Jorge is all about expanding awareness and getting in tune with the universe...as long as it's not too hard, of course.
Can't Sit to Meditate? You Don't Have To!
Do you want to tap into the infinite? Do you want to learn to be more mindful and at one with the universe? Or do you simply just want to chillax a little?
Meditation can certainly help–and there are many, many styles that have been refined over the millennia. From yoga to zen to modern secular mindfulness techniques, you have a buffet of choices.
But what do you do if you find that you have trouble sitting still and listening to your breath? Now, everyone has trouble with that to some extent, and you can't expect that it will be easy when you're a distracted beginner. This can be a huge barrier for some, though, so if you find that you just CAN'T sit still in silence by yourself for fifteen minutes, you might want to start with a different technique than just standard sitting meditation:
1. Walking Meditation
Believe it or not, there are walking meditation styles. Actually, you can meditate doing practically any activity, and the point of meditating while sitting is to train yourself to be able to carry that present-moment awareness into everyday activities.
If you're having trouble keeping your butt on a cushion, though, then consider this standard meditation alternative. The easiest way to give it a try is this:
- Walk in a circle around a room.
- Look down at the floor a few feet (a meter or so) in front of you.
- Be mindful of every step--left, right, left right. (The same as you would your breath during a sitting meditation.)
- Pay attention to the sensations: Feel your foot hitting the floor. Feel the skin scraping against the ground. Just pay attention without evaluations or opinions. Keep your focus on each foot in turn.
That's it. You can also walk back and forth across a small area if going around in a circle weirds you out. If you tend to walk as your main form of transportation (or if you like to hike), this is an especially good method to use on your travels!
2. Binaural Beats
Binaural beats are forms of audio stimulation (similar to music, and sometimes working along with music) that can have an effect on your emotional state of mind. They make a great meditation alternative if you're not into total silence.
If your goal with meditation is to relax, manifest, or quiet your mind for some other goal-oriented reason, then there are binaural beats crafted especially for specific intentions. Check them out on Youtube. You can find plenty for free.
3. Juggling, Skateboarding, Cycling, Etc
Some people say that they find activities like juggling to be very meditative and people even use them as meditation alternatives.
This makes sense because meditation is little more than the practice of focusing on one thing so that you can be in the present moment. If there's an activity that helps you focus enough to no longer lose yourself in thoughts of the past and the future, then this might be a good method for you.
For some people, their goal with meditation is primarily to become conscious of the thoughts that are always floating around in the mind. If you find that these thoughts are very intrusive for you, perhaps a good alternative to meditation (or supplement) would be some self-inquiry work with journaling.
Just focus on the empty page or on your empty word processor and let your thoughts come out without censoring them. From there, you can examine the recurring theme of your thoughts in a more self-aware way. This is especially helpful if you do it regularly and get a feel for your habitual thinking over a long period of time.
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5. Mindfully Mundane Work
Some people make their work into a meditation alternative, especially if the work is mundane and doesn't require a lot of thinking. Have you ever met someone who found that cleaning their house was very zen for them?
Maybe you don't have to clean your house if that's not what you're into, but other repetitive physical tasks, such as yard work or gathering wood, can become a meditation exercise for you. Just be sure to stay mindful of your wandering thoughts while you do it.
One of the reasons people really find art relaxing is because it allows you to enter a state of intense concentration. Whether it's painting or writing a novel, this state of focus helps to quiet thoughts about the rest of your life, which can give you some relief from the everyday grind.
Even if you don't see yourself as a "creative type," give it a try. Grab some markers and draw whatever your hand wants to draw without deciding what it's going to be ahead of time. Consider it some practice in letting go of expectations for a moment. You might be surprised at how naturally it all comes.
7. Forest Bathing
Some people call it hiking, others get fancy and call it "forest bathing," but the idea is that nature is one of the best medicines around. Going for a pointless walk in the woods and forgetting what exists outside of it for the duration of your walk is a good meditation alternative that can't be overlooked.
Notice the trees and all the plants and animals. Notice the little bigs crawling on the ground and how they live in their own little universe, completely unaware of the human world and its problems. It can really put things into perspective.
8. Flotation Tanks
Seems weird, but there are places you can go to be isolated from all outside stimulus, and these isolation/flotation tanks are gaining popularity. Basically, you go inside a dark chamber with water that has been salted to the point that your body will float with no effort. Sound has been dampened so that you won't be disturbed, either. The temperature will be comfortable so that you won't be focusing on the contrast between your skin and the water.
You basically lie there for a certain period of time, shut away from light, sound, and entertainment, and it helps you get more in touch with your inner self. If you have trouble cutting out all the distractions and sitting still, this meditation alternative might be extreme enough to quiet your mind. For some people, the experience can be life-altering.
9. Running Meditation
Just as you can do walking meditation, you can run in order to quiet your mind! For some people, this happens naturally, but it helps to focus on the present moment, as with all kinds of meditation.
If you're new to running, it's probably a good idea to check out some books from the library or look at some Youtube videos so that you know you're doing it safely.
10. More Physical Styles of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice, but one of its important aspects is that it offers many styles of meditation in many different physical positions. Sometimes sitting in the same way, in the same place gets tiring.
Explore a few different types of yoga and see what suits you best. Some can be physically challenging, but besides spiritual development, they also have the added advantage of stretching you out a bit.
11. Sacred Dance
Finally, all around the world there are many sacred dances that are meant to quiet the mind and allow us to enter that state of connection with the Universe more easily. These can be good meditation alternatives for people who prefer to move around a lot rather than sit and count breaths:
- Whirling (such as is seen among Sufi).
- Traditional South Asian dances.
- Whatever works for you. (If you can make up your own dance that silences your mind, then by all means do it, even if people will think you're weird without a tradition to back you up!)
Accepting the Now Through Mediation Alternatives
The most important thing about any meditation technique is that it should help you learn to focus on the present moment. Anxious thoughts, after all, tend to be about things we dislike that happened in the past or things we dread about the future.
In the present moment, though, we get a break from these seemingly endless thoughts that swing between the past and the future. We can just be ourselves, right now. If something helps you get in touch with that place, then great! And, similarly, if a meditation technique doesn't work for you, don't be afraid to try something else!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jorge Vamos
Lorna Lamon on August 23, 2019:
Excellent article and even though I do practice meditation I am also open to alternatives. Great variety of relaxing things to do when you need to calm your mind. Thank you for sharing.
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on August 22, 2019:
I really like these alterantives. My favorite is the alternative term of "Forest Bathing:.