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Do you meditate?

free period

Recently, I tried to learn how. Every morning for a number of weeks I would give it my best, and every morning, I just wound up just feeling kind of distracted and sleepy, which is not the point at all. Somebody suggested I sit in a hard chair, and still I just nodded off.  Then that same person suggested I buy an adult coloring book (I know, I know) so I ordered this one—it’s all patterns, perfect for me—along with some colored pencils. And damned if coloring in that adult coloring book doesn’t smooth my thoughts right on out.

I feel like I’m opening myself up for ridicule on this one, so please be dear and open yourself up to me too: how do you meditate? How often do you do it? And: does it ever get easier?

Posted on July 31st, 2015 71 Comments

71 Responses

  1. Zoe Ivory says:

    I find guided meditations, which I download on my iPhone, really helpful. I do Vispassana (I feel like do is probably the wrong word) anyhow observing my thoughts and letting them pass 1st thing in the morning makes me want to crawl back under the covers.

    I also find walking in my neighborhood-Sunnyside, so lots of trees and flowers-incredibly meditative and relaxing. As well as knitting something not to hard, but not to easy (like a ribbed scarf, not lace) I bet the knitting is similar to coloring. For it’s about breathing deeply and whatever gets me out of my head makes a world of difference.

    With regards to the walking:
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/?src=me&_r=0

  2. vernonlee says:

    I have a recommendation for you! Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskills (Mt. Trumper) has weekend retreats — Friday evening through Sunday dinner. When I went, it was $400 for the weekend.

    But you can show up knowing nothing about meditation and be great. They take all comers through their meditation technique. (You can also buy the book written by a former abbott of that monastery, Finding the Still Point — it comes with a CD and it’s a very short book.) You probably do about 4 hours of meditation per day, but it’s broken up into chunks. It’s a fantastic time and it’s really fun to chat people up at communal mealtimes.

    I’m curious about TM and wonder why you have to pay so much for training/your own mantra. Then again, so many different creative people swear by it that I am curious about it.

  3. Maria says:

    Count me in as another person who “meditates” on walks. Something about the extra oxygen/varied visuals/relative quiet smooths out all my thought wrinkles.

    I like the coloring book idea!

  4. Anne-Marie says:

    I color, too. It’s a thing right now for good reasons: it promotes mental “flow” along with relaxation, engages many areas of your brain, and the rhythmic motion is soothing.

    Next I’m going to learn to create mandalas.

  5. Lori says:

    I meditate every morning. I’ve been doing it for a few months. I can’t say that it’s gotten any easier, but I definitely notice a difference in my thinking and the way I feel when I don’t do it. Be gentle with yourself and don’t take things too seriously. 🙂

    Also, very cool on the coloring book!

  6. Jessemy says:

    When I began meditating, I used a guided body scan by Jon Kabat-Zinn. A few years later, I can do a body scan on my own. I struggled with it for a few months for sure, but it got more fruitful with time. Good luck!

    • jenny says:

      Thanks for the Kabat-Zinn recommendation! I had no idea what a body scan was, or about Kabat-Zinn in general, but his approach seems awesome!! Thanks!

  7. Gemma says:

    I have a couple tune-out activities. I swim laps in a pool 3-4 times a week, which is like exercising through a sensory deprivation tank. You can’t hear or see much and it leaves you alone with your thoughts.

    I’m also an enthusiastic knitter. Again, it’s a repetitive motion and very soothing. You can zone out and just knit and purl away.

    • Snap Gemma – these are my “tune out” activities too! I was lucky enough to have an Olympic-sized pool to myself at 5:00am in the morning many years ago – and what a joy it was to swim up and down that black line and when I turned my head to breathe – I saw snapshots of palm trees. Love knitting for the reason you mention.

  8. Vicki says:

    I think meditation is about carving out time and space to let your brain be “still.” I don’t think there is one way that is right for everybody. I’ve been meditative while quietly drawing and I’ve also been meditative on a long run on a beautiful day, focused on my footsteps.

  9. Louise says:

    I have just gotten back into meditating and I am also struggling with the sleepiness and distraction. I can tell you that it does get better, just keep at it and – as Lori said – be gentle with yourself. Even if it doesn’t feel like you are getting anything out of it you are. Often when you fall asleep during or after a meditation, it means that you really need that rest.

