Happy Meditation Challenge, y’all! To get us all going here, I wanted to share a few basic techniques I’ve picked up over the years.
But let’s be clear, when it comes to this ancient practice, everyone has their own style. And if you have yours, don’t mess with a good thing. There’s no right way to do this.
Even within my own family, I’ve had the luck to witness a wide variety of techniques: My father, who studies with a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, generally meditates in a chair and with his eyes open. My mother, on the other hand, roles with a much more yogic style—and she has a dedicated meditation room. A whole room! (The vibes in there are off the charts, I might add.)
The most important thing with meditating is that you put as many factors as possible in your favor. Love incense? Use it! Wake up at 4am every morning and can’t go back to sleep for a bit? Welcome to your personal meditation hour!
I love everything that Siobhan said yesterday, especially the bit about making this a ritual you look forward to. I think that’s the point of these little tricks. So if any of them put you off in any way, be my guest and promptly ignore.
1. Sit in the same spot, at the same time every day if you can. Dusk and dawn come highly recommended by yogis as the best energetic times to meditate. But don’t let that be an excuse if those times don’t work. I think those transition hours just have a natural quietness, so if they’re available to you, use that support. Otherwise, just do it where and when you can.
2. Wear “meditation” clothes and use any props that help you. Meditation clothes here can mean a pair of sweats, but the idea is that you keep certain clothing exclusively for meditating so that those garments take on that energy and association for you. Some people like to wear white, or light colors. Whatever your attire, choose something that’s not just comfortable but that actually feels really good on your skin. It’s also great to have a cozy shawl, or blanket that you wrap yourself in. Candles, incense, deities, pictures of people you love, pictures of a place you love to be… anything that helps elevate your mind is welcome. If you’re very drawn to those ritualistic things, you should put some research into creating an alter.
3. Use a cushion (or four) if you’re sitting cross-legged. Unless your knees flop straight to the ground when you sit cross legged, get acquainted with cushions. The most important thing is to sit with a straight spine, and elevating the hips really helps with that. Your knees and sit bones should ideally create a tripod so that the weight is being more evenly distributed. Go as high as you need to go, and sit a little bit on the edge so that your pelvis tilts forward slightly. No matter though, your legs will still probably go numb if you sit there long enough.
4. Use your breath to come into the present. I like to start with very deep abdominal breathing for the first minute or two and then slowly soften the breath until it’s a whisper. The kind of breath pattern you slip into right before falling asleep. Think of how a baby breathes.
5. Try mantra as a method of bringing your mind to a one-pointed state. Mantras can be words or sounds. You can say them out loud, chant them, or simply hear them in your mind. They are essentially something for the mind to anchor to, so that it doesn’t run off in a million different thought directions. (Note: It still will.) If you haven’t been initiated into any one practice and it doesn’t make you feel funny, you can always just use good old Om. Hear Om ride softly on your breath in, softly on your breath out.
6. Be very, very forgiving of yourself. Nobody is “good” at this. It is the nature of the mind to constantly make noise—everyone’s mind, not just yours. Just trying to find a little bit of space between thoughts is worth its weight in gold.
Obviously now it’s your turn. What meditation style works for you and what tips might you have up your sleeve?
Self care. It’s a buzzy term among the wellness set—but what’s the difference between that and just taking care of oneself? The way I see it, choosing clean products and healthy whole foods is great—but following health rules is not enough on its own to feel our best (in fact, sometimes being too strict has a negative impact on our health). True self-care means creating dedicated time for rituals that you do absolutely and only for you. Read, and repeat. Only for you.
Most of us have a tendency to prioritize other people’s needs over our own. And we think we’re doing the world a big fat favor by being so generous. But if you don’t fill your own tank, you’re not as helpful as you might think. In truth, if your own energy is low you’re probably unconsciously pulling other people down. C’est le truth.
I for one, have spent most of my life sucking at self-care in the way that I’m describing. But, ever the work in progress, over time I’ve incorporated certain rituals into my life that are just for me. I want to build out this list out though, so be sure to share yours!
What delightful things do you do just for yourself? Here are my top 5.
1. Airplane Mode: Bless this little button. That one simple swipe can give me a deep sense of relief (I’d shut my phone entirely, but I read my Kindle on it!). I think allowing oneself the luxury of being unreachable, even just for a short period, sends a message to the brain to chill. And amazingly, the world goes on without us when we disconnect.
