The pandemic has proven to be one long endurance test when it comes to finding ways to stay sane and cultivate patience amid continued uncertainty and ever-changing, trying circumstances. As fear and anxiety levels surged, mental health experts and wellness gurus touted the benefits of getting grounded in the present moment and focusing on taking things one day at a time. So it’s no surprise that meditation and mindfulness apps saw a massive surge in users seeking tools to help them cope with this once in a generation global crisis.
Meditation is the ancient practice of training the mind. The Latin word meditatum means “to ponder,” and meditative practices have been linked to many religions and cultures throughout time. Meditation is all about bringing the mind into the now and finding peace in the present moment without worrying about the past or being preoccupied with what’s going to happen in the future.
According to Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and meditation guide Natalie Burtney, “Meditation is practicing awareness of your body, emotions, and thoughts with curiosity and compassion. Just like all things, it is a practice, but over time, the benefits from meditation are cumulative and show up in many ways in your life.”
Meditation can actually create new neural pathways in your brain. Among its many benefits are improved cognition and emotional health, increased insight and resiliency, and heightened concentration abilities. And the coolest thing is there’s no one “right” way to meditate. Anyone can do it anytime, anywhere. These tools and resources can help you find a meditation practice that works for you.
If you want to learn more about meditation before you delve into it, there’s a whole universe of books out there filled with research and how-tos. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh are tried-and-true, longtime bestsellers in the space. For a fresh female perspective, LA-based spiritual coach and wellness expert Kelsey J. Patel’s recently released Burning Bright: Rituals, Reiki, & Self-Care to Heal Burnout, Anxiety, and Stress is packed with accessible advice for beginners.
Guided Meditation Classes
Guided meditations are a great starting point for beginners. Trained practitioners lead you through breathwork, oftentimes accompanied by soothing music like crystal bowls and chanting. Local meditation and yoga studios pivoted to virtual classes during the pandemic, allowing students to practice in the safety and comfort of their homes via Zoom and other streaming platforms. For example, Cultivate LA offers a regular schedule of thematic meditations like Hypnotherapy, Emotional Awareness, and Dream & Deep Rest.
Yoga Nidra is a very unique form of guided meditation that brings you into the state between sleeping and wakefulness. Studies have shown that 20 minutes of yogic sleep can give the body the benefits of three to four hours of sleep. LA-based Certified Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra instructor Sydney Cutler says, “Yoga Nidra meditation is a wonderful way to rest deeply while cultivating present-moment awareness. While lying down you are guided into a deeply restful state where you can safely take off your ‘armor,’ release what no longer serves you, and invite in the realization that you are perfect just as you are. And it is so easy to do—all you need to do is get into a comfortable resting position and listen.”
You don’t have to be seated and still to meditate. Walking mindfully connects breath and movement by going slowly, and paying attention to each step and breath. Take it a step further with the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, also known as “forest bathing,” which can be done in any natural setting. That means you can do a walking meditation while hiking Pasadena’s mountain trails, doing a secret stair walk or even strolling through The Huntington’s botanic gardens.
The Transcendental Meditation Technique (“TM”) is one of the most famous meditation practices. Its life-changing benefits have been touted by some of the biggest names in show business like Oprah Winfrey. The exclusively individualized practice entails receiving a personal mantra and one-on-one training delivered through four consecutive sessions.
There’s An App for That
Popular subscription-based apps like Calm and Headspace offer a variety of meditation tips and tools including breathing exercises, journaling prompts, and sleep sounds. A leader in the meditation studio space, LA-based Unplug Meditation launched their own app with on-demand guided meditations including sound baths, imagery, and breathwork.
LOCAL LA MEDITATION RESOURCES
- Ananda Meditation (anandameditation.com): Virtual group and individual Yoga Nidra guided meditations led by Sydney Cutler
- Cultivate Meditation (cultivate-la.com): Livestream meditation classes and private sessions
- One Down Dog (onedowndog.com): Yoga studio with locations in Eagle Rock, Echo Park, and Silver Lake offering livestream guided meditations, workshops, and sound baths
- Pasadena Meditation (pasadenameditation.org): Meditation studio offering online guided meditations and individual consultations
- Transcendental Meditation (tm.org): Individual meditation training program with LA locations