23 ways to Meditate without going Crazy
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most popular post on The Freedom Experiment is 55 Gentle Ways to take Care of Yourself when you’re Busy Busy Busy. After all, this world moves at an incredible pace. So much to see, so much to do.
And it’s not just the have to’s and should’s that keep us occupied into the small hours. Even want’s and love-to-do’s contribute to the never-ending race. Sometimes the mantra of our lives – and the heartbeat of this world – seems to be made up of two words, repeated, repeated and repeated again.
Do something, do something, do something.
There was a time when being busy was a status symbol. Busy-ness meant important. Busy-ness meant popular. Busy-ness meant being wanted, needed, loved. Although it might still be like that to some extent, I have a distinct feeling that for a lot of us this is beginning to change. Peace, calmness and stillness is the new status symbol. It means you have time, capacity, energy and money to fit it into your (still busy) schedule.
The other day, I found myself frantically checking the time on my cell phone while rushing to catch a last-minute yoga class.
[And I didn’t make it in time.]
I think we all struggle to find this balance between doing, exploring, living day-to-day – and be-ing. I am no exception here – one of my key problems in life is that I am a perpetual over-achiever. And I am suffering for it. Dearly.
No wonder then, that the solution seems to be not so much doing more – yoga, meditation, prayer and contemplation – as it is doing less.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is damn hard. Oh yes.
But I think the solution – to all of life’s problems it seems – is to aim somewhere in between the extremes. Maybe now isn’t the time to pack in an extra yoga class, two hours of sitting meditation and the occasional silent retreat. And along the same lines, maybe just sitting in your living room not doing anything might work for you for, like, say five seconds.
Let’s aim for something in the middle, guys. Let’s at least try.
Don’t just do something! Sit there.
23 ways to meditate without going crazy
Pay attention to the soundtrack of life
Close your eyes and tune in to the sounds around you. Can you hear the leaves fall? Can you hear the wind? What can you tell about the world around you just by listening? Sometimes a little awareness and presence is all we need to calm our minds and recharge our batteries.
Say hello to your wise self
Most people have an awareness of the different sides in their mind. “There’s the part of me that wants…” or “Sometimes that side of my mind needs…” are common phrases when talking about our desires. The question is – if you can observe that there are different parts of you – who is the observer? Personally, I like to call that my wise self. For me, the connection to my wise self is easiest to achieve when I’m physically sitting still and watching my thoughts run through my head. A good way to meditate then, is to spend a few minutes saying hello to and getting acquainted with your self. How is she today? What are her needs? What are her concerns?
If you, like me, are finding it hard to just sit still without variation it might be interesting to play around with different ways of sitting. Maybe you can try sitting in a yoga pose? What about sitting on your knees and your torso bent forward like in Child’s pose? Or maybe sitting with your legs streched out is working better for you? If you are not familiar with yoga, a quick google search is the way to go!
Use a guided meditation
I am particularly fond of Leonie Dawson’s guided visual meditations, but any recordings will do! Again, google, youtube, spotify and iTunes is your friend. If you haven’t already, check out Leonie’s Radiant Goddess program – the two meditation mp3’s in there are incredible, and so is the rest of the content!
Use a timer
If you are feeling a lot of resistance, it might help to trick your self into slowing down by making it really clear that it will end. By setting a timer, you send a strong signal to the fearful part of you that it won’t be forever and you can get back to your usual ways after the time is up. If you are new to meditation, I suggest starting with as little as 2-3 minutes. Increase the number slowly over time.
Find a comfortable position
No lotus position required. If sitting cross-legged is giving you more agony than peace, it might not be the best pose for you. The spirit of meditation is to be gentle with ourselves, (although discipline is a good thing too) and my opinion is that it kinda defeats the purpose if you have to force yourself to search for clarity in between your body crying out in pain.
Choose your location wisely
Along the same lines, it can really help you get into it if you choose your location wisely. There is no right or wrong way to do this and what works for you may not be the same thing that works for others. Personally, I prefer sitting somewhere where I won’t be disturbed. You might feel better sitting in public like in a park or at the beach. To some it might be useful to avoid emotionally loaded rooms like the bedroom or the bathroom (or kitchen!) and for others it might be useful to choose any of these rooms purposefully. It is all up to you, and what matters is that you pay attention to your own needs and wants.
If sitting alone isn’t working for you, it might help to find a sitting group or a meditation center. Or how about experimenting with meditation together with a friend or partner? Or with your kids? I know for me that I sometimes find it frightening to meet the emotions and thoughts that come up alone. For me, the solution then is to focus on either guided meditations or a group setting. What about you?
