daily meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety, and with countless meditation apps at your fingertips, it has never been easier to start.

Travel + Leisure spoke to Jamie Price, co-founder and president of Stop, Breathe & Think, to get answers to some of the most-asked questions about meditation. Stop, Breathe & Think is an emotional wellness and mindfulness platform that offers guided meditation and activities, including breathing exercises, acupressure, and more. Right now, the app even offers a range of meditations to help calm your coronavirus anxiety, perfect for the whole family. With her advice, you can begin your meditation journey and find mindfulness during this difficult time.

Young woman in sportswear kneeling on an exercise mat on her patio and meditating with her eyes closed during meditation
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Travel + Leisure: What is meditation?

Jamie Price: “There are many types of meditation, but one of the most common forms is mindfulness meditation, where you focus your attention on your breath. The breath can become an anchor to the present, and [it] provides an opportunity to strengthen your awareness, which simply means that when you are doing something, you know that you are doing it. Your mind is not wandering, and you are not lost in a train of thought that is unrelated to what is happening right now. Incorporating meditation into your day can have a powerful impact on your health and ability to manage life with resilience and ease.”

What are the basics of meditation?

“When you practice mindfulness meditation, you focus on being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and/or your physical sensations with openness and curiosity, and without judging or evaluating what you notice. You begin by finding a comfortable, upright position, where your body feels alert and relaxed. Then you bring your attention to the sensation of your breath, for example, noticing where you feel it most, and what it feels like as it goes in and out. When you notice that your mind has wandered, which it will, you gently bring your attention back to the sensation of the breath.”

What do you need to start meditating?

“You can practice it anywhere and anytime, without special equipment or advanced knowledge. For example, while walking or in bed before going to sleep or waking up. But in terms of consistency, it can be helpful to find a quiet space without distractions, where you can practice at the same time every day. All you need is a cushion or chair where you can sit comfortably in a relaxed position.”

What do I do if my mind wanders while I meditate? Is it normal to get distracted?

“If you are like most people, it can seem like your mind wanders the most when you sit down to meditate. But with meditation, you’re not trying to stop your thoughts. Rather, you are strengthening your ability to watch them come and go. It’s the difference between standing on a riverbank watching the river flow by, as opposed to jumping in and trying to reverse the flow. Rather than getting frustrated, try to view it as a great opportunity. No matter how little or how often your mind wanders, each time you become aware of your mind wandering and choose to bring your attention back to your breathing, you are strengthening your awareness — your mindful muscles.”

How long do I need to meditate?

“You don’t have to practice for hours at a time to feel the benefits of mindfulness, but consistency and repetition are key. It’s more effective to practice a few minutes each day and build from there, rather than practice for a longer period of time every once in a while.”

What if I feel like I’m not good at meditating?

“Meditation is a skill. Just like lifting weights or learning a new sport, the more you do it, the better you get. When you start to practice meditation, it’s helpful to remember that this isn’t about being perfect. You’re not striving to sit still for an hour feeling totally calm, with an empty mind, free of any thoughts. That’s actually not possible. It’s more about being engaged in the process. And the attitude you bring to it will have a significant impact on your experience. So the more open you are without expectations about how things “should” be, the more at ease you’ll be with the way things actually are. That means, when you’re following your breath and you notice that your mind has drifted off, which it will, you just bring it back without giving yourself a hard time. It doesn’t matter if your mind is like a rushing river or a tranquil stream. The important thing is to notice when you’re no longer aware of your breath, and to bring your attention back with a sense of friendliness.”

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