Meditation. I’ve always been on board in theory. By definition Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realise some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content (Wikipedia).
It makes total sense to me that ‘stopping’ your thinking-mind for a period of time, to allow space for a mind/brain-release and reset is a good idea.
Lately we’re hearing more and more about the scientific evidence supporting the benefits of meditation – in improving stress, creativity, focus, anxiety and relationships… So this all sounds great – but It’s just that every time I’ve EVER tried it, I’ve never seemed to find that ‘space’. My mind never seemed to stop, I would just spend twenty minutes thinking of stuff (and getting annoyed with myself for thinking of stuff) – so I figured I wasn’t getting any of the benefits. I’ve tried sitting there, lying there, I’ve tried apps, music, all sorts of things but nothing really seemed to work for me and I always gave it away within weeks if not days. Then recently, I attended a seminar at Gwinganna retreat with Andy Kidd who enlightened me that I was already meditating, and I have been for years, and I simply didn’t know it… my daily yoga practice (20 minutes to an hour) is a moving-meditation where my mind is not actively ‘thinking’ about anything significant other than postures or breath. Oh I am SO happy I literally don’t have to do anything. I’m doing it.
This got me thinking… if yoga is a moving-meditation alternative to the seated practice of meditation, there must be other activities or uses of time where the mind is focused on something else (therefore not actively ‘thinking’) and therefore getting all the benefits that come with meditation. Here are three alternatives to traditional seated, silent meditation that might work for you;
This is the process of, literally, putting whatever comes to your mind, out on paper or in a word doc. Set aside 20 minutes (use an hourglass or phone-alarm so you can forget about watching the clock), and sit comfortably. Open a notebook or new word doc. You might start describing the dream you just had while sleeping, or how you’re feeling about this afternoon’s meeting or coffee catch up, this weekends’ events – you don’t need to actively ‘try’ to think of anything because your brain will just deliver you something random (which is normally our issue with meditation!) and you’ll write it down and keep building on it or skip to a new topic. No one will ever see it, you can even discard it after the process which might even add a surprising release-vibe. You might find some days your mind acts list-like and your writing is more dot-pointy, and some days you might get into a paragraph or two about something or someone you hadn’t thought of for years but has been coming to mind lately. Some days philosophical, some days functional – no matter.
This approach can be done morning, midday, evening – that’s the great thing about this approach, you can do it anytime, anywhere – if you’ve arrived to a meeting or airport 20 minutes early, put the mobile phone away and get out a pen and paper instead.
The Book of Awakening:
I’ve had The Book of Awakening for a couple of years and keep using it over and over again. There’s basically a page of writing (by author Mark Nepo) on a topic worth contemplating, allocated to every day of the year – so you can wake up (or turn to it instead of a phone in the evening) and turn to todays’ date. Mark’s written entries have a way of connecting themselves to what’s going on in your life – so you can draw new perspectives or just think of things differently. You don’t need to have ‘issues’ that need resolving per se, simply the process of reading these entries and contemplating something other than what your mind would have otherwise been contemplating is a meditative act. I’ve given this book as a gift a couple of times and received tremendous feedback… as a meditation alternative, it’s an easy option.
Dance like no one is watching:
I’ve done this since I was a teenager. Shoes off, music on (high)… now…move. The trick is trying not to be impressive or structured but rather letting your body pull crazy looking moves that it just ‘feels’ like according to the music. Remember Salty Rain – he should be the poster child for this meditation alternative? So you can pick music based on your mood or go randomly with whatever was last on Spotify. If you’re trying this approach in the evening maybe something softer before bed time, and alternatively if you’re keen to hear up for the day – shake it off with Tay Tay. Anything goes. As your mind focuses on movement and beat, you’ll find it’s not focusing on thoughts per se, and therefore you’re channeling the above mentioned benefits that come through meditation.
Yoga for a Moving Meditation:
Obviously there’s your local yoga studios but if you’re just after a quick at-home practice (which I find can sometimes mean the difference between doing it and not doing it when you only have 20-30 minutes to spare), you should give the ‘Yoga Studio’ app a try – you can choose/download class options from beginner to immediate and advanced, then choose from relaxing, balancing to strengthening – and finally you can choose your class duration. The audio is complemented with easy to follow visuals. I find this is a great alternative to attending classes and means I can access the meditative benefits at the push of a button (ah the irony of an iphone being the link to mindfullness!)
So give some alternatives a go or get some extra piece of mind by realising that something you’re already doing might put you in that ‘autopilot mind-state’ where you’re getting the benefits of meditation but not necessarily sitting there in silence like you thought you had to. Make up your own mind 😉