Eight Ways To Meditate Without Just Sitting There
There are many ways to get the benefits of meditation through other activities.
We’ve all heard the buzz about meditation. Celebrities endorse it, scientific studies proclaim its benefits, and it’s no longer considered a religious activity. But despite being eager to reap the rewards of meditation, some may find it too boring or intimidating to sit still. Fortunately, there are alternatives! They might even prove lead-ins to a sitting practice. Experiment with the suggestions below and find what calms or energizes you, what increases your mental focus or makes you feel connected.
Traditionally done very slowly, walking meditation involves paying attention to the phases of movement in each individual step, and feeling the sensations in your feet, knees and legs. You can also take note of other feelings, such as the sun and wind on your face, or anything else you might be experiencing. You can quietly observe phenomena around you and perhaps contemplate feelings of gratitude and peace. This is especially wonderful in a natural setting such as a forest, mountain or shoreline. Here is an audio track for guided walking meditation.
Similar to walking meditation, but incorporating a wider range of motion, the idea is to slow down. You may start from a sitting position, then stand, raise and lower your arms, or twist from side to side—any movement you like, but done at half speed. This allows you to focus on every sensation in your body, noticing where there is pain or tension and gaining better body awareness. Try out this set for an intro to movement meditation.
This important component of Buddhist practice is essentially the root source of both walking and movement meditation. But in this case the awareness is applied to as many activities of life as possible—doing the dishes, driving, eating, working out, falling asleep, even sex. Try to pay close attention to every movement you make, as well as things happening around you, sensory experiences that come and go, and the physical and mental feelings taking place within yourself. The key is to try to observe all these things as objectively as possible, which trains you to remain calm, present and grounded throughout your day. Here’s a great mindfulness primer.
This ancient practice of coordinating the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of your being is perhaps the best system of movement meditation ever devised. Yoga contains postures as easy as lying down, and as difficult as acrobatic feats devised by human pretzels, plus everything in between. The common feature from beginning practice to master level is using movement to attain a sense of calm awareness, grounded energy, and acceptance of who and where you are in this moment. Check out this interesting post on how yoga is a form of meditation rather than an exercise.
Encompassing so much more than the fighting techniques they’re known for, traditional martial arts are a way of life. They combine physical training and combat skills with breathing exercises, meditation and ethics like discipline, honor and respect. Internal styles of kung fu, such as tai chi and pakua, as well as the related Chinese art of qigong, incorporate visualizations and energy manipulation to develop internal power. At the highest level, the martial arts are just as much about personal development and spiritual attainment as they are about fighting skill. Check out this discussion of internal/external aspects of Shaolin.
Walking and running are known to be very meditative, but how about swimming? There are few things as peaceful as floating on your back in a tranquil sea or lake, staring up at the sky and letting the water support you. Whether swimming laps at the community pool, free-diving in the ocean, splashing in the creek or doggy-paddling around a pond, the meditation is what you bring to it. Cultivate inner silence, get in the flow and find clarity.
Music and Dance
Letting go and moving your body to the beat can be a mind-altering experience, even without chemical influence. Traditional cultures around the world have always used dance to bring on religious experience. Singing and playing instruments can also get you in a totally different mind space, aka “the zone.” Whether you want to pump yourself up with favorite jams or chill to a playlist of meditation tracks, sound and movement can take you there.
It took the world by surprise when coloring books were suddenly marketed toward adults as tools for centering, mental focus and stress-relief. Intricate mandalas and peace-inspiring designs that often incorporate nature themes dominate this new generation of coloring books intended to promote a kind of meditate absorption apart from your hectic day. There has even been scientific research done to investigate the benefits of adult coloring.
If you want to learn more about meditation, check out our post about 10 Different Types of Meditation and Who They May Be Good For.