I, like many others, find sit-down meditation pretty hard. I’ve practised and on occasion, I have found that sweet, ethereal spot. But, for the most part, I find a better sense of peace through other means. Meditation is a sense of peace and finding that place is individual to each of us. Here are my suggestions for finding your zen.
“The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.” – David Lynch
What is meditation really?
When you strip meditation back, it’s about creating a connection between your soul, your mind and your body. Often we’re all in our head, trying to figure our way through the day, so much so that we forget our soul and our body. The connection meditation brings helps us train our awareness.
If you’re not very spiritual, it can be easier to picture ‘the mind’ as the logical, thinking, rational part of your brain and ‘the soul’ as the feeling, desiring part. You soul calls for something and tells you the intricacies of yourself, your mind translates them into real world thoughts and actions, that your body carries out.
But you needn’t sit crossed legged and ‘Om’ to reach this. Although it’s a great way of meditating and I recommend practising it alongside my next few suggestions, it’s not the only way.
“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” – Martha Graham. Spinning in a loud, crowded room, or alone, late at night dancing with your toothbrush – do you find yourself lost in the moment? I’ve always loved dancing. It’s intuitive and primal, it breaks the filters you normally put your thoughts through and allows you to listen to your body and move.
Just move. Lose yourself. Dance like nobody’s watching. To move unfiltered is to meditate.
Yoga works with the same idea as dance. In many ways, it’s a meditative dance, with a little more set purpose. Yoga is simply movement. As you stretch, you’ll begin to notice muscles that feel a little tighter or needing attention. Bringing your attention there, moving from one focus to another and concentrating on your breath (excellent for anyone who suffers from anxiousness), is meditation. Move in whichever (safe) ways feels right. If you find yourself a little stiff, know that it does take some getting used to and as always, music can help.
Tai Chi is a great practice that you can incorporate into your yoga. Often referred to as ‘meditation in motion’, the slow moves help to practice balance and strength as well as meditative benefits.
You probably listen to music most days: in the shower, whilst you’re walking, whilst you’re working. But when was the last time you really listened to the music? Or played music? Giving it your full attention, whether you’re playing or listening, will allow you to slow down, concentrate and lose yourself.
Art: the music of the mind. You might be sensing a theme here, but I’m essentially saying that anything you get lost in is, by nature, meditative, if you’re really in it. Colour, too, can be an excellent stimulant and translation of feeling. Art is expressive and if you’re really into it, you might find parts of yourself open up, letting the creativity out and allowing you insight in.
I’ve taken up colouring. I’ve never been much of an artist, but colouring has given me a place to zone out, concentrate on something physical and express myself. For me, too, meditation is about slowing down and I’ve found nothing does this quite as well as colouring.
Exercise, for me, is one of the easiest ones. I did this one for years before I even really understood what meditation was. I’d emerge from the gym feeling so content and peaceful and I never once realised that I’d given the workout my full attention and that that was meditative. For me, strength training is my best for being meditative, I don’t think about anything but being when I’m doing it. I’m completely lost to movement and music. Now, I can appreciate it fully and it’s a blessing.
If you’re not up for exercising, walking can be just as beneficial. Walk somewhere interesting. Appreciate the quiet of nature or pop on your headphones and soak up the city. Either way, quietly observing the world around you is an act of meditation and a darn good one too.
You probably walk places already, so the only shift you need to do is one into purposefulness and intention. Make the concious thought to be present in your walking, to notice the little things around you, to notice how your steps feel, the air smells, the people around you feel.
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I must be joking, right? Cleaning and peaceful relaxation in the same act? Yes. This one hit me much the same as the exercising – I realised I’d been doing it a long time. When I clean, I’m entirely present and concentrated. I hum without noticing, I enjoy and concentrate on what I’m doing, I move without thought. For me, it’s one of the best meditation alternatives. And it’s productive too!
This is a great entry to more traditional meditation. It can be strange, sitting down for the first time in silence and not knowing exactly what it is you’re meant to be doing (the answer, unhelpfully, is that you’re not meant to be doing anything). But, with a guided meditation, you’re not alone. I’m sure you’ve heard of great apps like Calm and Headspace, they have a wide range of meditations – some of which you can access for free.
You can also attend guided meditations in-person. Although I can’t personally vouch for these sessions, I’ve known people to have fantastic experiences at group meditations. Normally one trained speaker will lead the meditation and in some spaces, lights and music will accompany to compliment the experience. Definitely on my list of things to try.
I know, I promised a list of meditation alternatives! But I do think sometimes meditation comes wrapped up in so many layers that just stripping it back to the basics can reveal a new option entirely. So, wherever you are, just breathe, and really concentrate on that breathing. When your mind slips and thinks of something else, bring it back to your breathing. You’ll get better with time, that’s the point.
Hopefully this will help you be a little more peaceful everyday.
Love, Ella-Rose xx