Meditation is huge when it comes to improving powers of focus, feelings of inner peace and positivity of thought.
That statement above has almost become a cliché over the past few years as meditation has become more and more mainstream.
But it makes it no less true.
I remember a few years ago before I got anywhere near the holistic health or wellness world and I thought the idea of someone meditating meant they were obviously some kind of hippy weirdo who had more time than sense.
I would roll my eyes at the thought of meditating, believing that it wasn’t for ‘people like me’ and that it didn’t really work for the average person.
And now here I am writing an entire blog post about it. How times change.
But do we have to actually sit there for an extended period of time meditating with crossed legs and nice music on? Or is there a way to get the benefits without needing to do all this several times a day?
Well, this is exactly what I want to explore in this post by giving you some of my best ways to ‘meditate without meditating’.
How Meditation Helped Me
As I’ve shared previously on this site, I struggle with my mindset and mental and emotional health from time to time.
Up until relatively recently, I didn’t even realise it was a problem for me.
I went through my life assuming I didn’t have any of these issues and that it was just ‘normal’ to have to deal with crippling self-doubt, constant comparison of myself to everyone else, feeling anxious about everything and allowing my negative thoughts to rule me.
That it would just all somehow fix itself and disappear when I became ‘successful’.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Introducing a regular practice of meditation helped me to deal with this ‘stuff’.
Of course, it wasn’t the only thing.
But meditation and silence allowed me to slow everything down, breathe and just bring me back into the present moment to see all the negativity for what it really was.
After implementing a meditation practice I noticed that I became more grounded, centred and calm about everything in my life.
And, after years of being in an almost constant state of anxiety, panic and negativity, I found the ability to focus and, ultimately, experience joy more regularly.
What Actually is Meditation?
In essence, meditation is ‘mind training’.
It’s about bringing yourself to the present moment and being able to empty or do whatever you like with your mind, as opposed to having it control you all the time.
Think of it like going to the gym, but for your brain.
When you go to the gym, you don’t expect to go once and suddenly drop 20lbs or look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nor do you jump straight in and go from zero to running 20 miles or lifting 100kg.
And in much the same way, we can’t do this with meditation either. We can’t expect to do it once and be a brain master, nor can we expect to be able to go from zero to 10 hours a day sat on the side of a mountain in the Himalayas.
So meditation is about building up a practice of training ourselves to slow down, be in the present moment and be in a state of full awareness.
It follows, then, that reaching a ‘meditative state’ doesn’t require sitting in the lotus position for hours and can be reached through various other ways:
#1 Walking Meditation
One of my favourite ways to meditate without having to do it in the traditional, lotus pose kind of way is switching to walking meditation.
There are a couple of ways to do this that I like, with the first being a simple case of ‘as it says on the tin’.
Simply get outside and take some time out for yourself to just walk. This is a great way to get away from all the phones, screens, people and stressors in life and spend some time with your soul.
Although simply going for a walk can be very relaxing, the best way to experience walking meditation is to actually pay attention to the present moment and concentrate on your breathing.
So no music, podcasts, phone calls or messages. And also trying to not think about things in the past or all the stuff you have to do in the future.
Try counting your steps and moving at a pace that doesn’t increase your heart rate too much so you can continue to breath deep and slowly.
Even better would be if you could try timing your breath with your steps. So, say four steps to breathe in, hold for one step and four steps to breathe out, for example.
It’s best to do this in nature if you can where you can really experience the pleasantness of the surroundings and, even better, to go bare foot while in contact with the earth to combine your walking meditation with the benefits of ‘grounding’.
Beyond a simple ‘walking meditation’, I’ve also tried (and loved) the experience of ‘slow walking’.
This may seem a little weird, especially if there are other people around, but stay with me.
Slow walking is where we would use the same principles as above for normal walking meditation, yet aiming to walk as slowly as possible.
The key here is to be continually moving and never motionless, yet always in a steady, very slow manner. Like a lion creeping up on an antelope.
This is a supreme way of staying ‘in the now’ as it results in us needing to fully concentrate on what we are doing in order to maintain the steady movement.
Move slowly, stay steady, breathe deeply, don’t stop.
Just make sure you’re not doing it around somewhere like Piccadilly Circus as chaos may ensue 😉
#2 Tai Chi or Qi Gong
I am by no means any kind of Tai Chi or Qi Gong master. In fact, I am pretty much still a beginner.
But that does not mean I love it any less.
The slow walking I mentioned earlier is a very basic form of Tai Chi as it incorporates the principle of slow, continuous, rhythmical movements designed to build up the flow of chi in the body.
Of course, I cannot do these ancient martial arts and practices any justice with a simple section of a blog post here.
But, in a nutshell, these are practices that integrate certain postures or movements with specific breathing techniques and inward focused intention.
A huge part of them is all about rebalancing what is known as energy, Chi or Prana in the body when it becomes blocked due to certain ways of living.
Whether or not you believe this ‘energy stuff’ is real, it still creates a hugely relaxing feeling of calm, inner peace and monumental clarity and focus upon completing.
