So you want to meditate? I got started with meditation courtesy of Netflix, a few good books and my phone. Curiosity, knowledge and experience were the key ingredients for me at the beginning.
When I first took an interest in meditation two and half years ago, it was not through practice. I started as an intellectual exercise, with my curiosity peaked and knowledge gained thanks to a few good resources. Then I gained some experience which changed everything. Here is how I got started with meditation…
1. Learning to be curious with Netflix.
Meditation has been an exploration of my mind, and what I’ve learned is that being curious about myself is the fuel that keeps the exploration going. That curiosity for me initially was cultivated through watching a few documentaries on Netflix, that at the time, got me thinking and asking questions that I had not before asked myself.
Happy: Happy is a must-watch documentary, it challenges our Western capitalism inspired beliefs with qualitative and quantitative evidence and takes us outside of the bubble we live in. 2011, 1hr 15min. View on Netflix
10 Questions with the Dalai Lama: A simple documentary of the film maker’s travels to learn more about the Dalai Lama and the history of the struggles that have affected many. 2006, 1h 26min. View on Netflix.
I AM: Tom Shadyac (director of Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura and the Nutty Professor) opens up through a journey to answer what’s wrong with our world and how can we make it better. 2011, 1hr 20min. Learn more.
None of these documentaries are about meditation. They helped inspire me to be more curious, which was a key ingredient that helped me get started with meditation.
2. Gaining knowledge and getting started with meditation with a few good books.
The good news is there is no shortage of books available that talk about meditation and mindfulness practices. Here is what I recommend.
The Buddha Walks Into a Bar: a modern and simple explanation of how to apply various mindfulness practices in our everyday life, with anecdotes and examples that are easy to relate to. The second book The Buddha Walks Into the Office I found equally relatable. By Lodro Rinzler, learn more.
Search Inside Yourself: from Google’s jolly good fellow, this book from an engineer’s perspective is another practical guide on how to incorporate simple exercises and practices in your everyday life. By Chade-Meng Tan, learn more.
Buddha: if you’ve ever been curious about the Buddha’s story from 2,500 years ago, this novel brings it to life in a way that’s engaging, interesting and fun By Deepak Chopra, learn more.
10% Happier: I will admit I have not read this book yet but feel I have, based on the excerpts I have read and the various contexts I’ve seen it referenced in. The author talks about his own journey in dealing with stress. By Dan Harris, learn more (about the book and the app).
The Internet to the inner-net: from a Google business leader explaining his experiences and practices to look inside, sharing practical examples of how everyday business life can be influenced. By Gopi Kallayil, learn more.
Meditation: this was the first book I picked up (randomly found it on a family member’s bookshelf) and is a rare find. It broke down meditation into a simple path that was both inspiring and encouraging, especially in my early days. By Eknath Easwaran, learn more.
3. Getting experience from apps.
I’ve taken email off my phone, disconnect while away and recently discovered an app that tracks how long I spend on my phone. You would think that I don’t like my phone very much based on all of this! Truth be told, technology is a useful tool when used responsibly.
There are a number of apps available to help you get started with meditation that breaks it down and make it super simple.
Headspace is what I started using 2.5 years ago, and used it every day for six months. It helped me build consistency in my practice. It is a series of guided meditations, starting with just 10 minutes a day. And they build on each other, one day at a time.
What I found most compelling about using a guided meditation app at the start was the ease of waking up in the morning, sitting down to meditate and just hitting play on the app. Nothing else required. The 10 minutes went by really fast and then turned into 20 minutes a day.
Although I don’t regularly use Headspace anymore (as I’ve developed my own practice and techniques inspired by many different sources), it remains my #1 recommendation to anyone interested in starting. A few other apps that I’ve tried include Calm, Omvana, Sattva and Meditation Timer.