I’ve personally never been able to find a peaceful meditation routine that works for me. I’ve always wanted to get something out of meditation, but I would always finish more frustrated than before.
When I think of meditation, I imagine a person sitting in a silent, empty room, eyes closed, clearing his or her mind in a peaceful way. It’s such a beautiful image. Yet, each time I would try a guided meditation or meditate with a group in a yoga class, I would get fidgety and stressed out.
I assumed, for the longest time, that it was because I was such a beginner to meditation. I assumed I would have to train my mind to benefit from still silence and pure thoughts.
In reality, silent meditation was not the kind of meditation that worked best for me.
Meditation is, by definition, simply a way to train your mind into thinking in a way that is along your personal lines of self-development. While today the word has increasingly become synonymous with zen or yoga, how humans have practiced meditation has varied all around the world, based on culture and religion.
Prayer, yoga, personal mantras, and silent contemplation can all be considered forms of meditation. The key is finding a meditative practice that works for you!
I attended Kundalini yoga classes for a few months. Typically, we would spend much of the class focusing our thoughts on a specific issue and doing repetitive movements, over and over again, for long periods of time. We would also do the ‘Breath of Fire,’ in which we breathed rapidly in and out, for long periods of time.
These exercises gave my mind a perfect balance to find a suitable meditative state. I was focused on doing something very specific, so my mind was preoccupied with making sure I was continuing to do the leg lift, or the breath of fire. This prevented that typical problem I’ve had in most meditation workshops, where my mind drifts to places I don’t want to be…like where I last saw my biology textbook, or how often I should really be flossing my teeth.
“Emptying” my mind was best done by filling it with nothingness. Rather than clearing the clutter, I was stuffing it full of repetitive, mindless work. This, in turn, gave me moments of clarity and relief from my stresses. I would leave yoga classes feeling refreshed and invigorated, a feeling I had always hoped to find from a meditative practice.
After a while, I stopped doing Kundalini yoga. I moved, it no longer fit into my budget, and it was no longer a convenient fit in my life. I decided to keep that perspective on meditation, and find a way to fill my mind with nothingness to find that beautiful feeling of being centered and at peace.
I decided to see if I could make my regular jogs a way to meditate. After getting into a solid rhythm on my favorite running path, I started filling my mind with the thought of each step. Each breath, in and out, gave me a repetitive motion to focus on. After focusing for a few minutes, I reached that lovely moment of peacefulness. It worked!
There are no rules to running as meditation, but these tips may help you find your zone:
1. Find the right pace: We all know that interval training is great for the body, but a steady, rhythmic pace is essential for meditation so your brain is not occupied with forming conscious, executive decisions. A too-slow pace will also be distracting, leading your mind to wander. Pick a pace that rates as 7 in exertion, where 0 is lying down comfortably and 10 is running for your life.
2. Straighten up: Correct posture in running meditation is as helpful as that in sitting meditation. (And of course, it will help you run farther and faster, too!) Don’t tilt forward or “break” at the hips–your body should be more or less in a straight line from head to ankle. Pull your shoulders slightly back and open your chest and back. Stack your head and base of your skull over the throat. This straight spine will engage your core and allow more oxygen to flow through your body.
3. Observe your surroundings: We keep our eyes open during running, of course. But often we only look for the things that serve us, such as the turn in the road or the bicycles heading our way, ignoring all else. Observing your surroundings completely activates the receptive lower brain and quiets impatience.
Now, instead of going to yoga classes or doing frustrating guided meditations alone in my room, I make my regular jogs my own meditative practice. Whatever works for you!
Don’t let stereotypical ideas of meditation inhibit you from trying new ways to meditate. Carve your own zen path! 😉
Also by Abbie: 5 Can’t Miss Spring Allergy Tips
Photo: Random Hiccups via Flickr; Nathan Rupert via Flickr