Research has shown that meditation can help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and increase your happiness and wellbeing. If you’re screwing up your face and saying “Tried it, but I can’t do it” chances are you didn’t find the right style for you. Everyone can meditate, but maybe active meditation is more your thing.
If stillness makes you squirm and you’re just starting out on the zen train, you can get your mindfulness on in other ways. There are activities that can be active meditation, if you use mindfulness while you do them. Then you can cross two things off your daily wellbeing list and feel all smug with yourself.
While many forms of traditional meditation teach that you require stillness to achieve a tranquil state, Indian spiritual guru, Osho, taught that you can still get your zen on whilst remaining active.
Co-founder and co-director of Osho Sammasati, Maneesha James, is a firm believer that any activity that is accompanied by a “non-judgemental awareness” is meditation.
“Meditation can be a thread through all that we do. It isn’t confined to, say, an hour’s sitting passively, eyes closed, each day – though it is good to find time for this too,” says Maneesha.
“When we are familiar with that space, the challenge is to remember it so that it is the foundation for all that we do in our waking hours – dancing, showering, cooking, playing the piano, running, relating, and working, etc.”
Meditation is not confined to emptying your mind and thinking of nothing, but can simply be about mindfulness in whatever task you are performing.
“[Meditation is] Not so much about ‘achieving’ a quiet mind as relaxing back into the remembrance of our essence as vast, still, silent. The idea that we must strive to attain anything can create stress!” says Maneesha.
“And anyway, it comes from a misunderstanding. We are what we think we need to achieve; it’s the constant forgetting, the moving out of that reality by getting caught up in the mind, that’s the issue.”
We live in a time of incredible busyness, so it’s inevitable that our minds are busy too, but for balance we must remember to find inner stillness sometimes in order keep our chi (lifeforce) in the zen zone.
Here are five ways you can get your active meditation on without stopping for a minute (but feel free to because chill meditation is cool too.)
Instead of blaring club tunes through your headphones, or listening to a podcast, be mindful of your breath while you run. Tap into the rhythm of your breath and your pace, and endeavour to stay in that moment.
Studies have shown that both running and meditation can help with mental health and depression, so combining the two as active meditation may help bring you inner peace and wellbeing.
As Germaine Greer said, “A garden is the best alternative therapy.” As you work, focus on sensations you can feel, then things you can smell, and things you can hear. Be truly present in the work you are doing, be mindful as you actively meditate, and have the added benefit of a banging garden to be blissed out in (or drink tasty beverages at sunset.)
Cooking is an active meditation which you can lose yourself in. Listen to the sounds of the kitchen and your activity, and identify each smell as it arises to your senses. Chop with purpose and calmness of mind.
The trick is not to think about the multitude of things you need to do tomorrow but focus mindfully only on what you are doing at this very moment.
I know, when my friend gave me a colouring book, albeit a stunning one, I was not sure if it was going to be my thing but there is no doubt that it was a very soothing pastime. In the last few years adult colouring books have exploded off bookshelves and landed in people’s surprised laps.
This is not just because we all secretly wish we were still in kindergarten but because colouring in between the lines has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and help with mental health.
“Dancing meditation is one of the easiest ways to discover a calm, quiet, place inside you that is filled with joy, wisdom and love,” says Osho follower, Pragito Dove.
The Sufis have danced their way to inner peace for centuries and now you can celebrate life as they did in the comfort of your lounge.
Let go of your inhibitions, close your eyes and allow yourself to be carried on the music as you meditate with activty. Maybe create a little dance floor free of Lego or shin height tables before you get to boogieing like no one is watching.
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