Get squeamish at the thought of being still and breathing deeply for hours? Give one of these alternative ‘moving meditations’ a try.
Meditation and mindfulness are transformative for our minds and our bodies – this has been established by hundreds of studies performed all around the world. The ancient Indian practice can help lower heart rates and blood pressure and decrease stress.
But most importantly, says Radha Krishna das from the Australian School of Meditation and Yoga, meditation can help you to come to terms with your thoughts, body, mind and actions.
“According to the ancient yogic texts and the great spiritual teachers of meditation, the most important reason for taking up the practice of meditation is the desire for self-realisation – to understand who you really are,” says Radha Krishna das.
But if the idea of sitting cross legged on the floor and chanting ‘ohm’ fills you with dread, there are other ways you can reap the rewards that you might find less confronting.
“This journey can be travelled by everyone, no matter what their situation is in life. This journey is not reliant on having the ability to sit still,” says Radha Krishna das.
Here are some alternative moving meditations to try.
In the Zen tradition, they call walking meditation kinhin, and practitioners move slowly and continuously while focusing on their body and mind. In his book The Wise Heart, meditation teacher and trained Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield suggests selecting a quiet place where you can pace back and forth for 10 to 30 paces. Begin with your feet planted firmly on the ground and your hands resting easily, and take in your surroundings with all of your senses. Then walk slowly, paying attention to how your body feels, back and forth for 10 minutes, or longer if you like.
“Use the walking meditation to calm and collect yourself and to live more wakefully in your body. Practise at home first. You can then extend your mindful walking in an informal way when you go shopping, whenever you walk down the street or walk to or from your car,” says Kornfield.
2. Eat or drink
If walking seems too strenuous, mindful eating or drinking could be up your alley. The trick is to not just throw down that coffee or bagel like you do most mornings, but to dedicate five minutes alone to experience everything about what you’re consuming. Radha Krishna das says you should start with a moment of calm before you take the first bite. “Take a couple of nice, long, deep inhalations and exhalations, let the breath, body and mind be relaxed, cultivate an attitude of gratitude. While eating, be aware of chewing each mouthful fully before taking the next bite. Take another moment of calm when you finish the meal before rushing off to what is happening next.”
3. Tai Chi
Tai Chi, an ancient martial art from China, is now used as a wellness practice. The name means ‘supreme ultimate’ in Mandarin, and devotees say it aligns the energy in your body as well as in your mind. Master Han Jin Song of Tai Chi Australia says, “We believe that tai chi is a form of moving meditation. You have to do the physical movements, while at the same time you focus on your mind, body and breathing all together in a harmonious way.”
The name ‘Tai Chi’ means ‘supreme ultimate’ in Mandarin, and devotees say it aligns the energy in your body as well as in your mind.
4. Listen to music
When was the last time you really listened to some music, rather than having it on in the background or absent-mindedly signing along while you drove through peak-hour traffic? Radha Krishna das says that although listening to music cannot be considered meditation in its truest form because it cannot bring a person to that state of deep inner peace and happiness, it can have a similar effect.
“According to yoga teachings sound vibration, including music, is extremely powerful. There is a very negative side, a very positive side; and then there is a transcendental side. There are also sounds that have a positive influence on the mind and sounds that have a negative influence on the mind. And there are sounds which purify the heart and mind of worries, fears, anger – that is transcendental sound.”
Okay, this one isn’t quite as fun as the others, but if you have to do the housework anyway, why not gain a soul transforming experience as well as a shiny bathtub? Radha Krishna das suggests, “Rather than letting the mind wander to other things that may have happened in the past or what needs to be done after the household chore is completed, a person focuses on what they are doing in the present moment with awareness. When the mind floats away, bring your focus back to the task at hand and the rhythm of your breath. In this way by being in the present you will do a better job, potentially quicker and with a calm, relaxed attitude.”
So wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, be all there, and the rewards will come to you – just as they would from a formal meditation practice.
Trust Me, I’m A Doctor airs on Mondays from February 5 at 8.30pm on SBS.
This piece by Carolyn Tate was first seen on ‘SBS’, 26 February 2018.