    Here is a discussion between Jerry Seinfeld and Howard Stern about their practice of meditation:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0h96G1WUO4

  10. Alison says:

    I just bought two adult coloring books from Amazon and fresh markers and crayons for JUST this purpose. It also keeps me from snacking as I watch TV in the evening!

  11. Christina says:

    I started meditating this summer, and I do it in the way that I can right now. 5 minutes, laying down, not first thing. Even this tiny practice is having such an impact on my practice of mindfulness in my daily life. I am also a runner and a swimmer, and while those are good sources of relaxation for me, they don’t have the same effect of meditation. I highly recommend reading 10% Happier, which is what started me on this kick that I hope is a lifelong practice!

  12. shawn says:

    have you tried the Headspace App for mediation – really seems to make it easier -try it – I think they have 10 guided mediations for free and starts at 10min….really good!

    • Jenny says:

      I have been meditating for a couple of years. Even though I’m not at all good at it and still fall asleep or lose focus,it has made a huge difference in my life. Things that have helped are: the Headspace app, which I just started doing and like a lot; the book No Mud No Lotus; the book Emotional Chaos to Clarity by Philip Moffit (a former top NY mag editor himself!), which started me on the whole meditation thing; and meditating at the same time every day -for me that’s first thing in the morning. I am still impatient with myself and others, still too quick to anger, still all kinds of unhelpful things, but it’s a lot easier to be me (and I hope to be around me) than it was before I started.

    • Clara says:

      I’m going to chime in here and agree about the headspace app. I’ve meditated on and off over years, but headspace has made it an almost daily practice, and I’m now around 4 months in. There’s something very calming about Andy’s no-nonsense English accent. I subscribed after the free period. I’ve also had a longstanding qi gong practice at times, that works perfectly for me when I’m outside, at dawn, in spring, summer and autumn. It’s probably time to get back into that… But I admit, I’ve been looking longingly at coloring in books too.

    • Me three on the Headspace app. I tried starting a meditation practice on my own and had exactly the same results Kim did. Only when I started using Headspace did it “stick.” I’ve now been meditating (almost) daily for 2 years.

      Does it get easier? Yes and no. No, in the sense that your brain will always try to be distracted. Yes, in the sense that meditation trains you to recognize this and accept it and shift your attention from it. To me, the practice of practicing is part of the point.

  13. Nancy says:

    With apologies to all the serious meditators out there, here’s my favorite meditation:
    https://vimeo.com/132790897

  14. kendall says:

    I work in an independent bookstore and I can tell you adult coloring books are HUGE! Also look at Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden coloring books. Or stop by your local independent bookseller.
    Coloring is a great way to focus and find your inner artist. Enjoy!

  15. JP says:

    When I heard these two conversations on meditation and mindfulness, something clicked:

    Ellen Langer – Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness
    http://www.onbeing.org/program/ellen-langer-science-of-mindlessness-and-mindfulness/6332

    Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc

    Ellen Langer believes that meditation is useful but not necessary to becoming mindful — that you really just need to start noticing things, paying attention.

    Jon Kabat-Zinn also makes the point that mindfulness is paying attention on purpose and that the practice of meditating is similar to an orchestra tuning their instruments before a performance in that it helps you get better at being mindful during the rest of the day. (By the way, there is some discussion at the end on what to do if you fall asleep while meditating.)

    On a side note, coincidentally, I bought a coloring book yesterday. I really love prints (including Liberty prints!), and the patterns in the book inspire me to play with patterns outside of coloring —

  16. Lee says:

    Kim: I hope you’re well and happy. Transcendental Meditation (TM) twice a day for 42 years has kept me well and happy. Recommended by the National Institutes of Health for lowering blood pressure, TM will regularly relaxes and refreshes. The morning fatigue upon waking will be erased and in the afternoon after TM you will be refreshed to enjoy a delightful evening with your loved ones. TM is taught at your local TM center. There’s plenty of scientific research at Harvard and NIH to support the life uplifting benefits.

    Thank you for your expert Lucky Style and Shopping Guides. Do you have one specifically focused on accessories like scarves, jewelry, bags and shoes? Looking elegant at a certain age demands refined expertise. Would you share this knowledge? Many thanks, Lee

  17. c.w. says:

    I know folks who meditate and all in very different ways and all swear by it so hang in there. My beau can meditate for ten-twenty minutes and it’s as if he’s taken a two hour nap. I have tried, but with severe ADD I find it impossible. My best relaxation-take-myself-out-of-monkey-mind “exercise” is sitting at the beach watching the waves. Doesn’t do me a lot of good when I’m in Texas, but I’m a serene bean during summers on the East Coast.

