By Gabi Garrett/Contributing Writer

Would you believe you can be more productive by sitting still, rather than running around at full speed?

When the world gets hectic, which it so often does around the end of the year, it can create the desire to find a retreat from the madness. If an afternoon on an island alone sounds heavenly but not so feasible, it might be time to start meditating.

Meditation has a great reputation. You’ve likely read an article praising its benefits or heard from someone in your life who has said to you more than once that they’ve been engaging in this practice.

However, meditation can seem impossible to those of us who keep busy lives. But it doesn’t have to mean sitting still on a cushion thinking of nothingness, as it’s so often portrayed. To busy-minded individuals, it seems relatively impossible to pretend you do not have a thousand thoughts running through your head.

But that’s really not the goal of meditation. In fact, it’s quite common that you will have a cluster of thoughts that were hiding right underneath the surface that now want your attention.

Meditation teachers often suggest you notice your thoughts coming and going like clouds passing by. The goal isn’t to rid yourself of your thoughts, but to start to observe what’s coming up in your mind without getting lost in the story.

For example, if you have a thought about your next grocery store run during meditation, it’s helpful to say to yourself, “Thinking about the grocery store,” as you picture the thought drifting away. Instead of, “Oh yeah, the grocery store … while I’m there I need eggs, oh man, that time I was there and I saw Brenda and she was so rude. Why do people always act rude to me?”

You do not want your mind to go down that rabbit hole.

You can start to meditate on your own by setting a timer for five minutes and beginning the practice of sitting still. It’s perfectly normal if you feel the urge to move around or get up; it will start to fade with time as sitting alone becomes more comfortable.

Utilizing the phones that usually distract us from the present moment can also be helpful for learning the meditation practice. There is a multitude of apps you can choose from, most free of charge, to start sitting still. Check out “Headspace,” “Calm” and “Insight Timer” in your app store.

There are also a variety of ways you can learn to meditate right here in our own backyard.

Kudzu Aerial in downtown Fairhope offers a monthly meditation in the vines, which are silky apparatuses used for aerial yoga (yoga suspended off the ground). You can choose to practice in the comfort of the vines, or on a traditional yoga mat or cushion. The next meditation is Monday, Dec. 18, at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $15. It is suggested you bring a yoga mat and a journal to write down your experience.

Soul Shine Yoga, also in downtown Fairhope, offers a heated meditation every Friday at 11 a.m., in partnership with Rosie Bluum, a collection of wellness experts. The yoga studio also offers meditation courses and workshops on restorative rest and meditation. The Meditation Center of Alabama in Mobile also offers weekly classes.

Whether you choose to sit still in solitude or join like-minded individuals in their pursuit to find inner peace, meditation is sure to bring you a little more zen as we transition into 2018.

Next time you’re tempted to push yourself past your limitations by adding another social event, staying at work late or adding something else to your plate — take a deep breath, pause for five minutes, then proceed with the best choice for your body, mind and spirit.

Happy stillness!