Getting into these sorts of ‘eastern’ practices really doesn’t require you to start wearing long robes and growing a Mr Miyagi beard. Just 10 minutes of practice in your home or somewhere private using a beginner’s guide on YouTube is enough to get you started and feeling the benefits.
#3 Meditation Bursts
Something that I have also found particularly useful is using what I like to call ‘meditation bursts’.
Maybe you did some kind of meditation or silence in the morning, or maybe you just forgot to do anything at all.
Whatever the situation, let’s just pretend that you’ve got to 4pm and things are getting a little stressed and overwhelming. But you have the kids coming home soon or a meeting coming up – so time is a factor.
Rather than going into a whole meditation practice or Tai Chi session that will more than likely get disturbed, it can be very effective to just take a 60 second burst of meditation.
Simply find a comfy chair, get bare foot if you can, turn off all notifications on your devices and set a timer for 60 seconds. Then just close your eyes and breathe deeply and into the belly, focusing on trying to breathe around 5-6 times over the 60 second period with a four seconds in, two second hold and four second out timing.
Okay, it’s nowhere near ideal. And you will get a lot more benefits from a ‘proper’, extended mediation practice.
But this is a great way to return yourself to the present moment and bring some calm back when things get a little rushed.
I also like to use it before coaching calls, podcast interviews and any other situation where I want to be fully present and relaxed. It just enables me to take stock of a situation and stop that feeling of everything running away with me.
#4 Mindfulness Activities
As I mentioned earlier in this post, the aim we’re going for here is to bring ourselves into the present moment in order to appreciate what’s going on around us, rather than being caught up in thinking about the past, future or anything else that isn’t happening right now.
And mindfulness in our everyday activities is a really great practice we can start to develop for this.
Take eating, for example. It’s very common to get tied up in a lot of other activities while we eat – reading the newspaper or a book, listening to the radio, watching TV, working or taking phone calls.
We may feel like we’re killing two birds with one stone, but we’re actually taking ourselves away from being truly present with eating that meal.
I’m not saying we need to do this at each and every meal, but we can certainly experience some kind of mindfulness in the present moment by taking some time really taste the food. Focus on the textures, the tastes, the smells and just really bring yourself into the present moment, as opposed to using distraction techniques like TV and newspapers.
And this works with any activity too.
Whether it’s doing the washing up, cleaning the house, taking a shower, walking to work or any activity! Simply practicing the art of really being in the present moment and the smaller details of what’s really going on without the need for something to occupy our minds can be very powerful when it comes to feeling more calm, focused and peaceful.
#5 Energising Exercises
These are something I’ve mentioned before in a couple of previous posts as I’ve found them to be extremely useful both with myself and my clients.
They are similar to the Tai Chi and Qi Gong practices I mentioned earlier and are based on the same principles of using the chakra system to balance energy in the body.
I know, I know! All this talk of ‘energy’ and ‘chakras’ may seem a little out there and ‘woo woo’.
I used to think all that stuff was weirdo, hippy BS too. But, to put it bluntly, it’s not. And whether you ‘believe’ in it or not, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that doing them (properly) can leave you feeling awesome.
Anyway, I have a free PDF that explains it all in a little bit less ‘woo woo’ detail than it sometimes is.
But, in a nutshell, we have chakra points in our body that energy (Chi/Prana) flows through and these exercises are designed to target a specific ‘blocked’ chakra to encourage rebalancing.
Again, it doesn’t really matter too much what you believe is actually happening inside your body. Just know that these exercises can help as an alternative to meditation and to get you feeling more peaceful, calm and focused.
Check out my PDF by clicking here and letting me know where to send it.
#6 Creative Activities
This has got to be one of my favourites, and one I completely neglected up until very recently.
I used to really love art and drawing when I was younger. Up until the age of around 15-16, I would regularly find myself pulling out a sketch pad and drawing cartoons or just doodling for hours on end.
Then I discovered the world of ‘work’ and needing to focus on being a ‘real adult’ who didn’t bother with these silly things anymore.
But doing something creative like this and really opening up that ‘right brain’ activity is a great way of getting into the present moment and experiencing some form of meditative state.
When I suggest this to people, the next comment tends to be something along the lines of “I’m no good at art” or “I can’t draw” or “mine will suck!”
But that is just your left brain coming back into play!
This isn’t about creating something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, nor is it about judging the quality of what you’re creating. It’s just about creating.
So don’t worry if your three-year-old draws a better cat picture than you. The idea here is to get that right brain opened up, which is all about visualising and creating from scratch without following any pre-set rules or ideas.
Just get a few coloured pencils, a blank pad and draw something. Anything! It doesn’t even have to be an actual picture and could just be a swirl of colours you’ve created.
It doesn’t have to be drawing, though. You could paint or write or even build rock sculptures out in the garden with the stones out there. Just anything that requires you to create your own rules and not follow any instructions.
Maybe you’re not going to try all six of these ways as an alternative to meditation.
Maybe you’re not going to use any and just stick with the traditional way.
But hopefully these will help if you ever fancy trying something different or are struggling to start or keep your practice going.
Take a listen to the podcast episode for this blog post via the player at the top.
Love, Laughter & Light,