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Featured Muse Meditation Teacher: Shelby Harris

Nadia K
Shelby Harris, PsyD, DBSM is a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in private practice in NY. She is board certified in Behavioral Sleep Medicine and treats a wide variety of sleep, anxiety, and depression issues using evidence-based, non-medication treatments. Her self-help book, The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia: Get a Good Night’s Sleep Without Relying on Medication was published in 2019 (WW Norton Books).
Before going into private practice, she was the longstanding director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center. She is a Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC. Dr. Harris has been an invited columnist for the New York Times “Consults Blog,” and is frequently quoted in the media, including the New Yorker, Washington Post, and NYT On Parenting column. She has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and CBS Mornings.
Dr. Harris can also be found on Instagram at @SleepDocShelby where she provides evidence-based information about sleep wellness and sleep disorders.
Read about Shelby’s meditation journey in her Q&A below.

How did you first discover meditation? Who or what inspired you to meditate?

I was in graduate school over 20 years ago and one professor began to talk a bit about mindfulness meditation (which was something many people weren’t talking about back then!). I then realized that I often went every 2 weeks to get a manicure in school when I had a long break between 2 classes and I was always thinking about how much work I had to do that week or what I needed to do in class while I was at the manicure. I never was enjoying the actual moment to myself. So I started to just focus on the 30-second hand massage I got every time I had a manicure. I focused on the pressure, the touch, and the lotion and worked to refocus my thoughts. It was the lightbulb moment for me about how “portable” mindful meditation can be and I began to really find that manicure time as a time for myself. From there, it just generalized.

What’s a valuable lesson or insight you uncovered during your meditation journey?

Meditation can be anything. We often try to overcomplicate it. I used to do all these complicated meditations, listening to things for 20-30 minutes, trying to do complicated visualizations, etc… but the reality is that anything can be a meditation. I spend 2-5 minutes looking out my window observing and describing what I see inside.

What’s your favorite meditation technique and why?

Every morning, I spend 2 minutes looking out my bathroom window before I start my day. I observe and describe what I see (the color of the leaves, how dark or light it is outside, what the weather is) and work to refocus my mind on observing and describing. It is a simple technique to ground me before the business of my day begins.

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