I can’t stress enough how important a meditation practice is to develop. In a world filled with deadlines, obligations and distractions, we can so easily lose sight of ourselves. We can get caught living “out there”, and become a stranger to our own thoughts and feelings. Or worse yet, we become acquainted with the thoughts of feelings from everyone around us, as if they are our own. Meditation is the one practice that I would recommend hands down, above any others, for improvement in our health.
With that said, one of the most difficult obstacles to meditating regularly is figuring out what meditation even is. I’m sure most of you imagine it involves sitting in the lotus position on your floor, maybe with a lit candle and burning incense off to the side, while closing your eyes and chanting “Om”. While that actually is a very effective practice, it might not be right of you in this moment. Part of the benefits of a meditative practice is getting to know yourself. Dusting off your intuition and putting it to use. You might find that while the idea of sitting in stillness with your eyes closed appeals to you, you just aren’t ready for that yet.
Meditation can take many forms. The key element is that in whatever form you choose, it must allow stillness of the mind so that you can bring your awareness into the present moment. You want a practice that allows you to physically relax while you mentally focus, that allows you to let go of burdens as you sharpen your mind. Any practice that facilitates this process will be the right meditation for you.
I like the term meditation in motion, and mostly refer to this when speaking about yoga. The form of yoga that is popular in the West involves mindful breathing while the body flows in and out of various poses. In a society focused on fitness and physical appearance, it can be easy to see yoga as merely another physical exercise. However at its core, it is a meditation. Its benefits are maximized when the mind is still, focused and in the present moment. The body moves through various poses to release any tension or stiffness, and ultimately at the completion of a practice the mind can be even more focused than it was at the beginning. This type of practice can be very beneficial for beginners who are just becoming familiar with meditation.
Other physical activities can also be meditation in motion. In fact, anything you do has the potential to be meditative, as long as you are able to commit to mindful movement. This means that your total attention is placed on what you are doing. Whether you are taking a walk, or washing the dishes, with your full awareness you can reap all the benefits of a sitting meditation practice.
If you want to meditate and don’t know how, or have tried to sit still and just couldn’t focus, why not start with an activity you already do frequently? Pick something you do daily, and start to bring your full awareness to the activity while incorporating your breath. Observe yourself consciously carrying out the motion. These little changes can go a long way in creating the foundation for a meditative practice. When you are ready, your sitting meditation practice will be waiting for you.