(The most zen like photo I could find of myself…)
If I told you I received a mantra from my grandmother for my ninth birthday, you would probably ask what cult I was raised in. No cult. Just your typical suburban upbringing. My grandmother, when she was living, had a lifelong relationship with Transcendental Meditation (TM) and she lived in an ashram during my childhood. I received my mantra from her friend, a TM teacher named Olga on a sunny day in September. I was young enough to accept all of it without questioning it or being worried what my friends would think if I told them. I tried to use it but, like most things a child is left alone to pursue, I couldn’t find my own motivation. I am still grateful for the introduction even though I never continued my education in TM.
Fast forward quite a few years. I used my child’s walking mantra when I thought of it or under times of stress but, like most people, I just didn’t “get” meditation. I loved yoga but, whenever the teacher invited the class to sit with our eyes closed and meditate, my inner dialogue would only accelerate its normal pace. All I could think was “I’m not good at it. It doesn’t work. I can’t clear my mind. I am not able to meditate. I am so uncomfortable. And my favorite: When will this be over!”
It has taken me almost 30 years to realize that this inner dialogue is the point of meditation. Over time, your mind learns to be in the moment for longer periods of time and, when thoughts do float in, you try to accept them and let them keep on walking.
In the last 9 months, I have been exploring the wide world of sound healing meditations in Dubai and I have become a little obsessed. I have gotten a few friends hooked too. We are all texting each other events and clearing our busy evenings when we can. As it turns out, relaxation is addictive.
Sound meditations are like a private concert for your mind and body. If you like feeling a sense of calm, music and lying down with your eyes closed, you might like them too. There are a variety of styles of sound meditations going on in Dubai. Gong, singing bowls and hand pans are the ones I have experienced. The idea is that your body and mind relax so you are able to receive the sound vibrations and bring your body into a state of balance.
It’s not all perfect, like everything in life, it has many ups and downs. Last Spring, I dragged my reluctant husband to a sound healing meditation and he snored so loud I couldn’t get out of my state of distraction and annoyance to find my bliss. Another morning, I arranged a private singing bowl meditation on Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) boards at Surf House Dubai for myself and friends. It was beautiful, but I realized morning meditations might not be the easiest for a frazzled mom after the school drop off. I love being in the ocean on a SUP board and I love singing bowl meditations, but maybe not together. Luckily, there is no shortage of choices in Dubai for timings and venues. My best advice is to try different ones. Don’t judge only on your first impressions. Try to keep an open mind. Lastly, be easy on yourself. Learning mindfulness is a journey, not a race.
To help you ease into the idea of meditation I have created a beginner’s guide of why and how to enjoy meditation, even if you think you will hate it!
1)It’s much cheaper than a massage (costs vary from approximately 50-150 dhs per session) and many meditations are even free, a super huge bonus in Dubai!
2)You don’t have to know how to do it, there are no breathing techniques or methodologies, you just have to sit or lay down, listen and relax.
3)You might fall asleep which indicates a deep sense of relaxation where healing can occur but don’t fret, if you don’t fall asleep, your body is still getting benefits and it may help you sleep better that night.
4)It forces you to switch off. There are no mobile phone noises You are not checking emails or texts and nobody is trying to get your attention. As a mom of three, this is my favorite part. Surprisingly, meditations are one of the few places that people actually adhere to the “no mobile” rule.
5)You are doing something great for yourself. There are immediate effects on your body and mind but the results can also have a larger effect, such as reducing stress, PTSD, depression, anxiety and pain.
6)You may be having a positive effect on the world around you. Studies have shown that large group meditations have a positive effect on the community around them. If you take a large group of people and they are all thinking about peace and love, the positive energy is bound to trickle down to others.
7)You can meet great people. There is no judgement, no exclusivity or rudeness. You will be greeted by kind people who are glad you came.
8)It gives you a new insight into Dubai. Many meditation venues are devoid of the typical glitz and glamour of Dubai. I have developed a deeper appreciation for the special culture and spirituality present in our vibrant city.
9)Meditation, even if you don’t feel like it’s working, changes the way you think and feel over time, and change is an important thing for us as humans. As many people say, change is the only constant in life.
10)There really aren’t any rules. You will hear people around you shifting or coughing, you might even hear some snoring. My advice is to arrive early, find a comfortable spot, leave your phone at home or in the car and relax!
Some Meditation Venues in Dubai
Lastly, if the sound of a group meditation is too overwhelming for you, I can’t stress the amazing side effects of developing a short daily meditation practice at home enough. Think you don’t have time?
Do you have time to sit for five- ten minutes a day with your phone on silent and breath deeply?
If you don’t, you might need to reassess your lifestyle 🙂 I keep headphones in my purse and use windows of time to meditate using guided apps instead of wasting time doing other things that I thought were relaxing (news, anyone?!). I have noticed that I feel more rested, relaxed and calm since incorporating these moments of mindfulness into my life.
These are my favorite apps, they are so easy to use and help me make time for meditation, everyday. Buddhify is the first one I downloaded, and it’s great for beginners, the meditations are short and categorized by specific purposes.