You have five kids and more than one business—how do you find time to meditate?
Finding time to meditate is probably the number one reason I hear people aren’t meditating, and for me it’s not an issue at all. I know an effective meditation session can happen anywhere at any time. Sometimes my meditation practice looks like ten long inhales and exhales in my car before I head into the grocery store. Other times it’s 4 minutes of quiet intention setting in the morning before I jump in the shower (not that I always have time to shower with seven people in the house). Meditation is simply a way to check in and connect with myself, and that can be done at any time of the day, several times a day if I need it. But I get it—even 4 minutes can be hard to find in a packed schedule. Meditation is a non-negotiable for me, and my family knows it. Taking just 4 minutes a day for a gut check allows me to be more efficient, focused, and effective the rest of my day. It saves me time!
What is your favorite meditation from the book?
I actually have three favorite meditations from the book: my Meditations for Gratitude, Abundance, and Service in Chapter 11. These meditations are exactly what I use to manifest every type of abundance in my life, from business opportunities to money to love. The basic concept of these meditations is that when we’re grateful for what we already have, we’ll be rewarded with more. Then, once we have more than what we need, we’re able to share with others in service. The joy and satisfaction that comes with service invites even more feelings of gratitude, and the cycle begins again.
How did you discover meditation?
I grew up in a religious Christian household, so prayer and a practice of self- reflection were always important parts of my life. But it wasn’t until I was 15 years old and helping my mother clean out a used bookstore that I discovered Be Here Now by Ram Dass and, consequently, the concept of meditation for spiritual healing. I was already a longtime sufferer of anxiety and depression, so these new ideas of spirituality and self-healing appealed to me. Soon after, I started devouring books like Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss and Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. I’ve meditated, in my own way, every single day since I discovered Be Here Now. My daily practice is now more than two decades old, and while it gets simpler and more refined every year, it’s become deeper and even more effective in managing my daily stress and tendencies toward anxiety and depression.
There are lots of self-help and meditation books out there. What makes yours different? Why would readers be interested in yours over another?
What sets my book and my method of self-help apart from others’ is that they’re uniquely my own. I’m just a regular old mom from New Jersey. I’ve never been to India or lived in an ashram. What I have done is overcome childhood trauma and a real battle with mental illness to build a happy life filled with many different types of success—love, family, financial stability, and peace of mind. But that doesn’t mean my life is perfect, and I’m completely honest about that with my online followers and the readers of my book. I meditate because my life isn’t perfect, because I still experience stress and anxiety. The meditations I offer my readers are simple, doable practices for every type of stress life can throw at them; from heartbreak to backaches, from struggles with weight loss to finding true love. I have a regular real life, and I want to share my practice with regular real people. Like every other great truth of the Universe—which are all super simple messages when broken down— meditation has been plagued by mystery and misconceptions. Some who would have you believe there’s only one way to meditate—their way—have also overcomplicated the practice of meditation. Well, I believe meditation is for everyone, and there are as many effective ways to do it as there are people on this planet. You aren’t going to find a lot of esoteric, head-in-the-clouds talk in my book...okay, maybe just a little. But I want to meet the readers exactly where they are, and at least for now, that’s down here on earth.
What are some common misconceptions about meditation that you’d like to dispel with your book?
You think meditation is about not thinking about anything. If the only way to meditate successfully was to clear your mind of all thoughts, no one would meditate—ever. Not thinking about anything is virtually impossible! While a totally silent mind is a great goal to look forward to after years (if not a lifetime) of regular practice, it’s important to know that you can start experiencing the benefits of meditation the very first time you sit down, close your eyes, and take ten deep breaths. Meditation is for everyone at every level of experience. Instead of trying to empty your mind of all thoughts, try focusing on just one thought, and simply observe what happens.
You think you have to meditate for long periods of time, and you’re forcing yourself to meditate longer than what feels comfortable. The benefits of meditation come from the quality of your time on your pillow, not the quantity of time. We live in a busy world, and there are many more responsibilities and requirements thrust upon us every day. Stressing out over whether or not you’re spending enough time in meditation is a worry you don’t need to take on. Are you able to find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed for just a few minutes? Is it possible for you to close your eyes for just a few deep breaths? Can you sit comfortably in a relaxed position long enough to release some tension from your muscles? Those are the qualities of a good meditation practice. In time or at different times, you’ll be able to carve out more minutes for your practice. But if all you have in this moment is 4 minutes to spare, that’s perfectly fine.
You think meditation is about spirituality instead of recognizing it as a practical tool for managing stress and maintaining balance. Meditation doesn’t belong to any religion or specific philosophy. While many people use meditation as part of their religious practices, there’s no requirement to be spiritual or believe in a higher power. Meditation has been used for centuries as a means of maintaining mental, emotional, and physical health. Don’t knock it because you don’t consider yourself to be a spiritual person. Science has been supporting the benefits of meditation for ages, and it can be a practical and powerful tool in helping you to reach your goals.
You have a large social media platform where you’re constantly engaging with your followers. Why write a book when you talk to your people every day?
I’m so grateful for my online following, but I know there are so many people that I’m not reaching who could be helped by my message. I get emails from people every day who have discovered me in an unexpected place: an obscure blog from the other side of the planet or a friend or family member who passed my name along. I constantly get requests to translate my work into other languages and to add closed captioning to my videos for hearing-impaired viewers (which I do now). I know my book will reach people who may not be into watching videos on YouTube or looking at pictures on Instagram. And it would also serve as a valuable tool for the people who have already been following my journey; now my people have something to hold in their hands, stick in their nightstand drawer, or carry with them in their daily travels. They can pull out this tool whenever they need it and flip right to a meditation or personal story from my life that will serve them best in the moment. These meditations have served me so well, and I feel a responsibility to share them in a way that is much more far-reaching and universal that individual social platforms. And yes, in many ways, I think books are still better than even Facebook.
