This is a list of resources that I’ve recommended to my clients.
My writing and coaching have been enormously influenced by the work of Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, so I highly recommend joining the zillions of people who have benefitted from her wisdom and profound sanity.
Kristin Neff is a psychologist who has done pioneering work in self-compassion; her book, Self-Compassion, is a phenomenal resource.
The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has a great resource page with free meditation recordings. If you’d like to start a mindfulness mediation practice, the center offers a very simple and clear introduction five-minute breathing meditation.
I recommend that clients commit to a simple mindfulness meditation practice like this one for five minutes a day for one week. After that, try ten minutes a day for a week, then fifteen, etc., etc. There are lots of useful meditation timers that can help you stay on track.
Here is the thing to remember about meditation: It’s not about not thinking. Yes, not-thinking is the goal, but you will quickly notice that it’s virtually impossible. The real action of meditation is noticing when you’ve drifted off–when you start planning, fantasizing or mentally arguing with your boss. When that happens, just label your thoughts, “thinking” and go back to the breath. No big deal.
Lovingkindness meditation is a very simple practice in which you wish peace and happiness to yourself and others–from your dearest loved ones to you bitter enemies. It might sound a bit hokey, but I’ve found that by making a practice of wishing good things to others–including people who are seriously annoying me at the moment–I have been able to cultivate gentleness toward them and to myself. So it has been pretty transformative. And research has found that people who practice lovingkindness for less than an hour a week experience an increase in their feelings of connection to others. Worth a shot, right?
The lovingkindness practice from UCLA (linked above) is a great introduction. (Though she doesn’t talk about enemies.) As you continue your practice, you might want something less talky, I like this video from UNH Health Services.
The mindfulness bell from Plum Village is my new favorite download. Every hour, a gong goes off on my laptop that reminds me to take a breath, look out the window, spend a moment in the present before going back to Twitter or whatever. It’s a nice way to bring the practice off the cushion.
If you want to explore meditation more deeply, of course there are a lot of great places to study and practice. I am part of an organization called Shambhala, which comes from a Tibetan Buddhist lineage but has a secular focus. It also has the advantage of having centers in many cities throughout the world.
If you don’t live in a city that has a meditation center or community, I highly recommend Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. Susan Piver is a Buddhist meditation teacher and the author of many, many wonderful books including Start Here Now and The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.