Starting a meditation practice can be intimidating. And it's understandable; the idea of "becoming a meditator" can seem like a big undertaking, requiring years of practice to master. Sadly, this perspective keeps a lot of people from ever giving it a try, and that's too bad, because at the end of the day meditation isn't something to master. It's a practice. You can't be bad at it because it's all bonus credit to begin with. It doesn't matter if you do it in the morning, in the evening, in an epic group meditation space, or in a hotel lobby—or for five minutes or 50.
The bottom line? You don't have to be a meditation master to reap the benefits of a few minutes of silence, and you don't have to be super-Zen, eat a plant-based diet, or use only all-natural cleaning products to be a meditator. Meditation is for everyone. In that spirit, we asked nine real people—who meditate anywhere from once a day to once a week—what meditation means to them. Here's what they had to say:
If I don't meditate in the morning, I just feel "off."
"Meditation has been a lifesaver for me. About a year ago, I started meditating daily, for 20 minutes every single morning. I suffer from intense anxiety, and on days I meditate, I feel significantly more grounded, happier, and able to go with the flow. On days I don't, something just feels off—until I meditate again, and my brain exhales." —Elizabeth, age 31
Meditation helps remind me that everything is temporary.
I don't consider myself too far along in my meditative journey, but I've definitely dabbled. To me, meditation is a practice constantly growing and evolving much like my practice of yoga. I have to decide to do it, and this decision alone gets me more present. Once in a meditative state, I can analyze my inner world and am reminded that everything I think and feel is fleeting; my thoughts and feelings are like clouds of smoke constantly wafting from the flame that is my mind, disappearing into the corners of and intermingling with my reality. This type of visualization is satisfying to me on many levels and brings me peace." —Sonya, age 26
I use mindfulness to help manage my OCD.
"Meditation is my escape from the unpredictability of life. As someone who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I find it difficult at times to exercise control over the external factors that throw adversity into my routine. But I maintain a level head because I know that I can always rely on those sacred few minutes each day when I can zone out and reclaim control over my thoughts." —Micheal, age 25
It's a calming influence in my life.
"I meditate daily, for about 20 minutes, and feel that it brings awareness and self-awareness into my life. It helps me focus and become less attached to the physical world. What does meditation mean to me? It's a calming influence in my life." —Sam, age 74
It teaches me that it's OK to be bored sometimes.
"The biggest differences I notice when I'm regularly engaged in breathing practices are increased focus and decreased anxiety. I think the two go hand in hand—there are references to both throughout classical texts on meditation. Sometimes, I think it's good to practice being bored in order to realize that our brains are just fine without the constant stream of distractions offered by the modern world." —Harvey, age 26
Meditation gives me what Western medicine can't.
"I meditate seven times per week, and it brings me a sense of calm and safety. It serves as a reminder that I don't need to panic in any situation. Meditation has become a more sustainable solution to physical health problems than those Western medicine ever offered me." —Riley, age 28
For me, meditation is as simple as putting my book away and tuning out.
"I think New Yorkers feel as if we have to schedule every moment of our day: breakfast meetings, phone calls while walking, catching up on news and books while commuting, and so on. It's exhausting, overwhelming, and unhealthy. I started going to MNDFL when it opened, and while I found practicing in a studio wasn't ideal for me (mostly because of scheduling, ironically), I also realized that the state I would drift into was one I could easily achieve at various points in my day if I could just switch off. Sometimes I'll just sit down on the floor and practice; other times I'll cook a meal and reflect, but most often I'll just put my book away on the subway and tune out. For me, the idea of meditation is taking time to be introspective and to reflect on my thoughts without distraction, and so long as I have time to do that on a daily basis, I feel much more grounded." —Maher, age 29
Meditation allows me to live my life to the fullest.
"Meditation brings a lot to my life. I think more clearly and am able to handle everyday problems in a way that is more precise and efficient. It makes me feel balanced and brings stability to my state of mind. Meditation means living life to the fullest." —Cameron, age 23
I meditate before a lacrosse game or big bike ride.
"I meditate about three times a week, usually in the morning before my day gets going. It gives me a chance to just clear my head, slow down, and not worry about what's coming for the day. I use it a lot before a lacrosse game or bike ride (I'm an avid cyclist). I use a lot of visualization as part of my routine!" —George, age 62
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