2. Massages: Early research on the health benefits of massage therapy suggests that it helps with everything from anxiety to insomnia. I have never needed much convincing though, and living in LA makes regular massages accessible and affordable. But after years of trying out different spots, I finally found my holy-grail masseur deep in the Valley. While he looks like he could be in a K-pop band, this guy has some crazy healing hands.
3.Manicures: Bad for my nail beds but good for my soul. While never a totally clean practice, I have a salon that has none of the headachy odors with all of the trashy magazines. I go about twice a month and love the ladies there; it’s even started to give me that warm fuzzy feeling of community so often lacking in city life.
4. Home Yoga: I love going to a good yoga class with an inspiring teacher and a room full of sweaty practitioners. But there’s something about doing a home practice that just feels more inward and less fitness-goal-oriented.
5. Ashram Weekends: This is probably my most extravagant self-care ritual, and also my favorite. Despite the fact that I already travel on a weekly basis for work—and don’t see my husband nearly as much as I want to—I make almost-monthly weekend pilgrimages to the Sivananda Yoga Farm in Grass Valley where I did my teacher training. Just stepping foot on that property instantly hits the reset button for me, and ultimately makes me a better person (wife, employee, boss…). What I lose in time with loved ones, I am convinced I gain in quality.
What do you do just for you?
Here’s a funny fact: The original title for No More Dirty Looks was actually Dirty Girls Come Clean. Can I just take a moment to give thanks that a legal conflict prevented us from writing a book that sounded like a porn flick? Bullet. Dodged.
But, just for fun, if we were to reimagine that porny title now with 20-20-hindsight, it would probably sound more like this: Clean Girls Get Dirty.
That’s because, promise as we did to each other that we would not devolve into dirty hippies as we rid our cosmetics’ bags of nasty chemicals, we did in fact end up embracing some slightly controversial cleansing (or more accurately, non-cleansing) habits.
Well, controversial no more! These days no matter where I turn, I see the mainstream media embracing dirtier beauty habits. Not shampooing has become an especially popular experiment among the beauty editor set, and when I recently wrote a post about not washing my face for MindBodyGreen, I was shocked by the response. It would appear that the people just might want to get dirty.
And speaking of MBG (are any of you as addicted as I am to this site?), I recently attended their groundbreaking revitalize event (think TED talks for the health and wellness crowd), and was pleased to learn that there’s increasing scientific muscle behind this less-washing-is-more movement.
Author Dr Robynne Chutkan, author of Gutbliss and one of my biggest brain crushes of the weekend, started her lecture by telling the 100-person audience (and millions online) that she had not showered for several days.
It turns out that exposing ourselves to a little dirt is not just good for our complexions and hair—because we’re no longer stripping those nourishing oils—but also for our guts. And of course what’s good for our guts, is also in turn great for our complexions and hair. You’ll have to read Chutkan’s book—I just ordered it—to better understand the science on this, but the woman is definitely a genius. (And it doesn’t hurt her argument that she’s stunning too.)
For my part, years after our first experiments, I have held on dearly to some of my dirtier habits. These include skipping daily showers in favor of every second or third day (unless I’m in summer heat, in which case I’ll jump in there several times a day), almost never washing my face (making an exception only for a product that’s made from actual “dirt”) and washing my hair about 3 or 4 times a year. So far, no serious complaints from friends, family, or colleagues.
How about you? What dirty habits are in your clean routine?
For the past few months I’ve been living a nomadic life—and it’s probably not going to change anytime soon. Every Monday before the crack of dawn, I get in a car and go down a dark (and miraculously empty) 101 freeway headed for LAX.
I land in San Francisco for my first meeting and for the next four days I live in that other California reality, so different from the one I have in LA. I work late, I go out to dinners, and I—gasp—walk places.
Come Thursday night, it’s back to the bigger city where I hole up at my cabin in the woods, drink tea, watch great TV shows, and eat home cooked meals. LA is officially my country getaway.
There are some crappy things about this arrangement: traveling is taxing; my carbon footprint is massive (though somewhat offset by the fact that I now barely drive); and I’m too late or lazy to request the patdowns at the airport anymore (which feels like a lot of low-level radiation in my life).