Do your children practice meditation, too?
Yes and no. Do my children sit down on a pillow with their eyes closed and connect with their inner wisdom every day? I would love them to, but they don’t. Have I taught them how to take a pause to check in before speaking or making a big decision? Absolutely! And this is meditation. Taking time to remove yourself either physically or energetically from a stimulating environment, getting quiet enough to be able to focus on your inhales and exhales, and tuning into your inner voice to look for an answer—that’s meditation. I teach my children to do that. A child’s meditation may only look like a few seconds of quiet before a big outburst of ideas or feelings, but that’s OK. It may look like giant audible breaths, or counting, or feet stomping— that’s cool, too! It’s still meditation, and I’m happy to have passed that on to my kids.
Common questions about a physical meditation practice (from my book): Is it okay to lie down during meditation?
The main purpose of meditation is to focus your attention, not to relax. The relaxation happens because your mind becomes more settled. In most cases, there’s no need to place your body in a physically relaxed position, but I do understand why that would be appealing. The ideal position for meditation is one that allows you to stay upright, focused, and alert without discomfort, providing a clear path for energy to flow through your body (no slumping or bending over). If you want to feel physically comfortable, choose a posture that allows you to be supported, but not one that has you lying down completely flat. Becoming so relaxed that you fall asleep during meditation isn’t ideal (unless you’re practicing meditation for insomnia).
Do I have to have total quiet to meditate?
I would love to have a perfectly quiet space for my meditation practice, but that isn’t my reality. Whether it’s the sounds of my five kids clomping up and down stairs and playing their instruments or the noise of traffic when I’m parked in my car, I’m constantly surrounded by noise. Most of us live in less-than-peaceful environments, so it’s probably a good idea to accept that a silent meditation space isn’t always a realistic goal. And that’s OK. Your meditation practice should meet you where you are, noise and all. If you can’t secure a completely silent space for your practice, try to find a space that offers the most amount of quiet. Then, instead of letting the noise distract you, say to yourself, “All of the noises in my current environment are here in service of my practice. They teach me how to navigate through my every day with ease.” And if you do have a perfectly quiet place to meditate, awesome! Can I come over?
Do my eyes have to stay closed during meditation?
No. There are actually types of meditation—candle-gazing, for instance—that require you to keep your eyes open. Closing your eyes during meditation has the obvious benefit of removing visual distractions, however, so I recommend keeping your eyes closed simply because it will be easier for you to focus. What I didn’t realize until recently, though, is that some people feel uncomfortable—even unsafe—with their eyes closed. Not being able to see makes some people feel vulnerable, and that could trigger a past trauma, making focus impossible. If this is the case for you, don’t worry. You can practice meditation with your eyes open and still reap plenty of benefits. If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to focus, try gazing at a candle flame or another favorite object. It’s important to focus softly on whatever you choose. Avoid giving yourself a headache or eye strain.
What do I do if my body starts to hurt?
Never tolerate pain during meditation. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable for a few moments, especially when trying a new pose, but if your body starts to hurt, move. You may become unfocused for a moment, but that’s far better than struggling through an entire meditation in pain.
Is it normal to cry during or after meditation?
This is probably one of the most popular questions I get about meditation. It usually comes to me by way of private message because people feel self-conscious about it. If you’ve cried during meditation, know that you’re not alone. People cry in meditation all the time. Crying is also common in yoga class. When new muscle groups are stretched or an opening happens (for women, it’s all about the hips), the energy release may come with tears. Our emotional and physical selves are tethered. Feelings don’t just live in the mind; they take root in the physical body as well. Have you ever had a stress headache or pain in your chest from heartbreak? That’s your body reacting to emotional pain. Have you ever had a sudden burst of energy or an overall feeling of wellness when you hear good news? It’s all connected! Similarly, if you remove mental distractions and uncover underlying issues and feelings during meditation, you may experience a physical reaction. This reaction can sometimes take the form of a little bit (or even a lot) of crying. Bottom line: It’s normal. Emotional openings are so important to the evolution of our spirit, so don’t try to avoid them. We hide and bury our feelings constantly for the sake of self- preservation. It’s a survival technique built into our DNA. Meditation allows us to transcend the trappings of our humanness, open doors to hidden emotions, and get in touch with God and our own spiritual selves. If you start to feel overwhelmed with emotion during meditation, remind yourself that you’re in a safe place and that no physical harm can come to you. You may want to repeat, “I am safe. I am calm. I choose to be here,” on each exhale until the feeling has passed.
How do I know which type of meditation is best for me?
I get it. You want the best. You want to know exactly what works and how it’s going to work for you so that you can enjoy the best possible outcome. I can easily replace “meditation” for “diet” or “exercise” and still end up giving you the same response: The best thing for you is the thing you’ll actually do. You could ask me, “Is Transcendental Meditation the best meditation for me?” And I’d respond, “Is it working for you?” If the answer is “yes,” it’s the best meditation for you. Transcendental Meditation works; hundreds of legitimate studies have proven its effectiveness. But I also know that sitting still for 15-20 minutes sounds like torture to a lot of people. For those people, a shorter meditation or a moving meditation may serve them better.
There’s a good, better, and best for anything that helps you live a better life. While we’d all like to do the best for ourselves, the best that exists in a vacuum or a scientific study isn’t always going to be the best at fitting into our lives. I don’t eat a 100% organic, sustainably grown, locally sourced diet of only foods harvested in season. Still, my diet is pretty awesome, and it serves me well even though it’s never going to be considered “perfect.”