Master the Art of Meditation

Kiplinger's Magazine, February, 2017

Use your technology. Your computer and smartphone are often purveyors of stress, but they’re also a good source of guided meditation instruction. Tara Brach, a psy- chologist and popular meditation instructor based in Washington, D.C., offers free guided meditation podcasts (some are recorded at her Wednesday evening guided meditation sessions at a Bethesda, Md., church). You
can find the podcasts on iTunes or at www .tarabrach.com/talks-audio-video. UCLA offers guided meditations of varying lengths at www.marc.ucla.edu/mindful-meditations. Sessions range from three to 19 minutes. Feeling stressed at work? Try the five-minute breathing meditation. You can do it without leaving your desk.

Meditation apps are another way to get into the habit. Most offer a free trial period; after that, you’ll usually pay a monthly fee. One of the most popular apps is Headspace, which bills itself as a personal trainer for your mind. Cofounder Andy Puddicombe—yes, that is his name, and yes, he is British—has
a calming yet no-nonsense voice that gently guides you through 10-minute meditations. The 10-day starter package is free; after that, it costs $12.95 a month, or $7.99 a month if you subscribe for a year.

Another app, Calm, offers three options: a 21-day guided meditation program that tracks your progress, individual sessions lasting between three and 25 minutes, and unguided sessions that combine scenes of nature with restful music. The cost is $12.99 a month or $59.99 a year.

The Mindfulness app offers a library of three- to 30-minute meditation exercises, with different styles and instructors. You can also program the app to send you mindful- ness reminders throughout the day. There’s a free five-day introductory trial; a subscription costs $9.99 a month or $59.99 for a year.

Insight Timer offers more than 3,000 guided meditations, music tracks, talks and courses. This app, which is free, isn’t as struc- tured as some of the others, but it offers
an opportunity to try different meditation styles. It provides a way to log the time you spend meditating, and the community func- tion allows you to see who else is meditating when you are.

Take a class. For a more human touch, look for a lunchtime or daylong program. At Spirit Rock Meditation Center (www.spiritrock.org), in Woodacre, Calif., one of the most popular meditation centers on the West Coast, you can attend a drop-in class for $15 to $30. Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, offers a free class every Thursday at 12:30 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

The class has proved so popular that other institutions, such as Seattle’s Frye Museum and the Asia Society in New York City, have intro- duced lunchtime meditation sessions. Check with your local museum, college or university for classes in your area; many yoga studios also offer meditation instruction.

Go on a retreat. If you’re ready for a deep dive, consider signing up for a meditation retreat. Options range from a weekend at a monastery, such as the Holy Cross Abbey, in Berryville, Va. (www.virginiatrappists.org/retreat-house; $200 to $350, depending on your means), to a two- week (or more) getaway at a luxury resort. The Shambhala Mountain Center, in Red Feather Lakes, Colo., which offers more than 100 pro- grams each year, is located on 600 acres in the Colorado Rockies. When you’re not in class, you can hike on the eight miles of trails without distractions because there isn’t any cell-phone service. Costs range from $79 a night for a dorm room to $263 for a suite in one of the lodges.

For those on the East Coast, a popular medi- tation destination is the 40-year-old Insight Meditation Society (www.dharma.org), in central Massachusetts. The nonprofit charges fees on a sliding scale, based on participants’ ability to pay; the cost for a weekend retreat starts at about $215.