I’m sure you’ve heard that meditation reaps a ton of health benefits; from reducing anxiety and stress, to increasing energy and productivity, this mindfulness tool is all the hype nowadays. For our generation though, it can be difficult to find the time in our daily lives to sit down and just, be. Between 9-5 jobs, after-work happy hours, household chores, weekly errands, weekend plans, etc., we lose sight of the importance to come back into the present moment with ourselves.
More and more organizations, businesses, and apps are making it easier for the busy-body to integrate a meditation practice into their life. I know for me, guided meditation has been a huge help in making meditation a consistent practice in my life. In fact, I recently attended a mass meditation event called The Big Quiet, to help me hone in my practice with 300 others, because let’s be honest, coming together as a group for one key purpose can have a more positive effect and impact than sitting on your floor pillow by yourself at home.
The Big Quiet is a mass meditation event that is currently touring the country. Chicago was the first stop of this five-city tour last Tuesday, Oct. 2. The organization brings meditation to some pretty iconic places, having hosted meditations at spaces like Madison Square Garden, the American Museum of Natural History, and One World Observatory. The Chicago stop was located at the renowned Garfield Park Conservatory.
Amongst the concrete jungle I call home, nature can be scarce, so getting the chance to be surrounded by more than 400 species of plants during meditation was a no brainer. I arrived early and had the chance to walk around the observatory, taking in the small ponds, creeks running through the pathways, enormous 64-foot trees, and magical looking ferns and mosses. Walking through nature can be meditative in and of itself, as we are reminded of the peace and beauty that nature brings.
The event took place in the Horticulture Hall of the Garfield Park Conservatory, where more than 300 Chicagoans gathered at once to partake in this mass meditation. The meditation started off with visualization and chants: visualizing someone we love, visualizing someone we are having a difficult time with, and visualizing ourselves sitting across from us.
Visualization is a very useful tool in meditation, especially for those starting off. You can visualize a white light emanating from your body as you breathe in and out, visualize yourself walking through nature, or visualize a place that brings you joy. You can also try open eye meditating and focus on one object, such as the flame of a candle, to keep your mind focused on one thing.
The chanting was added after each visualization as a hum to that person we were manifesting–verbally humming love towards that person we pictured and radiating it towards them. I must say, hearing over 300 people humming at once was a magical experience that put me at great ease. Oftentimes, verbal tools like hums, oms, or chants are used in correlation with meditation as the sounds can silence the mind, which is the overall goal of meditation.
For those who have never meditated, you probably think it’s just sitting there doing nothing, but it is so much more than that. Once we got into the meditation portion, we were guided to start by scanning our body and noticing any discomfort and to fix that discomfort. Then, to focus on the breath. By focusing on your breath you are paying attention to only one thing, instead of our minds racing a million miles a second like they normally do. It calms you to just sit and pay attention to one simple thing that is constant. Outside noises will happen and thoughts will creep in, but all there is to do is acknowledge their presence, and gently come back to the focus of the breath. Meditation is not easy by any means, but it is a gift we can give ourselves over and over.
300 people, completely silent for 20 plus minutes, is what I came for. All of us had problems, stresses, a to-do list, and responsibilities outside of this glass room, but for that short time, we came together in silence to let it go and just be. It was truly remarkable to experience such a solitary activity such as mediation with hundreds of other people.
And 20 minutes may not seem like a very long time, but in the moment, it feels like an hour. Even just 10 minutes of meditation a day can truly impact your life for the better, and with consistent practice, you can start to feel the benefits that meditation brings.
Meditate in Chicago
While The Big Quiet tour has come and gone, here are a few of my favorite places in Chicago that offer meditation to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Chill Meditation + Massage – River North
Kadampa Meditation Center – Wicker Park
Sat Nam Yoga – West Loop
Inner Sense Healing Arts Collective – Avondale
Meditate at Home
And for those who are just starting out and prefer the solitude of their own space, these are some of my favorite apps that I use for meditation.