Q: I hear meditation is really good for you. But is there a way of self-learning the practice—and getting good enough to glean mental health benefits—without paying to visit some guru? —Juan H., Simi Valley, CA
A: Meditation isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and it’s a big myth that you need to fork out for private instructionals with the Dalai Lama to achieve any sort of mental peace. “Think of meditation as fitness for the mind,” says Kenneth Folk, a long-time teacher of secular Buddhist meditation. “As with physical fitness, there are lots of ways to train and lots of ways to be fit.” One of his favorite beginner techniques is called “choiceless mental noting.” Sit comfortably and notice where your attention goes when you don’t direct it. Then label each experience with one word. “Doing this practice for a few minutes every day leads to what I call meta-OKness,” says Folk. “It’s a profound sense that you are all right, even in a stressful and chaotic world.”
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