How to Start Meditating in the Busiest of Cities

By: Kurt Peloquin, Strategic Account Executive and Meditation Teacher at Journey Meditation

It’s easy to be busy in a big city like ours. New York, NY is 8.6 million humans, give or take 62 million annual tourists—shopping, shuffling, stopping for a bite, working hard to afford our $5 cold brews, subway fare, rent is due, cable, diapers, dresses and everything else it takes to make it here, so we can make it anywhere —it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle.  

But, there is peace to be found.  

I had to find it.  

I was working in the corporate world —producing national ad campaigns for big brands—when anxiety got the best of me.  

Overwhelm. Burn out. Sick days. Again and again.

Luckily, I found a friend—who also happened to be a therapist—and she led me in my first meditation.

Meditation didn’t change my circumstances, but instead, it gave me a tool to see them from a distance and make level-headed choices about what to do next.

I’ve spent 7 years developing a twice-a-day 20 minute meditation practice. After gaining so much from my practice,  I decided I needed to to pay it forward. I began teaching meditation to children and veterans, and recently joined Journey Meditation where I can help spread the power for community and centeredness to corporations and organizations from Google, Sony, Nike, and Disney to The Harlem Children’s Zone and Anti Defamation League.   

I’ve seen it work miracles (no joke) and wanted to share a few insights for those of you interested in building and benefiting from a lifelong meditation practice—in the biggest of cities and beyond: 

1. Meditation is a habit—Dose daily

In Tibet, the word for meditation is “gom” or “gompa,” which, roughly translated means: to habituate peace of mind.  

We do that by picking an object, like our breathing, and whenever we notice our mind has wandered, we meet that moment with a sense of joy at our remembering, and return to our object—in this case our breath. The more we do this, the more the habit takes shape, and then the goal becomes bringing it into our daily lives.  

Distracted by the tension of a crowded subway? Return to your breathing. Distracted by your phone? Return to your breathing. Distracted by anxiety, depression?  Well, it’s a bit more nuanced than this, but you get the idea. Which brings me to my next point:

2. Find a teacher

Speaking from experience, having someone to guide you, answer questions and provide insights from lived experience, is a huge step in developing a practice that sticks. Like physical fitness, meditation is fitness for the mind, and there are so many different styles - mindfulness, loving kindness, single pointed focus on the breath, contemplation, compassion, etc. By trying as many teachers and styles as you can until you find the right fit for you!

3. Decide you want the benefits 

Do you want to be more creative, focused, compassionate, less anxious and depressed, better at managing stress, more rested and happy at work and home? With a dedicated daily effort and the right teacher, meditation has been proven to deliver on all these qualities. It may sound trite or obvious, but reminding ourselves of our motivations can be a vital step toward accelerating the process of creating new and lasting habits. 

Think about waking up tomorrow morning.  You’re in your comfortable bed and the thought pops into your head, “I should meditate.”  Not long after, you’re distracted by the buzz of your phone, the bark of your hungry dog, the coffee machine, the email you forgot to send, when a part of your brain reminds you, “you really should meditate.” 

In that moment, try listing the benefits that you’ve already decided you want.  Use this reminder as a motivation to walk those ten long feet to your meditation seat.

4. Don’t go it alone

For thousands of years, meditation has been taught in group settings by a master teacher.  For the past decade, we in the west have largely learned to meditate alone, at home, with our cell phones.  It’s a great way to start but, speaking from personal experience, it’s easy to find excuses to drop off.  

 Finding an actual teacher, IRL, and ideally a community of peers, will help to build some accountability with your meditation practice.  That’s why we built Journey LIVE, and why we’ve invited some of the most diverse and experienced teachers to lead our sessions. Knowing that you’re not alone and having people along for the ride is a great way to realize those benefits I mentioned and build some meaningful relationships in the process.  

5. Have fun

It might be me, but when I was getting started with meditation I had this image of a stoic monk seated in lotus position with a furrowed brow concentrating on some higher purpose.  There are benefits to inviting discipline into the process, but what’s helped me sustain my practice is a healthy serving of joy. Author Brene Brown once said, “practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives” and I think that’s wise advice.  

We live in a great, chaotic, beautifully stimulating city and it can be so easy to get lost in the hustle.  

But there is peace to be found.

I hope you find it.