  18. Diane says:

    Haven’t tried coloring books but I can highly recommend the iPhone app “Buddhify” for guided meditations. I think it’s about $5 but well worth it — there are many out there of course, but this one is beautifully designed and offers a wide range of guided meditations — they are organized by “what are you doing?”, i.e., going to sleep, traveling, work break, eating, feeling stressed, etc. And they range in length — some 5 minutes or so, many longer. I’ve used it primarily when going to sleep and when I do the meditation (not even working it that seriously), my sleep has a different, more restful quality. Check it out!

    • Anne-Marie says:

      I’m intrigued. I do part of my work from home and the “work break” meditation would be wonderful. Will download — thanks, Diane.

  19. Clare says:

    I am a huge believer in coloring to relieve stress, get focused, and quiet the mind so this does not strike me as weird at all. I went through a particularly stressful, anxiety-ridden time when my kids were toddlers and used their coloring book as a little relief. It got me totally “in the zone” and able to get back into life. I love this post. And the New Yorker article is fantastic. Thanks for sharing this!

  20. Julie says:

    I recently took a mantra-based meditation course (not TM)after having tried to meditate in various ways over the years, unsuccessfully. I think it’s entirely personal, whatever works for you. Even though twice daily meditations are a challenge, I find the mantra works for me. For anyone interested, here is where I learned it: http://www.newyorkmeditationcenter.com/

  21. Kath says:

    I’m thoroughly embarrassed by my delight in my coloring book. I will say, however, that I began coloring alongside my children when they were young, and I just, well, never stopped. I listen to Yo Yo Ma or Olafur Arnalds and color away. I am not good at meditation either – I’ve tried a lot of the suggestions, guided meditation, retreats, but I can’t stop my mind. I tried knitting for a while, but I’m just too much of a spaz to make that work. Coloring does it.

  22. Ellen Faris says:

    I used to find meditation fairly easy, I started again recently (decades later) and find it difficult. And I really need it now.
    One comment I found very helpful (from a Buddhist friend) is that meditation is an exercise in being in the present, not the past or the future. I find that illuminating.
    When I listen to narrative tapes I just get irritated. Perhaps because I am a writer.
    But I can always do this: inhale through the nose for seven counts, breath out through pursed lips for seven counts. And come back to the moment if my mind wanders.
    I believe that part of what makes meditation calming is simply the act of getting air in. It’s better than cigarettes, for me it is something of the same mechanism.
    When I can find a good Tai Chi teacher I find Tai Chi tremendously meditative and centering.
    I don’t try and set an amount of time that I must meditate. It just pulls me back into organizing and out of a calmer space.
    These aren’t amazing ideas, but I wanted to share.

  23. Laura says:

    sort of meditation – I sit on the porch w/the dog or go for a walk – no phone, no book, no iPod – take in the nature and still my thoughts. Thanks for all the app suggestions – will definitely check out a few. I have coloring books in my Amazon cart, but wasn’t sure – think I will now. Also like jigsaw puzzles – working through the Edward Gorey puzzle oeuvre now.

  24. Rebecca says:

    Coloring is a great way to relax, self soothe, meditate, chill…whatever you want to call it! When my daughter and her friends (ages 9 & 10) get a little wound up, coloring mellows them right out. And they love that it is an activity they can share with the adults. Dover makes great, inexpensive coloring books – wildflowers, nature scenes, bugs, Celtic patterns, fairies, whatever your heart desires…

    Koh-i-noor Woodless Colored Pencils are the best!

  25. Raina says:

    Meditation is great for those who think linearly. For creative types whose minds resemble a ping pong ball in a gymnasium full of mousetraps, a creatively-bent solution is better. The coloring book is brilliant.

  26. LK says:

    I went through a very stressful period that included multiple family deaths, unemployment and health issues. One of the few things that got me out of my head and helped me relax was a word-search puzzle, the kind you get in the checkout of the grocery store. I think it was distracting enough to help get me out of all my crazy-making but not too hard that it just added another layer.

  27. Mae says:

    I don’t get the meditation thing, but coloring after smoking a bowl sounds soothing.

