It was a tough week. Actually, it was a tough month. It was mid-summer, but work was ridiculously busy. My personal life was hectic, too: I was on the verge of a major, life-altering (read: expensive) purchase, and I took on new projects and personal commitments at the same time. I thought everyone was being an asshole.
I needed to calm the fuck down. Because if I didn’t, a nervous breakdown was imminent.
Thankfully, I found meditation around this time. I had heard of the benefits of meditation, of course, but it took a challenging time in my life for me to finally take meditation seriously.
What meditation can do for you
I’m not a meditation expert, so I can only share my personal experience. Meditating almost daily for more than a year now has improved my mood. Work is actually busier than ever, and I’m constantly under pressure to deliver. And the projects I committed to? I’m still doing and working on them. But I don’t ever feel the urge to scream.
So, what changed?
The biggest thing has been acceptance. Specifically, acceptance of failure.
It took me a few months to learn this, but failure is part of meditation. There are days when I fail 90% of the time, thinking of something else other than my breath or what ever it is that I’m supposed to be focusing on. But part of meditation is accepting those failures, letting them go and trying again.
That’s the key to making meditation work for you and gaining something from it: do it consistently, forgive yourself for failing, move on and try again.
It’s not hard to see how practicing acceptance leads to a better head space. At work, in the gym or in any aspect of your life, if you can let things go and try again without freaking the fuck out, you can focus on your work instead of spending time being anxious and frustrated.
Turning my meditation practice into a habit
As I was attempting to take on this new habit, I found guided meditations helpful. They were instrumental to teaching me the basics. More importantly, they made meditation less intimidating for me—an important step in helping me adopt it as a regular practice.
The good news: many of these guided meditations are free online. Here are some of my favorites.
Sam Harris: Mindfulness Meditation
Sam Harris is a best-selling author and a popular podcaster. His work covers a wide range of topics: neuroscience, moral philosophy and religion, just to name a few. His Mindfulness Meditation is a no-bullshit, straightforward guide. It’s perfect for newbies who don’t want too much fluff.
Sam also has a 26-minute guided meditation called Looking for the Self. It’s more complex, but I recommend trying it once you’ve mastered Mindfulness Meditation.
Tara Brach’s Loving Kindness meditation
Tara Brach, Ph.D, is a psychologist, author and teacher. Her Loving Kindness meditation is a soothing guide on how to spread the love.
UCLA’s Loving Kindness Meditation
If you want an alternative to Tara Brach, check out UCLA Mindful Awareness Research’s version of Loving Kindness. This was actually one of the first guided meditations I discovered (through iTunesU), and I still use it once in a while. I can’t embed the guide, but you can easily access it on the UCLA website.
10% Happier app
This app, developed by the broadcaster Dan Harris, markets itself as the meditation app for “fidgety skeptics.” It offers some premium features, but it has free, beginner guided meditations from pioneers like Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg and George Mumford.
For a preview of the first seven meditations from 100% Happier, check out the app’s website.
Headspace’s Take 10
It’s no wonder Headspace is the leader in the meditation app space. Andy Puddicombe’s voice is so soothing that you’d want to listen to it over and over again. The premise of Take 10 is simple: do 10 minutes of guided meditations for 10 days. It’s a simple ask, it’s totally free, and anyone can do it.
Headspace’s Take 10 program is what got me hooked on meditation. I’ve recommended it to some friends and family, and they seem to like it.
This list is by no means comprehensive. If there are guided meditations that have worked for you, please share them below so people can check them out.