Free Your Mind: Confessions of a Restless Meditator

I think I have figured out some very important activities, which have drastically changed my life for the better and given me true peace of mind…

This is part 1 of 4 in a May series titled “Free Your Mind”, where Carlen Altman shares the tips and tricks she’s learned on her quest for inner peace (and hopes they can help you too!)

Hi dear Free People blog readers, it’s Carlen.

You may remember me from our August 2015 Magalog where I shared 9 tips on staying calm while living in a big city. And, although I still wholeheartedly agree with those suggestions I mentioned, I must confess — a lot of big things have changed since I wrote that article.

Levi’s 501 Cutoffs, Skinny Strap Brami, Down Under Floppy Hat

I quit my full-time job, left my apartment in New York City for a few months, and my pet, Rosie the hissing cockroach, has officially died. (If you read the article, this detail should make slightly more sense, though even still, my choice of a hissing cockroach as a pet is still a mystery, even to me…) What can I say, she was an impulse buy at a reptile convention (don’t act like you haven’t been in the same situation before…).

Over the past 3 months, I have been living in Los Angeles, trying to detox from a lifetime of stress in NYC and mainly, trying to figure out how to deal with anxiety and fears about our fragile beautiful world. And I have good news! I am free of anxiety and the planet is saved! (Just kidding! Almost…)

But in all honesty, I think I have figured out some very important AND doable activities/lifestyle hacks which have drastically changed my life for the better and given me true peace of mind. During the month of May, I will be sharing some of these tips in hopes that they will help free your mind from stress as much as they have for me.


Ugh, I know. Meditation. Like you haven’t heard this before. If you have an immediate repulsion to this suggestion, for fear that meditation seems too new-agey or boring, DON’T WORRY — we are in the same boat. In 2014, I was lucky enough to study Transcendental Meditation at the David Lynch Foundation and spent the following year trying my best to meditate 10 minutes at a time, two times a day. I even suggested meditating as a tip in my Magalog article! OK well, guess what, I have another confession… (Don’t worry, my other pets are very much alive, thankfully…)

Since writing that article, there have been many days in which I would FORGET TO MEDITATE. Sometimes weeks. I know as much as anyone how helpful meditation is, but for some reason, I was unable to bring myself to sit still on the floor and clear my mind. That is, until I discovered the Headspace app.

Headspace is a meditation app (developed by an Australian Buddhist monk/circus performer named Andy Puddicombe) which makes meditation easy for anyone. Unlike other meditations I tried in the past, Headspace is guided, which means that, rather than sitting in complete silence, your thoughts are directed throughout the experience by a calming voice. And, unlike other meditations, Headspace is accessible to everyone because it is free! (at least for the first 10 days…) All you need is yourself, 10 minutes, your smartphone or laptop, and a comfortable, quiet place to sit.

Balta Boot

Always on Time Shirt Dress, Odessa Choker

Ideally, in order to meditate, you should find a peaceful location, preferably outside, but if space or outdoor safety is an issue, even sitting on the toilet is a great place to meditate.

Immediately after waking up each morning, I sit in a chair (any chair is fine), take my phone off silent, and open the Headspace app. For the next 10 minutes, I listen to a soothing Australian voice guide me into the depths of my mind. This voice tells me that, rather than trying to clear my mind, I can and should accept my thoughts, that I should think of them as clouds, or traffic on a highway — not to be judged, just to be witnessed. And then, 10 minutes later, I’m done and my day begins…

Icon Leather iPhone Case, Solar Powered Charger, Solar Charged Speaker

If you decide to download Headspace, you can choose to take the “Take 10,” a free 10-day challenge which I recently completed, and what is, I must say, sincerely life-changing! I went from being someone who woke up with low-grade anxiety every day (what to wear? Is the world coming to an end?) to someone who actually looks forward to waking up and is willing to take on any experience thrown her way.

(Note: I don’t specifically endorse Headspace over other meditation apps– this is just the first one I tried after many friends told me about it…!)

Stitch and Sequin Pillow, FP Headphones

Since using Headspace for almost 2 weeks now, I can honestly say that I feel calmer, and am not as easily affected by things — and it’s only getting better. Meditating is a mental exercise that has become easier and easier with each session. It’s not that I have fewer thoughts, it’s just that I know accept that they are temporary experiences and no longer consume me as they once did.

If there is one thing you can incorporate into your daily routine for clarity and overall happiness, consider meditation. Whether you use Headspace or a different meditation app, or go for it tech-free, just do it! Ten minutes in exchange for an entire day of tranquility seems like a pretty fair trade to me!

Photos by Alisa MacKay.

+ Let me know how your experience goes in the comment section below!!!


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7 years ago

I love your tone and I look forward for more tips! But now please tell me more about you cockroach!! How long did she lived? Was her name Kafka :) ? Did you fed her? Until now the only person I knew that praised about that kind of cockroach was my sister who lives on a tropical Island and says things like “the cockroaches are beautiful beautiful you must come visit!” :))

7 years ago

You might like to try Insight Timer. It’s free and has hundreds of guided meditations
To choose from.

7 years ago

Another amazing form of meditation I love is listening to Binaural Beats. If you want to step out of a guided meditation & ride solo it’s life changing with these beats! I find most of mine for practice on YouTube.
-Amanda Machell

7 years ago

While I love the message of this post and it’s style/format, I think I would like to hear about meditation or this app from someone who has been doing it for a longer period of time than “almost two weeks.” As someone who has struggled for years with anxiety, I know that you cannot be anxiety free in less than 14 days. Of course the author says she struggles with low-grade anxiety so that is a different game than my own, but I think I would be more interested in her experience if she waited a longer period of time before telling it. I want to hear about benefits long term and the real effects meditation has on her, which takes time to realize and understand.

7 years ago

I love Headspace. It has seriously turned my life around. It has been an amazing help with over coming debilitating anxiety, but you crack me up referring to Andy as Australian. Not once but several times.
I’m an Aussie & I can guarantee you Andy does not have an Australian accent. Andy was born in Britain & bought up in Bristol. Andy has a lovely soothing tone to his voice & I relax as soon as I hear his very British accent.
Have a peaceful day.

7 years ago

I tried Headspace at around December last year and it completely transformed my daily life too, for the better. I tend to stress over absolutely nothing (like making a phone call etc.) and this app really has helped me already on so many levels: fear of flying, better running, better focus and definitely less stress! The mind really is a muscle that needs care and training like any other. I bet your life on the West Coast must feel amazing! I just left London after living there for 6 years, and I am now on the coast of Portugal, an hour away from the capital and 2 min walk from the beach. Much. Better. Indeed.

7 years ago

I love the “teepee” fort! I would love to make one of those. This app does make meditating super accessible, which I love. Another way I love to meditate for a quick fix is grounding. I share a couple other ways to meditate easily ~~~enjoy~~~