  28. Katie Lynn says:

    I’m one of those that can’t sit and meditate. But I AM an avid maker-of-things. Knitting is the exercise that I do the most, and there has been at least one study on the effects of the repetitive motions being similar to meditation. I have definitely noted a difference in my mood when I haven’t knit in a while, and I can honestly say I haven’t purchased a store-bought sweater in years.

    It has the secondary positive of there being a rather friendly community connected with knitting, and I have met some really lovely people. Right now I’m participating in a knit along, where the goal is to knit 12 sweaters in a year. I’m almost there.

    Here’s an article I was able to quickly find as to the benefits of crafting http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/health/brain-crafting-benefits/

  29. Paperesse says:

    I meditate of a fashion. Not the real ‘meditate’ meditate, more the Quaker reflecting in silence way. And I gotcha on the coloring. Just that I do digital stamps and make cards out them, but coloring is sooooo getting into the relax zone.

  30. KimFrance says:

    Such a fantastic and educational thread. Thanks, ladies.

  31. JP says:

    What a coincidence! Yesterday, on a whim, I bought an adult coloring book (not to be confused with a coloring book for mature audiences!). I love prints (wouldn’t a Liberty prints coloring book be fun?), and I find the patterns and intricate details in coloring books to be inspiring.

    To respond to your questions on meditation… I do meditate. I try to do it every morning, although maybe what I’m really doing is getting extra sleep? It did not get easier until I listened to these:

    Ellen Langer on Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness
    http://www.onbeing.org/program/ellen-langer-science-of-mindlessness-and-mindfulness/6332

    Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc

  32. Lesa says:

    I’m surprised that nobody has yet mentioned gardening. Pulling weeds is my form of meditation. Unfortunately, it’s hell on the finger joints.

    • Yes! I am going through a stressful time but I have a tiny veggie garden for the first time in my life and I truly think that being there is what is getting me through. It’s very “wax on, wax off” – I don’t think, I just pull the weeds!

  33. Rosie says:

    Stuart Smalley has a guided meditation CD, just really fun if your interested. Amazon has it.

  34. Susan says:

    I love coloring Mandalas from a coloring book. It totally chills me. You might check and see if there is a Liberty of London coloring book: from your blog it seems it would suit you.

  35. Linda Kenyon says:

    I have trouble focusing, but for some reason it works well when I shut my eyes…then I try to listen to surrounding sounds–traffic, dogs, kids, whatever’s out there. When I listen, then I don’t need to hear my own brain’s racket!
    I like to draw, but plan to get a coloring book–I like the idea. It gives me the excuse to buy pencil sharpeners and pencils of many colors!
    Color on, Kim, color on!

  36. Jennie says:

    Damn! I knew you were a kindred spirit! I just bought one on a whim last week and I’ll be goddamed if it’s not the most relaxing and mind clearing activity I’ve found.

  37. melissa says:

    I find that guided meditations work best for me. I downloaded the Insight Timer app on my iphone and it has hundreds of guided meditations…all different types and all different durations. It’s not easy, but I have gradually noticed subtle results. I’ve also got an adult coloring book 🙂

  38. y.k. says:

    or a mantra – I’ve heard $300-500. why?
    i am intrigued by the coloring books – that’s a real thing here in Seoul.
    as for meditation, I’ve tried a few times but cannot get my mind out of the list making/ conversation replaying zone.
    so far I’ve been fine with exercise, walks& sometimes crafts but i will try some of the suggestions on this excellent thread.

  39. another rebecca says:

    I find swimming or walking/hiking in nature meditative.

    Friends of mine meditate while knitting. I tried that but just wanted to stab people with the needles, so…

    I think it’s all very personalized. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. If anyone judges, stab them with one of the pencils.

    You may already know, but in case not: https://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780241249987/liberty-colouring-book

  40. Ita Darling says:

    No one is good at quieting their monkey mind after only a few days- the verb associated with meditation is the same as yoga- Practice! (i.e. do you practice meditation? do you have practice yoga?) Because both take just that! I think people can find meditation in almost anything you do! Mindfull breathing during a jog, a walk, colouring, gardening, washing dishes.

    I use binaural beats for my walking and sitting meditaitons which are shown to increase theta brainwaves and help enhance meditative focus.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binaural_beats

    There are apps and many online binaural beats resources (including you tube!)

  41. Lisa wallace says:

    Kim! So happy you are starting meditation. So important – Really important. Mind training.

