Before you read this piece, follow these simple instructions: Set your smartphone timer to one minute. Close your eyes. (After you’ve read through the instructions, of course!) Be aware of where you’re sitting or standing. Bring that awareness to the rest of your body. Send this message to your body: “Relax.”
Now, try to concentrate only on your breathing. Count the seconds it takes for you to inhale, then exhale: 1-2-3-4-5 (in) … 1-2-3-4-5 (out) … and so on. Don’t let your mind wander to your job or what a Trump presidency might look like. Just be aware, relax and breathe. Repeat this sequence, and keep your eyes closed until you hear that ringtone. Now, open your eyes.
That, right there, is meditation. And if you set aside a little time every day to do it—at a minimum, say, five minutes—you’ll find that your mind will be more focused, you’ll be less stressed, anxious, and negative, and overall, you’ll just feel like a better man. I should know; for over a year, I’ve been meditating daily for 30 minutes, and I feel great.
Now, I realize it’s sort of difficult to picture meditating in public, but it’s totally doable—and I do it all the time. Here’s how to pull it off without getting dirty looks…
After a rough patch in March 2015, I sought the counsel of a psychologist on the West Coast. A few sessions in, he leant me a copy of 10% Happier, a book by fellow journalist Dan Harris about the aftermath of a giant panic attack he’d had on live TV and what he’d done to get himself back on the right path. One of those things he tried was meditation. So I figured I’d give it a go. “It’s free,” I told myself. “What do I have to lose?”
At first, I didn’t have a clue how to meditate or what I was doing. I felt kind of stupid, actually. It’s not like learning how to tie your shoes or ride a bicycle. This is your mind you’re training. And I’d already failed at it once. Several years earlier, I’d been recommended another book by a different therapist: Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are. It sort of reads like a beginner’s guide to meditation, but one for people who aren’t of the patchouli-smelling, dreadlocked set. I remember Kabat-Zinn emphasizing (and I’m paraphrasing here) that there wasn’t a right or wrong way to meditate: You could do it sitting or lying down or any number of other ways. Back then I’d tried to lie down on my hardwood floor in Brooklyn and meditate, and it didn’t work. It sort of hurt, actually. So I just stopped doing it.
But this time around, I felt I had something to really work towards: I was 35, having daily anxiety attacks and dipping deeper into depression. So I worked hard on my meditation practice and finally landed on a simple, four-step routine. I’d like to share it with you here on Made Man. Call it a spiritual exclusive.
1. Wake up as early as you can in the morning. For me, that’s 5:30 a.m. sharp. The idea here is to capture your mind at its least jam-packed.
2. Find the quietest place in your apartment/house. Meditation can be done anywhere (I’ll get to that shortly), but it’s best done in a sort of hermetically sealed location, with as little background noise as possible.
3. Unfurl a yoga mat or blanket on the floor, remove your shoes and socks, and set your smartphone timer to 5 minutes (I suggest starting there and working your way up). Then, lie down on the mat, get comfortable, close your eyes, and repeat the process at the top of this story.
4. When that bell goes off, open your eyes.
My routine actually goes one step further: snapping a shot of my feet on Instagram. I post the photo and a short message of positivity—usually, the first positive thing that I can think of. My reasoning is twofold: to track my daily progress, and to start my day off on the right foot (pun intended). Most of my friends think I’m crazy, and my brother-in-law thinks I’m a foot fetishist. But if you do something like this only for you, it doesn’t really matter what others think.
Now, I realize it’s sort of difficult to picture meditating in public, but it’s totally doable—and I do it all the time. Here are a few places you can try meditating, and how to pull it off without getting dirty looks:
When You’re at Work: If I’ve just done something that has expended a lot of energy, I get up and do some walking meditation. I never do 30-minute sessions, but any amount of time on top of the half-hour I’ve already spent in the morning is solid gold. It’s like an extra-time goal.
Outside Walking: Harris, whom I had the chance to meet and discuss meditation with, privately, late last year, engages most frequently in “walking meditation.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. For more on it, click here.
On Public Transit: This is one of the greatest places to test your craft. Hang onto something and close your eyes. Be aware that you’re on this crowded train car or bus or monorail and that you’re breathing. (Make sure you don’t miss your stop.) I can almost guarantee you’ll have a more enjoyable trip…