The first time I tried meditating, I was at MNDFL, a trendy meditation studio in New York City. The space had everything a wellness hub should include: a calming, inviting atmosphere with just the right amount of greenery, a soothing instructor, and plenty of feel good vibes. I sat on a big gray pillow and spent the next thirty minutes focusing on my breathing and “finding my sense of self.” Overall, it was a fantastic way to dip my toes into the world of meditation. I left feeling refreshed, and I told myself that I would make a concentrated effort to incorporate the practice into my daily life… I didn’t meditate again for over two years.
In the time since my first (and last) MNDFL class, the wellness world has only grown bigger and bigger. And while my idea of Zen is sitting on the couch watching Food Network, I recently decided to give meditation another go. Everyone else is raving about #SelfCareSunday and the health benefits of being mindful, so why shouldn’t I try to better my headspace as well? This time I skipped the fancy studio, and took a more accessible approach by downloading the Akasha app on my phone.
I kicked off my second attempt at meditation right before the holidays, hoping that it could bring a sense of calmness to the end of the year frenzy. After all, meditation, is a great way to de-stress. “Primarily, it is a tool that cultivates resilience,” explains Tina Chadda, MD, the creator of the app. “Meditation teaches us to hold space for the things that please us, as well as those things that make us uncomfortable or dissatisfied, thus nurturing our sense of inner strength and our ability to self-regulate whenever we encounter tough situations or feelings.” In other words, it’s the perfect tool to help cope with any awkward family dinner conversations, financial stresses or party fatigue. Other benefits beyond alleviating stress include pain management, emotional healing, and spiritual fulfillment.
According to Dr. Chadda, there’s no “right way” to meditate. “As long as you try to notice and observe with attentiveness and purpose what’s going on inside of you and around you, that’s meditation,” she explains. So, to ensure I stuck to a routine, I decided to use the app right when I woke up. This way I’d jumpstart my day with some self-reflection instead of aimless social media scrolling and anxious email checking.
The Akasha app is broken up by elements: Fire is love and desire, Earth is harmony and balance, Water is flow and productivity, Metal is success and accomplishment, and Wood it creativity and innovation. Each element offers a number of different courses to choose from, allowing for a more targeted practice. For example, Water has topics that range from gratitude to letting go to positivity. Each day, I’d start off by taking the app’s built-in questionnaire where I ranked my current levels of happiness, confidence, calmness, energy, and creativeness. Depending on how I answered, it would suggest which elements to focus on that day.
It only took a few mornings to get into the meditation groove. I began looking forward to powering up my app as soon as my alarm went off. Dr. Chadda offers master classes and meditations for each course, so I’d tailor what I listened to depending on my time frame for the day. Her voice (which is quite soothing may I add) talked me through the daily reflections.
Being a meditation newbie, I liked how specific the topics got since it allowed me to clearly understand the prompts and what aspects of my life to channel the advice into. However, it’s important to know that everyone is different when it comes to meditation success. “Experiment to find what works for you. Stick with it for a week and note down on a daily basis how you are responding to your meditation practice and to your life in general,” advises Dr. Chadda. “Notice if anything shifts internally for you.” If it seems to be improving your mental state, stick with it. If not, try another way to incorporate a different type of meditation into your life.
My bottom line: More often than not, the meditation session was all I needed to bring mindfulness into my daily routine. Those ten to fifteen minutes of quiet time with my thoughts were the perfect way to set my focus and intention for the day, and I plan to keep it up well into the New Year. Though, I’m not going to lie, one of the best parts was that I didn’t even need to leave my bed.