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From the Beatles to Rick Rubin, there’s no shortage of wellness-minded musicians who extol the benefits of meditation. Some even go so far as to guide listeners through the practice of finding peak zen and awareness. Lizzo’s led a flute-powered session on Instagram; Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA (a.k.a. Bobby Digital, Prince Rakeem, the Abbot, etc.) teamed with tea brand TAZO for his meditative EP, Guided Explorations; and artists including Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding, and Harry Styles have remixed their songs for mindfulness app Calm.
Whether you’re setting up a sanctuary in your home or a makeshift corner of your office, you can indulge in the benefits of meditation at any place and time if you have the right guidance and tools. These days, there are plenty of guided meditation apps that can steer you in the right direction, including Calm ($70 per year), Headspace ($70 per year), Liberate ($72 per year), MyLife ($59 per year), and Waking Up ($100 per year), to name just a few. Bonus: All of these offer free trials and access to complimentary meditations so you can try them before you buy.
What Is Meditation?
The earliest documentation of meditation stems as far back as 5,000 BC India, where it was born as a spiritual technique and religious teaching in Hinduism. The tradition was passed on primarily through word of mouth, and forms of the practice were eventually developed in Taoism and Buddhism in approximately the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, to name a few.
The technique comes in many forms depending on your lifestyle and needs. The most common types of meditation include:
Focused meditation: If you’re looking to cultivate more focus in your daily life, this approach can help guide your attention and keep your mind from wandering. It involves using your senses to concentrate — think focusing on a specific sound or counting prayer beads.
Mantra meditation: This type of meditation centers on repeating a sound, phrase, or word (such as “om”) to help clear the mind. By chanting quietly or loudly over and over, you’ll be more in tune with your surroundings and thus experience awareness on a deeper level. One of the most popular forms of this approach is Transcendental Meditation (TM), a more structured and scientifically-studied technique that includes notable devotees including The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Sheryl Crow, and filmmaker David Lynch.
Mindfulness meditation: The easiest way to practice solo, this approach focuses on paying attention to your passing thoughts without engaging with or judging them. The goal is to observe your thought patterns, feelings, and physical sensations, so you can expect to build your awareness and concentration as you progress.
Movement meditation: Yoga isn’t the only way to move while meditating. Other motion-guided meditation activities can include dancing, walking, qigong, and tai chi.
Spiritual meditation: Much like the act of praying, this type of mediation involves seeking a deeper connection to the universe or the higher beings that one worships by reflecting in silence. Many people prefer to enhance their experience with essential oils.
What Are the Benefits of Meditation?
Extreme relaxation and learning to live in the present aren’t the only upsides to meditating. Devoted practitioners can expect a range of mental, emotional, and physical benefits on their path to zen. Here are just a handful of ways that regular meditation can help your life:
Reduce stress and anxiety: Studies show that mindfulness meditation can help decrease the stress hormone cortisol, and thus reduce symptoms of stress-related issues such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to studies. As a result, this can also lead to less anxiety.
Reduce blood pressure: Lower cortisol levels can also lead lower blood pressure. As Harvard points out, the relaxation brought on by meditation can reduce inflammation and blood vessel constriction.
Improve sleep: Another related benefit to all of the above? Better sleep: Since high stress disrupts sleep, meditation can help you get more restful shut-eye by training you to have more control of your pre-snoozing thoughts.
Alleviate symptoms of depression: Cytokines, which are inflammatory chemicals that our bodies release as a response to stress, can also lead to depression. Several studies have found that long-term effects of meditation can decrease the release of cytokines and therefore reduce depression symptoms.
Increase self-awareness: Meditation helps you focus on your thoughts, which in turn can give you a better understanding of yourself. Research shows that the practice can help people develop more constructive thought patterns.
Boost creativity: One study also found that meditation can help inspire more divergent thinking, which leads to more creativity and creative problem-solving.
While it’s worth pointing out that even the best meditation products aren’t guaranteed to give you total calm and inner peace, having good gear can help you get into the right mindset. On that note, we’ve rounded up some helpful items to set the scene — from high-tech headsets to comfy cushions and more, check out our top picks below.
1. Organic Spelt Husk Ergonomic Meditation Cushion
You’ll likely be seated in silence for quite some time, and this ergonomic meditation cushion by Moonleap promotes comfort and better posture. It features a three-part design that helps to distribute your weight evenly, correct your upright seated posture, and prevent numb legs. It’s filled with lightweight organic spelt husk that naturally forms to your body, and it also comes with extra filling so you can add more as the cushion stretches naturally.
The floor cushion is made in the U.S. using non-slip, durable fabric to ensure it lasts, and it’s also available in a variety of colors and in regular and large sizes.
2. Core Premium Bundle
If you’re new to meditation and need some help, Core by Hyperice is a great starter product. With this bundle you’ll get the Core meditation trainer plus a year-long subscription to the Premium app, giving you access to guided meditations, breath training and soundscapes.
