Seated meditation, for me, is like going to the art museum or a silent film. If someone invites me, I’ll go — and I know I’ll be glad I went. Yet, when I contemplate sitting still, there’s a little part of me that wants to jump into running shoes and split for the nearest trail.
Marie Forleo seems to know what I’m thinking. She points out in one episode of her online series MarieTV that there are 1,440 minutes in a day — and if you have time to shower, you have time to meditate. What’s more, if you protest that you really don’t have time, she’d like you to stop watching MarieTV right away so that you can give it a try.
Meditation, among other things, seems to have served Forleo well: she left the corporate world to build a successful coaching enterprise that has blossomed into world-class training programs as well as MarieTV, teaching audiences in 195 countries how to build a business and a life they love. Forleo recognized early in her career that her diverse interests, strengths and skills were a gift rather than a liability. Whether you’re in business or not, she believes that entrepreneurism and creativity are essential to any rich and fulfilling life.
Power tools for your mind
No doubt, part of Forleo’s success is also due to her down-to-earth approach to the loftiest of subjects, and her charming sense of humor about herself. Yes, the camera’s rolling, but she’s going to let you hear her wonder out loud what kind of animal shape is on the ring she’s wearing, before she begins the episode. And then she shows you how to meditate. It’s a combination that sets her apart from others in the space.
In her response to a viewer’s question, she confesses that meditation is like a “buzz saw, power drill and weed whacker” for her “very active” mind. She finds that meditation helps her establish a clearer connection to herself. Quite simply, she says, “You have an inner teacher, and you will be told everything you need to know.”
Forleo practices “mantra meditation,” which gives her something to focus on and come back to when her mind wanders off to her to-do lists. In fact, the mantra she uses is so hum namah, which she explains loosely translates to “turning back to my true self.”
Five steps, 10 minutes
So how does she do it? Forleo’s day begins with tea. She puts on some music — preferably Pandora’s Calm Meditation station (why? “Because I like to spin my tunes!”).
Then she’ll sit cross-legged — her preference, but whatever allows you to comfortably maintain a tall spine is fine with her. She sets the timer on her phone for 10 minutes — or a little longer if she feels she needs it — and sets her OK mudra, hands resting palms-up, each index finger touching the thumb in the familiar “OK” sign.
Next, she inhales, closes her eyes and begins silently to say her mantra: so hum namah. As she notices thoughts and feelings come up, she tries to let them pass by like clouds in the sky, and she returns her attention to her mantra. When her timer goes off, she takes a deep breath, opens her eyes and moves on with her day.
I’m already inclined to try out her technique, because she starts her day with tea (so do I), and I like her sense of humor. From watching her video, I know she can relate to the cymbal-smashing wind-up toy that’s always running in my head. And my busy schedule is not an excuse: she asks viewers to commit to just seven days, and by her calculation, anyone who has enough time to shower also has enough time to meditate. If I’m not going to skip my shower, I guess I’m not going to skip meditation.
My first attempt, in late afternoon, includes three false starts. I hadn’t planned to use music, but another member of the household is watching television, and I’m distracted by the possibility of distraction. So I stop the timer, get my earbuds, start a Pandora selection and start the timer.
Just a few seconds into the meditation, my cell phone rings. I press the mute button and stop the timer: my clothes are not very comfortable to sit in. I put on sweats, reset the music and timer, close my eyes and begin again. Except the OK mudra feels awkward, so I rest my hands in my lap instead. Now my quads are tensing in this cross-legged position. I uncross them and place my feet on the floor…
I’m wondering how much time I’ve wasted on these distractions. The music is great, even the right tempo for saying the mantra. Am I paying too much attention to it? I wonder if I could hum. I read somewhere that humming activates the vagus nerve, which has a calming effect. (Nope, that’s distracting for me, too.)
Another experience I’ve had with meditation comes to mind: a guided, breath-focused practice in an art gallery. The gallery owner who led the meditation had charted her own path decades earlier. As a single mom of two boys in New Mexico in the ’70s, she found her options for work both limited and creatively stifling. Self-described as “unemployable,” she realized she would have to start her own business. Like Forleo, she managed to channel her passion into a business that earned her some renown.
The breath meditation practice began with a scan of the body to notice and release any tension. That was followed by a focus on letting breath fill the body completely, and letting it leave the body completely and return of its own accord — without any conscious effort.
This practice became familiar and comfortable for me, even though I was by no means a master meditator. However, Forleo’s practice feels uncomfortable, because it’s new.
Rinse and repeat
I realize it’s time to come back to the mantra. Then the timer goes off mid-track, so I open one eye to tap the timer “off” — and although this session is technically finished, I continue the silent mantra until the song is over.
I take a deep breath: although I’m slightly anxious about whether I did it “right,” I also feel physically more attuned to my mental and emotional state. It’s not exactly a happy place, but for someone who is prone to “using” activity — working, running, cooking, doing — as a release, it’s good to feel connected inside, I guess. And I think I’ll try this again in the morning. After I have some tea, of course.