Many of our readers want to meditate but don’t have the time or aren’t sure how to start. So we’ve reached out to mindful experts for their best practices and tips. Michael Trainer is the co-creator of Global Citizen, a music festival dedicated to ending poverty, and the founder of Peak Mind, which helps people achieve peak performance through meditation. Here’s a glimpse into his own practice.
Where do you meditate? When?
I meditate anywhere I find myself in the world. I've meditated in the back of a bouncy jeep in Kenya and even amid the noise of a nightclub. There really is no bad place to meditate. But that said, when I have the opportunity, I love to meditate in nature, or to the sound of the waves in front of my home in Venice, California ... I really love it. When it comes down to it, it's not about the place but about the practice itself. The results come from the practice within, not the outside context.
What type of meditation do you practice?
I have been practicing Vipassana meditation for 20 years, since living and learning with a traditional healer in Sri Lanka on a Fulbright scholarship just after college. A couple of years ago, during a 30-day challenge, I learned Vedic meditation, and now that is my predominant practice.
Whatever I can find to straighten the back and quiet the mind.
Why do you meditate?
A 2010 Harvard study showed that through eight weeks of mindfulness you can actually stimulate neurogenesis, or grow new brain matter and increase stimulation in your hippocampus, the aspect of your brain associated with learning and memory. You can also decrease the activity in your amygdala, the center of your brain associated with emotions and stress, the fight-or-flight center of the brain. Science is now qualifying what many traditions have articulated for millennia.
I meditate because it allows me to be most fully myself, to ground and set intention for the day ahead. I find that when I meditate, my days flow better and I have the capacity to handle challenges with greater ease. It affords me greater access to my intuition for clarity in my creativity and decision-making.
Advice for first-time meditators?
Many first-time meditators get caught up in feeling like they are doing it wrong because their brain won't quiet. My greatest advice is to stick with it and commit to a period of time, say eight weeks to practice for at least 10 minutes a day. Find a local teacher or download Headspace, Insight Timer, or other helpful apps. Make it the most important appointment of your day because it sets up the rest of the day for greater ease and success.