For as long as I can remember, I’ve been someone who attracts various versions of the phrase “you should meditate.” I could feign cluelessness (“meee? High-strung?!”), but the truth is that my macerated nail beds, micro-bulleted emails and hairline-hugging top knot all indicate that I could use some calm.
And I know that. I do! But when the perfectionist is tasked with a decidedly imperfect project, the roadmap for relaxation becomes a little complicated. And meditation, with its prescribed finger positions, rhythmic breathing patterns and generally Zen aura, can be intimidating. What do I think about? How long do I do it? Do I need a cushion filled with buckwheat hulls?
If the mental gymnastics frazzled my already-manic brain, what would happen when I actually tried meditating? Thankfully, at Free People, I’m surrounded by women who’ve seemingly mastered serenity, and it only took an email before I was sitting down with sage spiritual mentor Jess Naim, who not only leads workshops and retreats about meditation, but has made it a part of her daily routine. She’s also as ethereal and radiant as you’d expect a spiritual mentor to be. (Hey, I figured you were curious.)
To kickstart my pursuit for inner peace, Jess zeroed in on the three essentials (“the holy trinity,” she says) that helped hone her practice: beginning, breathing and physical positioning. These key aspects make an already-intimidating practice more accessible and, most importantly, useful. She notes, “I want to be able to bust this out on an airplane or right before a meeting.”
Step 1. Just Begin
If the thought of a silent, hour-long session, um, terrifies you, don’t worry. To start, Jess explains that you only need three minutes: “It’s a very doable number and you can really feel a difference.” Before you know it, three minutes turns into five minutes, which turns into ten minutes—and the idea of sitting with your own thoughts for the length of an infomercial no longer makes you shrivel in panic.
Likewise, you don’t need an alter or special space. Jess, who dedicates an intentional area of her apartment to meditation, says it’s not critical for the beginner. “I do like to create the environment, but I don’t want to be dependent on it.” Think of meditation as a practical, mobile tool for when your cab is in gridlock traffic or your calendar descends into chaos.
Step 2. Set Your Intention & Deepen The Breathe
So, you’ve carved out a few minutes—now where do you begin? Close your eyes and set an intention. Jess notes that it can be as simple as “I’m going to do this for three minutes and see if I feel different afterward.” Then, focus on deepening your breathe through your diaphragm. “It can really rebalance our nervous system right away,” she says. “Anyone who’s just starting out, learn how to breathe deeper into the diaphragm.”
Step 3. Find Your Position
“I think the physical aspect is important because it puts us into our bodies,” explains Jess. “A lot of times we’re hovering above our bodies, super mental, and our bodies are freaking out when we’re in that state because we’re so ungrounded.” These physical gestures, called “mudras,” are wide-ranging, but beginners can benefit from placing their hands on their chest (this helps connect with and slow breath) or from other familiar methods like the energy-opening Gyan (touching your index fingertip to the tip of your thumb, holding your other fingers straight) or tranquil Dhyana (your hands facing upward, right hand resting on top of your left palm).
“Whether you’re putting your hands on your body or just having them in your lap, being conscious of your hands can really help you customize and open up,” says Jess.
In a frenzied world of social commitments and dizzying deadlines, the quest for calm is always top of mind. Now, I know I said I was a high-strung person, but after chatting with Jess, I already felt calmer. Is it possible that simply discussing meditation was enough to start breaking down my relaxation-resistant barrier? That’s to be determined. But the next time I have three minutes to spare? I know what I’m doing—and it involves mudras.