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Think of meditating as rebooting your brain, says Annette Annechild, a psychotherapist and founder of the Healing Arts Center of Georgetown. Just as your computer often functions better after being switched off, your mind needs a break from life’s constant noise.
There are many different kinds of meditation—Annechild says the book Meditation for Dummies is a good primer. Classes are available across the region at yoga studios, meditation centers, and elsewhere.
“People find that when somebody’s guiding them, it helps them to tune in a little better,” says Tara Brach, a clinical psychologist, author, and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. For a list of meditation classes, visit washingtonian.com/meditation2010.
Meditation is simple enough to try on your own, and it can take as little as five minutes a day. Don’t expect to be able to do it the first time, Annechild says. It takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, meditation becomes almost automatic. Here’s how to do it:
• Choose a spot in your home such as a favorite chair and sit in a comfortable, upright position; you could also lie down. Always try to meditate in the same spot. You can burn incense or light a candle if that helps you set the mood.
• If you’re the type to worry about how much time has passed, set a timer so you won’t interrupt your meditation to check the clock.
• Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Try to make your exhalations take twice as long as your inhalations. Count to three while inhaling, to six while exhaling.
• If you prefer, silently repeat a mantra instead of counting. There are many mantras—you could make up your own. Om shanti is a popular one; om is a sacred sound, and shanti means “peace” in Sanskrit. Think the word om as you inhale and shanti as you exhale.
• Now the hard part: Try to keep your mind focused only on your breath. As other thoughts come into your head, let them go and bring your attention back to your breathing.
This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.