Five Non-traditional Ways to Meditate
If you read my last post about meditation, you know that the “expectations versus reality” of meditation can be pretty relatable. (And if you haven’t read it yet, I highly encourage you to give it a read! 10 Thoughts We’ve All Had While Meditating.) A lot of you enjoyed that post - so perhaps a lot of you feel the same way I do about meditation!
To take part in “proper” or “traditional” meditation, our goal is to draw the senses inward - letting go of the outside world as we perceive it; we want to connect to the higher spirit that lives within each of us. In other words, turn your phone off! All jokes aside, we let go of our ego and the picture of life that we've created in our minds so that we can see the world for what it really is, without the ego-colored sunglasses we wear every day.
“Ego” is not synonymous with “conceited” or “self-obsessed” in this context - it refers to the fact that the way we see and experience the world every day is specific to ourselves. Have you ever heard that no two people see color in the same way? Take that a step further - no two people see (or hear, or taste, or smell, or feel) anything the same way. Our perception makes all the difference. When we meditate, we essentially remove our worldly selves from the equation.
To expand off of the idea that meditation may not always look quite the way we envision it in our minds, here are a few “out-of-the-box” ways that you can meditate. And while these may not quite bring all of your focus into your mind and empty it the way a more conventional meditation would do, some of these practices may help you disconnect from yourself and your thoughts a little bit - which is one of the early steps in achieving true meditative bliss!
Do A Puzzle
My personal favorite unique form of meditation, this idea was the inspiration for this post. If you enjoy jigsaw puzzles, that’s one type of puzzle you can do here, but this applies to any type of puzzle - crosswords, word searches, number games, riddles, word problems. My favorite is Sudoku. Whenever I travel, I bring a Sudoku book with me. I often play on airplanes as a way to relax my nerves. I recently went on a camping trip and brought one of my puzzle books with me and sat outside, solving puzzles, basking in the sun, and enjoying the nature sounds and scents surrounding me.
Puzzles force you to rid yourself of any distractions and bring your attention to the task at hand. It would be difficult to put your full attention into a puzzle while simultaneously making a mental grocery list. There are lots of smartphone apps that offer puzzles, many of them for free, but for meditative purposes, I would suggest using a physical book or puzzle. It may be challenging to resist the temptation of switching from app to app or answering text messages while using your phone.
Take A Walk
This one can be filed under “moving meditation.” It could also be more challenging depending on where you live, but find somewhere to walk where you can immerse yourself in nature. And rather than just looking at what’s around you, notice and observe it, and take it in. Seeing old, tall trees is a living reminder that the earth is so much more massive than we perceive it, and so many beautiful elements of this world have been here so much longer than we have. Depending on the season, use the elements to bring you into the present moment. Notice a crisp breeze as your shoe crunches a leaf? Take in all that autumn has to offer. Does the smell of flowers greet your nostrils as the wind blows? Hello, spring!
Even if you’re more limited in your options, notice what you see going on outside of you - the color of houses, the sound of objects blown by the wind, the undecipherable chatter all around. Become a part of what you observe, rather than making this world fit yours.
Getting lost in a book is a wonderful way to become immersed in someone else’s story and put yours to the side for a little bit. If you read on a Kindle or other digital device, that’s fine, but as with the puzzles, try not to opt for reading on your phone where your mind could be distracted by other notifications. Reading may not be for everyone, but I strongly encourage you to give it a try - there are books out there about everything, so you’re bound to find something that speaks to your interests. There are how-to books, cookbooks, autobiographies, novels, poems, short stories - the possibilities are absolutely endless.
Not sure where to start? You could always ask friends or family for recommendations, or do an online search for books about some of your favorite topics.
This could even be a precursor to a more traditional way of meditating. When you feel as though you have too many thoughts swarming your mind, sometimes writing them down on a piece of paper feels therapeutic - as if you’re removing the ideas from your brain and placing them somewhere else. You don’t have to consider yourself an exceptional writer to benefit from this, and you never have to share it with anyone. Just think of it as a tool to free your mind for more space for thoughts that serve you.
The journal doesn’t have to be fancy, either - in fact, you don’t even really need a “journal,” especially if you don’t plan on saving what you write down. This could in fact be useful if you feel you’re ridding yourself of heavy, difficult thoughts - out of sight, out of mind!
Listen To Music
Like a book, music tells a story that removes us from our own. Even if the song doesn't have lyrics - in fact, just finding a tune that you can sit and listen to would be the best bet here. You don't have to get caught up in the words; just allow the sound to take your mind to a different place. Many music streaming services will let you filter music by category, and you can even find some meditative music this way. I personally use Google Music, and I can easily access tons of songs, artists, pre-created playlists, and more.
Which of these activities is your favorite? What other ways have you tried to empty your mind when it feels too crowded? Let me know in the comments below!