You spend the final five minutes of yoga class in "corpse" pose, mentally ticking off your to-do list. When you see a picture of a multi-armed goddess, your first reaction is, "Wow, I wish I had some more arms to do multi-task with!" Sound familiar? If so, slowing down and taking a few moments to meditate (or practice "mindfulness training" if that sounds less frou-frou to you) is exactly what you need in your day. "When I was a young, single mom, if I hadn't had my meditation practice, I don't know how I would have stayed steady and confident," Barb Schmidt, inspirational teacher and peace activist tells Elizabeth Street. "You have to be able to tap into that place of strength and peace before you even hit the ground running. It sets the tone for the rest of the day."
Schmidt's new book, The Practice, is a treasure box of easy-to follow tips for living a happier and less stressful life. By now, most of us have heard about the benefits of meditation, which include increased well-being, relaxation, and focus. Some research shows that it can even help fight serious health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. But, if you are a busy person (and who isn't?) or averse to the idea of incense and chanting, have no fear: all it takes to get started is five minutes and a quiet place.
Schmidt says the best time to meditate is first thing in the morning before the rest of the house gets humming. "Have a cup of coffee and let the dog out, if you need to, but don't look at your phone or computer or turn on the radio." Then, simply find a comfortable seat-its doesn't have to be on the floor-where your spine is straight you feel alert and upright and you can breathe freely. "Let your thoughts come and go," advises Schmidt. "Don't judge, just observe."
"When I first started this practice, over thirty years, my mind was all over the place, I didn't think I could do it" says Schmidt, who describes herself as "a classic type A personality." Now, she credits her routine with helping her feel like she's in charge of her life and can handle any bumps along the way. "And our kids pick up on that," she adds. "Things may get crazy, but there is always a place you can go to feel grounded."
Schmidt's book is a great place to get started, but there are many other accessible, inexpensive resources to help you learn more about the benefits of meditation and how to develop your own routine.