Meditation is toted as a cure-all for ailments of modern society: too much stress, inability to focus, and information overload. Meditation trains your brain to focus and be present. It’s a natural way to calm down the “monkey mind” we all experience at one time or another.
Anyone can learn meditation. It takes some patience and time to get used to meditating and it’s easier for some people to adjust to than others. If you aren’t enjoying your practice, consider trying one of these alternatives instead of traditional meditation or as a segue into a meditation routine.
Mindfulness Exercises are similar to the warm-up exercises athletes practice before a game. They’re less intense than a full meditation session and practice focus-building skills that you would use during traditional meditation. Here are three easy ones you can try. You can find more mindfulness techniques here.
- Body scans: Sit down in a chair and spend 1-2 minutes “scanning” your body from head to toe. How does it feel? Do you sense any tension?
- Practice the “I Am Aware” Exercise: Set a timer for 1 minute and state the things that you notice about you and your surrounds (e.g. I am aware of an itch on my hand, I am aware of the clock ticking). This can be a fun exercise to do with a friend, too.
- Eat mindfully: Mindful eating is a series of techniques that help you pay attention to the act of eating. It’s a way to practice being in the present moment and has the added benefit of teaching you how to listen to your body’s natural cues around hunger (and probably eat a bit less).
Swimming is nature’s natural moving meditation. As you swim, you build a natural rhythm of breathing and focus. You could say that swimming forces you to focus on your breath, because if you don’t, you drown.
Any demanding repetitive exercise that requires extreme focus can have meditative properties, including running and cycling. The next time you swim, run, or cycle, try to establish a regular breathing rhythm and focus on your breathing as you move.
Affirmations are positive statements about you or the world around you. You can listen to them in a recording or read them. They’re a great alternative if you’re looking for meditation to bring more positive energy and confidence into your life. We have some affirmation plans on Lift that help you build confidence, learn forgiveness, and reflect on love and relationships. Affirmations are flexible because you can listen to in a quiet room or on the go, for instance during your commute.
Walking meditation is another moving meditation with traditional roots. There are many ways to perform a walking meditation, but more often you would walk back and forth along a specific path. You’ll go through similar exercises that you would during a regular meditation: body scans, focusing on the breath, etc. Another difference is that you’ll keep your eyes open as you walk.
Meditation does not have to be a solitary activity! There are many exercises that you can do with a friend, including the “I Am Aware exercise” described above and the Marina Abramovic meditation, during which you stare into the eyes of another person without speaking. Partner meditation exercises help train your focus as well as expand your ability to connect with people around you.