07/16/2010 12:06 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Modern Day Meditation

The other day I was reading Metro and came across an interview with a "meditation consultant."

Is this really a new line of work in 2010? What do meditation consultants do? Sit with you and breathe away stress? Where do I apply?

Then I read on. The interviewee, Andy Puddicombe, is a former monk who studied in monasteries all over India, Thailand, Nepal, Australia, and Russia for ten years. Even if I shaved my head to look like him, I wouldn't attract his clientele -- I'd only kill my love life.

Last year, Andy started a non-denominational initiative called Headspace in London, which introduces frenetic professionals to the benefits of meditation. He hosts events in cool spaces, conducts one-on-one private sessions, and even meditates with his clients online and via mobile phone. Since Andy and his partner launched Headspace, the London press has been all over the story. He's been featured in Vogue, Time Out and other popular publications. He also just signed a book deal and has a TV show in development.

Hmm... maybe I could pull off a sexy bald 'do after all?

I had to meet Andy and talk more about his modern day meditation project.

Andy and I scheduled a call over Skype. Even through the small video screen, he cast a spell -- he was jovial, warm, and extra smiley. The bald look really works for him. He's not technically a monk anymore, and the position of "lady friend" is already filled.

We talked about my experience with meditation: which usually translates into feeling like I smoked something illegal. I explained how after I meditate, I feel present and grounded, glad to have my anxiety and fears vanish for at least a good day or so, before my next sitting.

Andy explains to me that scientific research suggests that after fifteen minutes of stillness, blood flow increases in the area of your brain associated with positive emotions.

The challenge for me has always been getting my butt to meditation classes at least 2-3 times a week. However, Andy promises that once you take his workshop, you will have the tools to practice on your own. He breaks down his lessons into three parts:

  1. Approach: Andy offers a philosophical explanation on the importance of having the right attitude in life. For example, meditation is no different to life. To want things to be different from how they are now is to resist reality. When we resist reality we struggle with life. It's a move away from acceptance. This applies to meditation because if you sit there trying to actually stop your thoughts and emotions, you move away from acceptance and, ultimately, away from peace of mind.
  2. It's a common mistake to make though, and explains why so many people get frustrated or anxious when learning meditation. So meditation is less about 'changing' the mind and more about 'understanding' the mind. When meditation is approached in this way, the potential for benefit is huge!

  3. The Act of Meditation: Andy recommends sitting still for 10-15 minutes in the morning, so that meditating doesn't become just another stressful item on your day's to-do list.
  4. Integration: You can integrate the practice into your daily life if you consider that meditation is about compassion and awareness. On the subway, use your commute as an opportunity to be mindful and present. Andy says that you have a choice: You can either sit there wishing you were somewhere else, or you can use a meditation technique to cultivate awareness and empathy for your fellow commuters. (Well, maybe not the flashers and disheveled, smelly teenage hipsters -- best not to be too aware of some things.)
  5. We both agreed that meditation would become the new yoga and sweep through the West. I asked him to teach me his secrets, so that I could become his disciple and start my own meditation business one day. He explained that although he has thought about going that route, right now he doesn't feel comfortable claiming guru status and training other teachers.

    Rats. I guess I'll have to train with the Bhuddas directly. I wonder if any of them can be interviewed by Skype? Let me do some research and get back to you on that. Until then, catch ya on the subway.

    Read more about Andy in this Time Out article here.
    Check out the Headspace site here.

    And don't forget to subscribe to Downtown Dharma here for more stories of finding urban zen!