New Yorkers aren't exactly known for being calm and collected. But last March, countless numbers of them found some tranquility in the back of their taxicabs, thanks to a guided meditation playing on the TVs of hundreds of cars. The one-minute Ã‚Â meditations were led by Elena Brower, an internationally renowned yoga teacher, founder of VIRAYOGA in New York City, and one of (currently) five subjects ofÃ‚Â ONMEDITATION,Ã‚Â a series of short films about individuals who have cultivated a meaningful practice in their lives. In addition to Brower, subjects include Buddhist Monk The Venerable Metteya, two-time National Book Award winner author Peter Matthiessen, Breaking Bad actor Giancarlo Esposito, and Congressman Tim Ryan, author of A Mindful Nation.
"We believe if more people meditated the world would be a better place,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Rebecca Dreyfus, the director, creator, and executive producer of the films.
One of the biggest obstacles that keeps people from meditating? The misconceptions surrounding it. Here, four common myths about the practice.
Myth: You don't have enough time to meditate Reality: Many people report that even just five minutes a day makes a big difference in their lives, saysÃ‚Â Dreyfus. And if you feel like you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the time to meditate, consider this: Meditation can make you more productive and efficient overall, according to a study published in the journalÃ‚Â Psychiatry Research. Brower suggests setting aside just five minutes a day, either first thing in the morning or at night. Find a comfortable, clean place to sit or lie down, and set a timer for five minutes. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Simply breathe deeply, and watch your thoughts flit across the screen of your mind," she says. "Watch as they slowly settle down, one by one, as you breathe."
Myth: You can't meditate because you can never "turn off your thoughts" Reality: Anyone can learn to meditate. So many people think thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no way theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be able to succeed, but the truth is, we all have an innate ability to meditate, saysÃ‚Â Dreyfus. Ã¢â‚¬Å“One of my teachers, Mark Epstein, once told me, 'The point of meditation is not to try to calm down or stop your racing mind. The point is to observe your mind.' Meditating doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily mean having a quiet mindÃ¢â‚¬”it means that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re willing to take some time to investigate what your mind is doing." Your thoughts will never "stop," but meditation can help you to manage them better.
Myth: The benefits of meditation only last as long as the practice Reality: The benefits carry over into the rest or your dayÃ¢â‚¬”and life. A new study, published in the journalÃ‚Â Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging,Ã‚Â found that meditation can actually create changes in the brain. Those who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had an increase in grey matter in the part of the brain associated with learning and memoryÃ¢â‚¬”and aÃ‚Â reduction of grey matter in the part associated with anxiety and stress.
Myth: Sitting cross-legged and saying "Omm" isn't your styleÃ¢â‚¬”so meditation isn't for you. Reality: There are countless different ways to meditate. There are guided meditations, as well as others where you silently repeat a mantra or focus on your breath or certain parts of your body. In fact, yoga and Tai Chi are actually considered moving meditations.Ã‚Â Dreyfus recommends experimentingÃ‚Â with different techniques until you find the one that feels right to you.
Ready to get started? Although a meditation teacher can be extremely helpful, there are numerous online resources (like Yogaglo.com or Soundstrue.com) geared toward beginners. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not ready to go to class, online resources can be an inexpensive, easy way to get started,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dreyfus.
With five portraits for ONMEDITATIONÃ‚Â complete, Dreyfus hopes to round out the project with five additional segments (one of which will spotlight Gabrielle Bernstein, a WH contributor and author ofÃ‚Â May Cause Miracles. To help fund the rest of the project, donate to its Kickstarter campaign.
photo: courtesy of ONMEDITATION