But generally I love this odd little routine. There’s just something about getting on a plane and going somewhere that makes life feel a little more something—a little less ho-hum.
It’s also forced me to be really healthy. You just cannot get on a plane twice a week and not get sick if you’re not taking proper care of yourself—at least I can’t.
But one thing has seriously suffered: my hair care routine! I always travel carry-on so the past months have been a weird patchwork of travel-sized products from both health food stores and hotel rooms.
But all that is about to change. I now have a semi-permanent place to rest my head in SF and an area to leave some toiletries to take care of that head.
In other words, I have my credit card out and am ready to double-down on some new hair products. But what should I buy?
Is there something new out there I haven’t tried yet? What are you using? As some of you know I have very curly hair that I barely ever wash (but more on that another time)—so it’s a bit of a special case.
Here are my 4 favorite brands of hair care past… Should they be my future?
- Intelligent Nutrients/Harmonics: Earlier this year, the NMDL crew was saddened to learn about the death of Horst Rechelbacher, founder of this incredible brand. But his legacy lives on in these super-clean products. I’m personally a huge fan of this Harmonics Conditioner as well as the IN Leave In Conditioner and our long-beloved Volumizing Spray.
- Acure: We love Acure here chez Dirty Looks. It’s affordable, widely available at Whole Foods, and just a darn great product. I especially love their gentle shampoo—perfect for a girl who only washes her hair every few months and doesn’t want to strip all the natural oils she’s been building! This conditioner is lovely too.
- Rare Elements: The Rare Elements Conditioner has been a longtime favorite of mine. The smell, the texture, the way it makes my hair look… But all this magic comes at a price. That’s why I like to mix it in with other products (like Acure), and use it more as a finishing touch. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way. I also just tried this newer Styling Mist and, holy moly, is is it divine. It has the same incredible geranium-ylang-ylang smell as the conditioner and it made my hair feel super soft to the touch but not weird or greasy at all.
- Andalou Naturals: This line is GREAT for curly hair and its totally affordable. It also smells like an orange grove in a good way. The awesome conditioner is totally clean, however if memory serves the very awesome styling cream has a no-no silicon ingredient. Grrr. You know, the kind that kills frizz and holds a curl perfectly?
Your turn! What should I add to this best-of list? Are there other lines you’re loving? (I’m especially on the hunt for styling products.)
But just like we all need to eat our veggies, if we want to be the most beautiful versions of ourselves we’ve always said that certain more internal topics need our attention. I happen to believe that forgiveness is one of them.
During my time in yoga jail (aka the beautiful ashram where I did my teacher training) I was lucky to get a really good teaching on this topic from an unexpected source. It was probably about halfway through the monthlong course, and as much as I was loving it I was also starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by some of the more woowoo-hindu-god type stuff.
Then in walks the lanky and comfortably disheveled Fred Luskin to give us a lecture on forgiveness. Luskin was just what the doctor ordered: A cynical academic from Stanford who’d managed to pry open his own heart to become a leading expert on the topic of forgiveness. Without getting too detailed into his research (I invite you to watch some of his talks on youtube, check out his books, and read this awesome article about his work on oprah.com), I’ll give you what I think is the crux of his argument:
Holding a grudge does nothing bad to your (real or imagined) perpetrator—and it does everything bad to your state of mind and feeling of safety in the world.
That’s not to say that Luskin doesn’t think we should get pissed when we feel like we’ve been wronged. Actually quite the opposite. But there’s an appropriate amount of time for holding a grudge before it starts writing a more permanent narrative in our lives, one that makes us fearful of others.
And that fear is shown to lead to bad behavior on our parts. If we feel wronged or threatened we are bound to turn that energy outward. Luskin claims his work is really just about getting people to be nicer to each other.
Luskin has some neat tricks and meditations/visualizations to help us rewrite our stories. But one really effective one he shares is the simple practice of gratitude. Turns out it’s really hard to hold a grudge when you feel grateful. And I’ll add for good measure that it’s hard to look beautiful while holding a grudge.
In fact, study after study has shown forgiveness to be good for the body—not just the mind and spirit.
So with that in mind, do you have any kind of gratitude or forgiveness practice? I’ll share mine if you share yours!