There's always been a lot of talk about the benefits of meditating. Maybe your doctor suggested it for easing stress levels or you heard a famous athlete or musician talking about how it's rocked their world for the better. But when it comes to getting down to business and actually sitting there, in silence, the reality often doesn't seem to match the raves. Even seasoned meditators experience the boredom, restlessness and discomfort that causes a lot of newbies to quit before they really start.Credit: By Louwrents (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the biggest problems with the idea of meditating is that it's been built up to be some type of epic spiritual experience. Bestselling author Tim Ferriss, who's had a meditation practice for the past couple years suggests that the word "meditating" is a massive turn-off because we're likely to think it's something that's just for hippies or needs to be a spiritual experience.
In reality though, meditation is a fancy name for learning how to focus your mind. It's a helpful tool because most of us have minds that are in constant motion, a jumble of rambling thoughts, images and scenarios. We don't even really notice this chaotic action but behind the scenes, it has a byproduct that can negatively impact our physical and emotional health. Taking a little time to develop an awareness about how we think acts as a sort of balm that helps us develop some control versus being at the mercy of our psychic whims. So if the word "meditate" has never sat well with you, ditch it all together. Phrases like "sitting in stillness", "quiet time". "paying attention" really sum up the process.
The thing that most people don't tell you about meditating is that you're probably already doing it and if you're not, you're doing something every day where, with a little effort, you can sneak in a little practice without spending any extra time.Credit: "Flickr - Nicholas T - Country Drive" by Nicholas A. Tonelli from Pennsylvania, USA - Country Drive. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_Nicholas_T_-_Country_Drive.jpg#med
A perfect example of both of these is driving. Driving as a meditation? That's right! Think about it. Driving is one thing we do that requires extreme attention. If we're doing it the way our driving instructors taught us, we're paying attention to everything. Even our posture has intention. Both hands are on the wheel and we're sitting up straight. Our eyes are at fixed points and our mind is concentrating. That's meditation and if you drive in this way, congratulations, you can consider yourself an expert meditator!
Now on the flipside, if you're one of those drivers who can go for five miles and have no idea how you got from Point A to Point B (gasp, it happens!), this is a perfect opportunity of something that you do all the time where a bit of focus and mind control can turn an everyday thing into time spent meditating. Turn off music, podcasts or audio books. Pay attention to where your hands are. See how long you can focus on the task at hand without thinking about other parts of your life. And when you realise that those extra bits have come into your mind, and they will, return back to ensuring your hands are on the steering wheel and that your mirrors are in the right place. Bring your awareness back to what you are doing. This is meditation.
You might find it challenging. And sometimes you might find it boring. And other times you might find it super interesting and calming. Just keep practicing and with some time and effort, you'll start noticing some changes. You might sleep better. You might be able to prevent an emotional melt-down. You might become aware of when you need to take action or change a direction. But the bottom line is, a dedicated practice, doing normal, everyday things, can deliver you the same benefits that someone gets by sitting and looking like they're "meditating".
Here are other everyday things you do that can give you the benefits of meditation if you apply some mindfulness to them.
1. Doing the dishes - Shut off the television or any media. Focus on the movement of your hands and be present in the actions you do whether it's rinsing and loading the dishes into the dishwasher with care, putting cutlery away properly and wiping up counters. When you find your mind drifting, simply move back to the sponge you use or the warmth of soapy water.
2. Flossing and brushing your teeth - focus on each tooth, count them and give each one the same attention as the next. Concentrate on proper brushing and perhaps throw in a little gratitude for having the time to practice a healthy routine. See how long you can remain focused on your teeth and gums.
3. Making your bed - Make your bed as soon as you wake up. Take care with each step, smoothing the material so there are no wrinkles. Fluff the pillows, shake out the comforters. Focus solely on what you are doing and when your mind drifts, come back to the action.Credit: "Coffeee img451" by Nevit Dilmen (talk) - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coffeee_img451.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Coffeee_img451.jpg
4. Having a cup of tea or coffee - Observe the color of the coffee and how it blends and changes when you add milk to it. Be mindful of the stirring and feel the heat before you bring it to your mouth. Savour the taste and smell. Enjoy it without any media stimulation, paying sole attention to the experience of the drink.
5. Washing your face - Go through a skin ritual, using it as a time to honour your face. As the soap moves from area to area, think of that region and how you are cleaning and nurturing it. Observe the unique parts of your skin. Imagine that every stroke is a statement of gratitude for your skin and how it serves you. If your mind drifts to another thought, bring it back to this moment to enjoy being present and loving to yourself.
These are just a few ideas of the everyday things we do that can morph from mindless, automatic motions to moments of authentic meditation. What everyday thing do you use as a meditation? Share it below.
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