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Years ago, I decided that I wanted to be the kind of person who meditated, but I struggled with finding an accessible introduction to the practice. I wanted to find enlightenment, whatever that means, but I didn’t want to sit in lotus. I didn't want to light 10 candles. I didn’t want to chant “Om” loudly, and I didn’t want to sit on the cold and dusty floor of my log cabin in Alaska. The internet wasn’t a big deal yet, and while I had a laptop for email, Google didn’t even exist.
The advent of Google and the Information Age in the last 20 years helped me find better options. These are the three most useful tools that I’ve stumbled upon along my quest for enlightenment.
1. Meditation Oasis – iTunes podcast
I first discovered the husband and wife duo of Mary and Richard Maddox on iTunes several years ago. Their podcasts essentially redefined meditation for me and taught an easier way to do it. Mary leads the guided meditations and Richard’s music serves as background. The meditations are nonjudgmental. You want to sit? Fine. You want to lie down? Go for it. You can’t stop your busy mind? No worries.
With Meditation Oasis, the idea of the cleared mind is not the goal. It’s the idea of observing the mind. Two different things. And thank goodness, because after 20 years of practice, I still don’t know how to clear my mind. However, I no longer judge myself for the chatter in my head, and I've learned how to discipline myself so as to not follow every single thought down the rabbit hole.
2. Headspace – iTunes app
This is a great app that jump-starts you into the habit of meditating. You get reminders to go back each day. The app has cool animations that explain the purpose of meditating and the benefits of a sustained meditation practice. The short, guided meditations are focused on being present. “Feel your back against the chair. Feel your feet on the ground.” By focusing on bodily sensations, your mind easily shuts out external noise and chatter, and you learn to experience the present moment exactly as it is without judgment. The first 10 days are free, and you can become a subscriber if you choose to continue on.
3. Deepak Chopra’s Meditation Challenges
Every few months, Chopra offers 21-day meditation challenges free online. The challenges always have a focus – love, abundance, health, etc. Chopra starts each day’s meditation with a centering thought, and follows with a Sanskrit mantra. He tells you the English translation, but you are supposed to repeat the mantra silently in Sanskrit for the duration of the meditation. The idea of the Sanskrit mantra is that it is a vehicle to “the gap,” the complete silence experienced when the mind stops chattering. The meditations are 15 minutes long with Chopra as your guide, and they provide an introduction to the more advanced transcendental meditation and primordial sound meditation techniques, following the basic structure of each. I can’t say I’ve entered the gap yet, but I do feel refreshed and invigorated after each meditation.