    Re: this link – Pls don’t be put off by her robes, she is truly wonderful and in so many ways her story reminds me of yours (as much as I can know the stories of two woman I know only digitally):

    http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/278/talk/27062/

  42. Andrea G. says:

    Hi Kim: when I was younger I went on several meditation retreats, and while I always had trouble with the daily practice afterwards, the retreats were wonderful and really helpful for my mental health (although often filled with difficult moments). It’s amazing to see how much you can slow it all down after several days. I think you need at least 2 days to get to a quieter more focused place. I practiced Vipassana, and on the East Coast there’s a place in Barre, MA. Caffeine is the worse for meditation — makes the mind very jumpy. Also, if you found a meditation group that can be very helpful because you’ll meet other like minded people and that can be motivating.

  43. Mamavalveeta03 says:

    I pray, but I’d say it’s very similar to mediation, since my prayers are usually of the variety author Anne Lamott suggests, “Help, Thanks, Wow.”

    And I love the idea of an adult coloring book. It’s why I do childcare for a living! 😉

  44. Angie says:

    The Chopra Center has meditations for purchase and also offers a free trial 21 day every so often. I usually meditate before falling asleep and when I wake up – sometimes my meditation feels restless, too and If I fall asleep, I figure I needed the sleep. It will get better. Enjoy your practice!

  45. Susan Piver says:

    I’m an avid Girls of a Certain Age reader and also a meditation teacher with an online meditation community. I send out a new 10-minute guided instructional video every Monday. It’s free. Watch the little video on this page and check out my cute shirt, at least I think it’s cute: http://susanpiver.com/open-heart-project/

    Almost no one can figure out meditation by themselves, mainly because we think we’re supposed to be “good” at it. Not so. I mean, say you became the best follower-of-breath in the world. So what?! Meditation is not about becoming good at breathing. It’s about becoming good at being yourself. After 20+ years of practice and 10 years of teaching, I cannot imagine who I would be without it.

    x to the o to all! Susan

  46. Caroline says:

    i meditate and it can be difficult. I used to be good at it but fell out of it, getting back on it again. Sit in a chair, close your eyes, and count your breaths for ten breaths. Then start again. If you can’t get to ten, try counting five breaths then starting over. The point is to be here, now. When you get distracted, just restart. Notice your body and how you feel. Notice what’s distracting you. Practice observing yourself like this. It can be remarkably calming.
    About falling asleep– many years ago I attended a zen retreat and kept nodding off. I felt better when I realized the head monk was nodding off too!! No one is perfect. 🙂

  47. Amy says:

    I’m with you 100% on the coloring book. It zens me out and I don’t care who knows it.

  48. Zelda says:

    Download the Headspace app. It’s a guided meditation and an excellent for beginners. Also, you can try the learn to meditate class at the Shambhala Center on West 22nd St. (http://ny.shambhala.org/meditation/) It’s an hour class offered every week with a $10 donation.

  49. Emily says:

    So I guess I’m alone in saying that coloring stresses me out! I have to get the color pattern right, I have to finish the whole page…I bought a number of geometric books for my son for Christmas 2 years ago and we color together, but I am too Type A to color as meditation.

    But I agree on lap swimming. I get some exercise and I’m alone with my thoughts and my breath.

  50. Elle says:

    Love this thread! I need to do more meditating (mind quieting) and yoga. What I’m doing now – gardening and diy crafts.

  51. Jill says:

    Thank you for this thread, as it reminded me of an app I’ve been ignoring called Headspace, which was co-founded by a former Buddhist monk who gave a TED Talk in 2013 (link below).

    He also narrates the meditation, which can be a little bit of a turn-on depending on your affinity to English accents. However, he expertly leads you through to the point where his accent drops away and the mindfulness is front & center.

    http://www.ted.com/speakers/andy_puddicombe

    There is a free portion for daily 10-minute meditations or a subscription.

    https://www.headspace.com/

  52. jenny says:

    I love this blog! Thanks, all!!!

  53. Helena Otsa says:

    Meditation classes based on Jon Kabat Zinn’s work in NYC can be found at http://www.mindfulnessmeditationnyc.com/up-coming-classes-in-new-york
    Many classes start in September. No one is turned away by an inability to pay. Tuition paid often supports free meditation training at cancer centers. The instructors really know their stuff.I meditate using a body scan approach every day for 30 minutes. It does get easier.