One of the objections I had to meditating was that it can be boring. I didn’t recognize this as an issue at first because I figured boredom is part of the point; you are supposed to keep returning your attention to the breath for the thousandth time because meditation helps you be present in the moment, even if it’s a boring moment.
What finally helped me make meditation a solid habit, though, was actually honoring my desire for things to be interesting. I started making every meditation unique, keeping a meditation log along the way. And no, I didn’t make the meditations unique by listening to guided meditations. It is possible to come up with dozens or even hundreds of unique ways of meditating, all on your own, and to infuse them with your one-of-a-kind style and personality.
As someone who thrives on variety and who loves coming up with out-of-the-box ideas, I hope my meditation notes help add some spice to your mindful life. Here are my favorite meditations I have done these past two months, and what I learned about keeping meditation fun and effective. (It’s different for everyone!)
If you define meditation, it is easy to generate lots of meditation options
According to Wikipedia, “Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique—such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity—to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”
Almost any mental technique or concentration exercise could be thought of as a meditation. Especially if you give it your undivided attention. Working off that definition we just read, I invite you to make a list of objects, thoughts, and activities that you would find interesting or pleasant to focus on for even 2–8 minutes. Think of things that would tend to produce a calming or mentally clarifying effect.
An example of an object? How about a potted plant? I could hold the plant in my hands, close my eyes, and feel my connection to the plant for even 120 seconds of my time. Just observe what arises, with nonjudgment. Bam! There’s your meditation.
If you want it to be more structured than that, let’s add in a thought: I am grateful for plants. Whenever your mind wanders off from feeling that connection you have with your leafy companion, just think, I am grateful for plants and it’ll come right back. Full disclosure: I haven’t done this plant meditation yet, but now that I’ve thought of it maybe I will!
I use mantras or sensory focal points to practice an activity
Is “busy” an excuse not to meditate? Not for us! Try turning a mundane, repetitive activity you were going to do anyway into an official meditation practice. So far I’ve done this with shaving, brushing my hair, and tidying up!
For the tidying, what worked well was repeating a word every time I put an object back. “Home,” I muttered, since I was putting things in their respective “homes” where they belonged. The task felt kind of like a video game, where you hear a sound and fancy lights flash every time you score a point.
As for hairbrushing, whenever I caught my mind drifting off I would anchor it with the thought, “I am brushing my hair.” Apart from that, I returned my attention to the sensation of skin on my scalp. Meditations like this are awesome! They give me practice at being mindful during daily chores, which often makes them engaging and enjoyable.
Experiment with all types of meditation, and see what works best
If you want to learn a lot about yourself, do a unique meditation every day for 2 months.
Much meditation is centered around the breath, which is such an accessible and relaxing subject matter. I learned that for breath meditation, I prefer fixating on the rise and fall of my stomach, as it helps me belly-breathe and ends up being more relaxing than if I only observe, say, my nostrils.
I learned that I like to meditate lying flat. I believe in keeping my spine straight for alertness, but I can just as easily do that lounging in bed. I end up seeing meditation as more of a treat this way!
Timing is everything. Breath-counting is an effective sleep aid at night, while compassion meditation is quite emotionally stimulating for me so it rightfully belongs earlier in the day.
What about Vipassana or body scanning? I should take a class sometime to learn the official ways of Vipassana, but I did try something in the ballpark of it and I struggled. My body has so many overlapping sensations, I didn’t know how to distinguish one sensation at a time, so my brain got stressed. To fix this, I realized I could scan my body in batches. First was my skull, then eye area, nose and cheek area, chin, neck area, and so on. I even invited my body parts to “speak” to me if they had anything to say. This was fun!
One day when my ADHD mind was racing, and it resisted my usual meditation strategies, I had success with a meditation where I thought of random positive affirmations, one after the other. My hyper mind enjoyed being allowed to do what it wanted and just fly from one thought to the next, but within minutes, it got tired of having to think of all these affirmations. It slowed down. I had tricked myself into taking a chill pill!
I love “self-guided meditation,” where I imagine my own voice telling me to take deep breaths and do different steps. I love lying flat with a hand to my chest. I ask myself repeatedly, “How does my heart feel?” or “What does my heart want?”, breathing through many rounds of answers.
Don’t forget walking meditation, and yoga—focusing on syncing my breath with the movements through each pose. I’ve also done writing meditations such as morning pages (freewriting whatever comes to mind), as well as object-gazing meditations. Last but not least, there are visualization meditations related to the 7 chakras that I’ve described here.
My meditations have tended to be defined by choosing one fixed thing to keep returning my awareness to, yet there is also what’s called open awareness meditation. For this, I gently witness any and all thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise. I treat them like fluffy clouds passing that I don’t have to cling to or do anything about.
I used to feel like the meditating version of that grump in Green Eggs and Ham. (Ahem, vegan green eggs and ham, anyone?) “I would not, could not meditate anywhere!” I wanted to pout. But now, I find so much adventure and joy in seeing how many different ways and places I can find my center.
Watch out, Sam-I-Am! Before long we will be meditating on a run, in the sun, against the wall, in a stall, with a goat, and on our chakras of throat! The possibilities are endless.
I chose 8 minutes a day as a baseline, I like where my mindfulness is headed, and I’m not looking back!
What are your takeaways from this article? It’s possible you are someone who enjoys guided meditation more than I, in which case you can let YouTube videos, an app like Headspace, or even written instruction take care of the variety. But perhaps you’ve been relying a lot on others in order to get yourself to meditate, and it would feel nice to beat to your own drum more and savor that self-reliance.
Expose yourself to whatever makes YOU feel excited and curious for your next session. Happy unique meditating!
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Photo: Motoki Tonn via Unsplash