Learn to Meditate

Looking for peace and tranquility? Here’s where to start

1.   Do Your Research There are as many approaches to meditation as there are lotus blossoms in haiku. To find one that resonates with you, poke around the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in West Hollywood, leaf through the flyers at your local yoga studio, or check out the new Ananda LA in Santa Monica (anandala.com). Next-generation guru Max Simon (getselfcentered.com) was born to the cause—Dad cofounded Deepak Chopra’s center and Mom is a transcendental meditation teacher. Simon hosts periodic “Public Displays of Meditation” as well as other events and parties for his “soul tribe.”

2.   Let Go of Distractions Chances are you may be meditating already. Ever stare slack jawed at your computer screen? The trick is to know when you’re tuning out—to be simultaneously mindful and detached. There’s a lot to be said for meditating in perfect quiet, but if a trash truck rounds the bend or a cat goes into heat just as you’ve settled in, roll with it. The idea is to let uninvited distractions—including your inner dialogue—pass through your consciousness without grabbing on to or resenting them. Acknowledge them, then let them go. Whoosh.

3.   Assume The Position For most folks, sitting—in a chair or cross-legged on the floor—and kneeling are the easiest postures for meditating. Lengthen your spine, or shushumna (it’s fine to sit against a wall). That’ll give your energy a straight shot from your tailbone, or root chakra, to your head, or crown chakra. Or lie flat on your back (no snoozing!), walk contemplatively—maybe in the Peace Awareness Labyrinth in West Adams (peacelabyrinth.org)—or whirl like a dervish at one of Shiva Rea’s or Micheline Berry’s trance dances at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice (exhalespa.com).

4.   Take a Breath Breathing technique, or pranayama, is integral to setting the stage for meditation. Different styles, like alternate nostril, or nadi sodhana, will be handy down the line, but perfect the basic inhale-exhale first. On the inhale, let your shoulders relax and your ribs expand (outward, not up) and feel your breath in the back of your throat. Count slowly—one-two-three-four—pause, and exhale for the same count. Steady breathing serves as a metronome to keep you focused and acts like a quaalude for your central nervous system.

5.   Stick to a Schedule Start your practice by sitting five minutes once or twice a day and gradually aim for about 20 minutes at a stretch. The results are subtle but cumulative; the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to bring the calm you feel during meditation to daily activities and relationships. Stress will dissipate. Now it’s time to shine your new inner light around. Kirtans (call-and-response chanting), led by folks like Dave Stringer (davestringer.com), and other group meditations are often geared to the common good. Someone’s got to get the world peace train rolling, so it may as well be you.