Your meditation trainer itself has two ECG biosensors and the companion Core app will let you know how calm or focused you were during your daily meditation session. Battery life also runs up to two weeks and this meditation gadget is TSA-approved, which means you can carry it with you while you travel.
3. Making Space by Thích Nhất Hạnh
There are no shortage of great meditation books, and this one by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, and author Thích Nhất Hạnh is a great introduction for beginners This 96-page illustrated guide features easy instructions for creating a zen-ready space in your own home as well as the basics of meditation and mindfulness, which is why seasoned meditators love reading it as a refresher.
4. Panasonic Technics EAH-A800
Tune everything out and dive deeper into your concentration with these headphones by Panasonic, our Audio Awards winner this year for best noise-cancellation. These over-ear Bluetooth cans include 40-millimeter large-aperture drivers that give it deep base and HiFi sound, making it great for pairing with your favorite meditation apps and music alike.
The comfortable ear pads that distribute pressure make them super light and durable, so they’re ideal for traveling. The eight-microphone system and dual hybrid setup mean you can use them for hands-free calls, and they have a “transparent mode,” which picks up all external noise, or “attention mode,” which filters out low clamor but still lets you hear louder frequencies (like traffic sounds). You’ll also get an impressive 50 hours of listening with noise-cancellation turned on, for all-day comfort.
5. ASAKUKI Smart WiFi Essential Oil Diffuser
This WiFi-enabled cool mist humidifier and essential oil diffuser make it easy to control your aromatherapy and air moisture so you can enjoy maximum comfort and focus during your meditation. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, and the device’s TuyaSmart app allows you to schedule timers and change the mist and light settings.
The unit is made of BPA-free plastic, so it’s also safe to use around kids. It can hold 500 milliliters of water and works best in rooms of approximately 200 square feet. At six inches by six inches by five inches, the humidifier is quite compact and works great in small spaces. The device also shuts off automatically when the water is out.
6. Cliganic USDA Organic Essential Oils Set
If you’re just dipping your toes into aromatherapy for your meditation, this eight-scent essential oils set by Cliganic is a good place to start. It includes peppermint, lemongrass, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, rosemary, frankincense, and orange oils, which each offer their own benefits ranging from boosting alertness and focus to promoting calmness and mental strength, to name a few. You’ll have extra peace of mind knowing that the oils are cruelty-free, USDA Organic, and Non-GMO Project verified.
7. Muse 2 Brain Sensing Headband
Zen seekers who want a high-tech approach to their practice will find it in this Muse 2 headset, which uses seven EEG brain sensors to measure and detect your brain activity in real-time. The headband works with Bluetooth earbuds to play audio, and its app is compatible with iOS and Android (note that it doesn’t currently support Huawei devices). It’s powered by a lithium-ion battery that’s rechargeable via a micro USB port.
The device also tracks your breathing, heartbeat, and body motion, and combines all of the data in the app to help guide users to deeper mind and body relaxation. You’ll hear relaxing weather sounds to help you refocus your mind starts wandering, and the app helps you track your short- and long-term progress. A separate content subscription ($46.99 per year; headset not required) gives you access to over 300 guided meditations designed for sleep, performance, stress, and more. The Muse 2 is surprisingly comfortable, easy to use and delivers a personalized experience you can’t get from apps and headphones alone.
8. Bean Products Zafu Meditation Cushion
This zafu meditation cushion comes in over 30 different colorways, so you can style it to suit any home or office breathing room. Available in either a round 14-inch option or an oval 18-inch size, this comfy seat is filled with organic buckwheat that conforms to your body for comfort and supports the alignment of your spine and hips while meditating.
The eco-friendly meditation cushion is produced in the U.S. by a family-run company, and its removable and machine-washable cover is made of sustainably-sourced organic cotton.
9. Gaiam Meditation Cushion Zabuton Yoga Pillow
Measuring 36 inches long by 24 inches wide by four inches thick, this zafu meditation cushion by Gaiam will help relieve pressure on your back, knees, and ankles. The cotton batting forms to your body to encourage proper alignment and positioning, and we like that the cover is removable and machine washable.
10. Tibetan Singing Bowl Set
This four-inch Tibetan singing bowl is made of sturdy bronze, which produces mesmerizing sound to enhance your meditation. It comes with a dual surface wooden mallet that makes it easy to play long-lasting and layered tones, while the hand-sewn, non-dampening pillow helps stabilize the bowl.
11. Western Sages Hand-Knotted Mala Beads
These 108 mala beads (which signify the sacred number in yogic, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions) are made of lightweight jujube wood that becomes more lustrous as you use them. The beads are individually hand-knotted on nylon thread for durability, making them ideal for daily use. Bonus: Your purchase is tax deductible as all proceeds benefit California-based nonprofit organization Western Sages, which provides free mediation workshops and classes.