“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” — Blaise Pascal
Meditation seems to be all the rage these days. I tried it once. I sat on the floor with my legs crossed. Before starting, I set a timer on my iPhone to alert me when twenty minutes had passed.
After a few minutes, with my eyes closed and legs crossed, I could feel my back start to tighten up, so I slid up against a wall for support. Then, after another few minutes, my mind began to race and I got incredibly impatient because I realized I hadn’t shut the garage door when I came home. Then, after another few minutes, I started to get tired and I think I even dozed off.
I reasoned that for a first attempt, it had been long enough, even though my timer hadn’t buzzed yet. It felt like eighteen or nineteen minutes, so I decided to quit and I would go the full twenty minutes next time.
Then, I looked down to see how much time had actually passed. Only 50 seconds. Fail.
I’m sure that yogis, gurus, and earthy folks reading this will say “that’s exactly why you need to meditate!”
But it was too late. I decided then and there that meditation just isn’t for me. And frankly, I don’t think it’s for everyone, no matter how many famous people are saying it.
But here’s the catch: I do think that everyone needs activities that have meditative qualities.
These activities serve to:
- Quiet the monkey mind
- Relieve stress
- Work through complex thoughts/issues
- Generate Creativity
I have personally experimented with various forms of meditation through the activities listed below, but it is important to find what works for you. The only specific ingredient is to stop multitasking.
Meditation can only happen when you do just one thing at a time.
Stop multitasking, find an activity to enjoy, and reap the benefits. Of course, not all activities will provide meditative qualities, but my point here is that you don’t have to light incense and sit in the lotus position in order to meditate.
Here is my list of five ways you can meditate without actually meditating.
#1 Cold Water Therapy
Meditative Rating: 4/5
There are a number of benefits to using cold therapy for the body, such as anti-inflammation and temporary nerve activity reduction. Better still are the benefits for your mind when you put yourself under cold water.
Try it out: Turn your shower to the coldest setting. Set a five-minute timer. Jump in the shower, wash as you normally do. Stay for the full five minutes.
What you will find is that when you emerge from the cold you will feel mentally refreshed, energized, and balanced. Your heart rate has risen and fallen, your breath has deepened, and your mind has been focused on just one thing.
Here are two of my old posts relating to cold water therapy:
Meditative Rating: 4/5
Sitting down with a pen and paper seems like a tedious, painstaking task for many. Yet, while putting your thoughts into words is challenging, it’s also very revealing and freeing. Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
The practice of writing your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and opinions onto paper will be a huge stress relief and it will make you feel centered.
Not sure how to get started? Buy a nice journal on Etsy and quality pen (see the best 5 pens on penaddict.com). Buying these two items will give you that feeling like when you buy a brand new pair of sneakers and you suddenly have the motivation to exercise.
#3 Create Art
Meditative Rating: 3/5
Because I am not all that artistic I recommend coloring books, canvas painting, water colors, etc. These forms of art with color leave room for a lack of skill. It doesn’t take immense talent to produce a nice product.
Of course, other forms of art will do too, whether it’s pottery, molding, woodwork, drawing, or something else.
If you are more skilled, or more interested in mastering a craft, then you can also meditate while doing more complex art forms. My friend and coworker, Connor Murray, has an incredible talent for woodworking and has found his escape while carving wood. See Connor’s work here.
#4 Breathing Exercises
Meditative Rating: 3/5
The more well-known versions of meditation nearly all incorporate deep-breathing techniques (Transcendental Meditation is one of them). I’m not suggesting you should sit cross-legged on the floor holding the “OK” sign with your thumbs and forefingers, however, there are other ways to think about your breathing, the most common being during physical stretching.
I first realized the meditative benefits of deep breathing when I tried ROMWOD, an online membership portal with video-guided training sessions for deep stretching. ROMWOD stands for Range of Mobility Workout of the Day and is targeted towards the CrossFit community, although it would be great for anyone. The stretching workouts last about 20 minutes and put you into two or three deep stretches for long periods of time. In these deep positions you are forced to breathe deeply and these deep breaths are empowering, strengthening, and relaxing.
Maybe ROMWOD isn’t your thing, but you can still try sitting in the quiet and breathing deeply. And if you’re going to do that, you might-as-well stretch while you’re sitting there.
#5 Martial Arts
Meditative Rating: 5/5
As an adult, I have played many sports and each has brought enjoyment for different reasons. Softball put me outside with my friends, golf was incredibly challenging yet relaxing, basketball was fast paced and physical.
But only one sport (or sport category, rather) has brought meditative benefits to me, and that is mixed martial arts. First, it was boxing but now it is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I know the martial arts aren’t for everyone, but if you seriously want to meditate and exercise your mind and body, it’s worth giving it a shot.
See here for my posts relating to Martial Arts:
I hope these five alternatives to meditation help you. There are many others worth considering. Please leave a comment if you have a different way of meditating that I did not mention here.
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