I’ve seen them on Instagram. The neutral color-wearing wellness influencers who must gracefully balance their iPhones against some cosmically-charged crystal to record their morning meditation ritual. There they sit, perfectly poised on a little cushion resembling a pom-pom, eyes closed as they breathe through a 15-second time-lapse video that probably took 10+ minutes to film. Meanwhile, there I am on the other side of the screen, unable to sit and hold my attention on one thing for even those 15 seconds. I’m bored already.
Hear me out: I realize that meditation and mindfulness has its benefits. Sharper focus, reduced stress, and activating your inner chi and whatnot. Sounds peachy. But I’m someone who couldn’t sit through a movie as a child (much to my parents dismay), and hardly can today!
But for my fellow hyper-active, somewhat-perfectionistic, stress-inclined achievers, our minds do desperately need a break. Despite my best attempts at becoming one of those people who can sit and meditate for minutes each morning, I’m a Headspace dropout (but I still recommend their excellent app!). For me, the key was finding a more stimulating way to reap the rewards of meditation. My meditative practices need to involve movement.
Meditation with movement
Turns out, I’m not alone. “Active meditation,” also known as “dynamic meditation,” was popularized in the 1970’s by an Indian mystic named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho. He believed that our modern, super-stimulating world called for a meditation style that involved more physical activity. And he came to that conclusion before the invention of the Internet!
So if like me, you’re someone who hates meditation, but still wants to reap the stress-busting, mind-clearing benefits, give these 5 tactics a try and let me know how they work out for you.
1. Walking meditation
This is my go-to, since I start most of my days walking #TeddyTheDog in our neighborhood park or (when I’m short on time) around our city block. In order to make my time with Ted more of a meditative walk, I leave my phone at home. It’s okay. You can go for a walk without your phone and the world won’t end, I promise.
Then, I try to focus on what I’m seeing, hearing, and sensing throughout the course of our stroll. Instead of thinking about everything on my TO DO list for the day, I try instead to keep my mind in the present moment, noticing the particular shade of blue in the morning sky, the smell of fresh cut grass, and all the elements of my surroundings for which I’m especially grateful that day. And while I can neither confirm nor deny this rumor, some might even say that I talk to Teddy about my observations as we go…
2. Morning pages
Do you wake up each day with racing thoughts? Can you hardly get through breakfast without an anxiety-inducing laundry list forming in your mind? Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, popularized this written form of meditation that many of my fellow creatives love.
The first rule of morning pages is that there’s no wrong way to do morning pages. The premise is simple: every morning, start the day by writing three notebook pages of total stream-of-consciousness musings. That’s it! Whatever comes out of your pen or pencil is just fine. The writing doesn’t serve any purpose, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and hell, it doesn’t even need to make sense! It’s just your opportunity to mentally clear the decks for your brand-new day.
For full disclosure, writing is the absolute last thing I feel like doing in the morning, so I haven’t practiced this form of active meditation myself. I’ve always been night owl journaler, personally. But I’ve heard from many of my creative friends – writers, coaches, and entrepreneurs alike – that this is a sanity-saving practice they adore.
I love yoga for it’s fitness benefits, but even more for the mental calm it brings me. That’s part of the reason I did yoga three times a week in the final few weeks leading up to my wedding day!
Yoga is all about aligning your body movements with your breathing, which feels very similar to meditation to me. Many seated meditation fans focus on their breathe as an anchor point to quiet their mind and prevent other thoughts from floating their way in. Meditative yoga is just like that, plus body movements that promote strength and flexibility on top of it all.
While not all yoga is meditative, yoga that calms your mind as well as challenges your body is my favorite form of exercise. It’s not about perfection or performance for others, it’s all about relaxing into poses that also stretch your comfort zone (both mentally and physically).
4. Running meditation
Similar to walking meditation, running can be so much more than a physical activity alone. To reap the rewards of meditation through running, I focus my run on my breathe or on a simple mantra. For me, it’s all about my pace. I take two paces while inhaling and in my mind, saying the first half of the mantra. Then I follow that with two paces while exhaling my breath and saying the second part of my mantra. I might say in my mind “you can,” while inhaling and then “do this,” while exhaling, for instance.
When I am really stressed out, panicking over something, or find myself facing down times of grief or loss, this form of active meditation seems to work best. It gets all that nervous, pent-up energy out of my body in a physically intense way, and I can calm myself down faster than just focusing on my breathing or on a mantra alone. I’ll be honest, I’ve taken quite a few runs like this while crying, and it helps me get through whatever I’m dealing with like nothing else does.
What forms of meditation do you practice?
I’d love to hear how you’ve cultivated mindfulness into your life, and whether you give any of the above options a try. Tell me I’m not alone in being unable to sit through seated meditation, am I?! If you’re like me on that front, I highly recommend you give active meditation a try before calling it quits on the practice as a whole.