Often times, when we think of meditation, we think of some calm man or woman dresses in all white sitting perfectly still in a beautiful place. It can feel very intimidating. While meditation is becoming very mainstream and old stereotypes are being removed, sitting still and not thinking is still really hard. There are plenty of alternatives to a seated meditation.
In fact, meditation has a number of different meanings. The common themes include focusing the mind, mental concentration, mental clearing, and achieving a calm state. We we use these definitions, meditation has nothing at all to do with sitting in stillness.
I invite you to try out some of these active meditations below. Direct your attention to the practice of clearing or focusing the brain. The actual activity you are doing is much less important.
A walking meditation can be done in a very strict, traditional sense or simply a mindful stroll. The important thing is to keep distractions minimal, so avoid listening to music or books, and it is best to take the walk solo.
For a mindful walk, simply enjoy a stroll for the sake of clearing the mind. Do not approach the walk with a goal of getting somewhere or to get a work out in. Not that anything is wrong with destinations or working out, but it loses the effect of meditating. Just stroll, take in the moment by witnessing everything around you and take your time.
“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
For a traditional walking meditation, walk in a circle or a simple path, back and forward. Focus on every part of the step by thinking, I am lifting the foot, I am placing the foot, I am shifting the weight of my body, etc. You can use whatever phrases you would like – right, left, step, step, turn. Just do whatever feels the most natural to you.
This may sound similar to the walking meditation, but it is very different. This style of meditation is more about letting your intuition direct your path. I learned about this method in Rebecca Campbell’s Rise Sister Rise.
The idea of a nature walk is to get out in a place where you can head in any direction. Then, try to quiet the mind by taking some deep breaths. Allow your intuition to guide you. If you feel pulled down a path, go ahead. Wanna climb a tree? Go for it. Feel called to lay down in the grass? Do it.
The nature walk is more about letting your intuition, or gut feelings or subconscious, lead the way. When you can shut off your thinking or logical brain, you are enjoying a form of meditation. Allow yourself to just be guided.
Creating Art, Doodling, Coloring
As much as I want to encourage you to create stunning art work, mesmerizing painting, or crafty photo books, that’s not what I suggest for at artsy meditation. Remember, we are trying to empty out the active mind and allow focus.
Rather, focus on art that you can enjoy without overthinking it. I am a big fan of coloring books or zendoodles to clear my head. My dear friend, Deb, enjoys doodling mandalas, which allow repetition and circular patterns.
This is creating just for the sake of creating. If you sell your artwork or make it for gifts, this is beautiful work, but not what we want to focus on for a mindful practice. Just paint, color, doodle, or create to clear the head and enjoy yourself in the practice.
Pranayama or Breath Work
Breathing work is a great way to start a traditional meditation, as it is a quick way to fully focus the brain. By bringing awareness to the pattern of the breath, we calm the mind and clear out the clutter.
By simply counting the inhale and counting the exhale, perhaps trying to make it longer each time, we draw attention. This is a simple method to use when you are feeling particularly stressed out or panicked. Breathing deeply can make dramatic changes in the reaction of your body and mind. You can enjoy this practice for a quick minute!
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Check out this blog post on my four favorite breathing techniques >
Exercise and Yoga
You may be shocked to think of exercise as a form of meditation, but think about it – you are actively focusing on one thing. When I have heavy weights hovering over my chest, you best believe I am fully focused in on it. Running has also been proven to have similar effects as meditation because it allows your mind to gently focus on the repetitive pattern of the run
Yoga is one of my favorite forms of actively meditating. Yoga is the union of the breath and movement. This is one of the easiest forms of meditation I have ever practiced, learning to focus completely on each posture. As you move with the breath, you clear the busy mind and the find a feeling of being centered.
Ahhh, dancing is one of my favorite ways to get out of my busy head. Again, I want to remind you of versions that may not be meditative. Drunk dancing at a bar, dancing with a partner, or dancing with concern for what others think of you is not what we want to do here. While I love a good dance with my partner, it is not my form of meditation.
Meditative dance is allowing yourself to really feel the music and be moved by it. Whether at a festival or in your kitchen, when you can feel the music and move in whatever way feels natural to you, this is incredibly freeing. The mind turns off and you just flow with what is feeling right.
“Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you.” – Amit Ray
I hope that trying out some of these active meditations will make the idea of seated meditation less intimidating. A seated practice does not always have to be “sitting in silence.” You can count the breath, repeat a mantra, focus on the flicker of a candlelight, or connect to the feelings of the body.
Additionally, there are many forms of guided meditations. Check your local area for meditation classes, as I found it to be easier to get into the practice when I was surrounded by others doing the same. There are also plenty of youtube videos and apps that have guided meditations you can listen to. We have guided meditations in our Tribe membership you can check out!
What is your favorite form of meditation? Comment below! I would also love to answer any questions you have about meditation practices.
Be patient with your yourself. Just like anything else, meditation takes practice.