Listen to an animal breathing
I don’t think that there is anything more healing or relaxing than listening to an animal breathing. If you are lucky enough to have a cat or dog, a good way of meditating may be to lie down next to your animal and try to sync your breath with theirs. If you have a calm (and reasonably large) dog, I also suggest trying to put your head on their belly for a little while. Feel the calmness of their being and let it soak you up. Can you feel the stress of daily life let go?
Watch a child or loved one sleeping
Along the same line as tuning in with an animal, watching a child sleeping is one of the most calming things I can think of. If you don’t have a child in your immediate circle (please only do this with children you know and care for, as watching random children could potentially come across as kind of creepy!) it is also very calming to sit by the bed of a loved one like a partner, parent, sibling or elderly family member. Pay attention to the emotions that come up. Can you feel the love warm you up from the inside?
Play scientist of your mind
A good way of detaching from your thoughts is to take on the role as a scientist. Pretend you’re a university professor that is going to write an article about your thoughts. Sitting in meditation is how you are going to gather your material. Try to observe your thoughts without bias. How would you present what you find? What conclusions will you make once all the material is gathered?
Observe the world around you
Along the same lines, a good way of tuning in to the present is to take on the role as an observant of the world around you right this very minute. Pay attention to all of your five senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What does the world smell like? How does it feel? Try to take in as much information about the present moment as you can.
Listen to music
Sometimes, all you need to unwind and relax your mind is a good soundtrack. There are tons of meditation cd’s out there. My current favourites are Wade Imre Morissette and Deva Premal. If you prefer sounds to music, a few wonderful suggestions are either recordings of waves – or rain. There’s something about the sound of water that is so calming and soothing.
Watch a piece of art
Who said that meditation has to be done in private, and with your eyes closed? A wonderful way to meditate is to head over to your favourite museum and spend a little while getting lost in a piece of art. Personally, I prefer modern or contemporary paintings, but everyone is different. Don’t worry about other people, what they think about you is not your business. Your mind is your business – take care of that first!
Gaze at a candle or fireplace
There’s something about fire that is deeply energizing, calming and soothing. The sound of a lit fireplace to me represents safety and comfort – and the smell of the wood is deeply grounding. Sitting in the warm light of a fireplace transports my mind back to ancient times, and I think of deep forests and enchanting stories. If you’re not lucky enough to have a fireplace, it is actually possible to get some of the same effects from gazing at a candle. Let the flames calm and nourish your soul.
Sit in the sun
Likewise, sitting in the sun is deeply nourishing and energizing. Ground your mind by paying attention to how the warmth of the sun touches your body. Where do you feel it? How does it feel? Imagine the sunshine entering your bloodstream and lighting you up from within.
Tune in to your body
Just sit in a comfortable position, or lie down. Spend some time paying attention to how you feel in your body. Can you feel your feet? Can you feel your fingers? Do you have pain anywhere? Emotions? Try not to judge – just observe how you are right now. There isn’t any other way you should be than the way you are right this very moment.
A good way to meditate if you are restless and in motion is to knit or do other repetitive kinds of work with your hands. This really works wonders if you are a natural born multi-tasker! Sometimes, this is the only way I can justify spending some time sitting still – because I trick myself into feeling accomplished because I’m making something. Maybe it’s not the ideal way to meditate, but hey, it’s better than nothing!
Meditation doen’t have to be sitting down. The key part is to let go of your thinking mind and focus on the present. A good way of doing this is to go for a walk outside. Try to walk as slowly as you can and pay attention to your surroundings. What sounds do you hear? What do you see? How does the world around you smell? How does it feel?
Give yourself a massage
A beautiful way of showing yourself a little self-care is to give yourself a massage. Where in your body do you need a little attention and care? I often massage my feet before I go to bed, as I find it very grounding and relaxing. Sometimes I just do it dry, other times I use a lotion or a massage oil. If you want to do it more naturally, try using sesame or coconut oil.
I learned this useful meditation technique from Leonie Dawson – whenever you find it really hard to focus on your breath, try counting it. Leonie meditates by taking 100 deep breaths, but you can choose any number you wish. How many breaths does it take for your mind and body to relax?
Repeat a mantra or affirmation
For some people, meditating on a mantra might sound a little weird. However, you can make it as personal to you as you wish – you don’t have to make it religous at all. Some really good mantras are words like love and peace. I also like affirmations like I am enough or I am free.
Writing is a really good way of spending some time in your own company. Writing about your thoughts and emotions is a really powerful and intimate way of connecting with your true self, and it can be very healing. If you keep a journal, you probably know this already! A good way of using writing for meditation is to set aside some time (5-30 minutes) and write without stopping for the entire time period. If your mind goes blank just continue writing your last word over and over. Again, the important part is trying not to judge what you think and feel – just let it flow freely through you and onto the paper.
Do you meditate?
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