How To Meditate If You Can't Sit Still
You’ve probably heard all about how good meditation is for you. Clarity of mind, calm thoughts, focus, creativity. Awesome rewards, right? Especially for a mom of active young kids.But when you are a busy mom with active kids who have active schedules, finding the time and focus to meditate feels especially far away. Sitting still, in silence, for an extended period of time? That feels like bliss, but probably unattainable.Even if you can find the time, how do you clear your head of the to-do list, the things forgotten that need to be dropped off, the appointments, the everything that you need to track as a mom of little people? How do you manage to sit still?Well, maybe you can’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of meditation at all. If you cultivate the practice of paying attention, even if you aren’t sitting still, you can learn how to meditate in motion.Here are some ideas for meditation that don’t require you to stop moving:
Walk With Intention
You can practice this one whether you are going for a long walk or just walking across a parking lot. Focus your attention on your breath. Notice how your lungs feel as they expand and contract. See if you can feel the air moving past your lips, or into your nostrils. Slow your breath, deepen it. Notice your feet and how they connect with the ground. See if you can feel the pressure of the soles of your feet all the way from heel to toe. Slow your steps (not if you in a parking lot!) to really feel the whole movement of each step.
Repeat Repeat Repeat
It may seem counter-intuitive, but I find my best movement meditations happen when I’m doing something active, but repetitive. Like shoveling dirt from one place to another in the garden, swimming laps, spinning yarn, or knitting on a simple pattern. I've heard other describe the same benefits from running and practicing Nia. Clear head, in the midst of motion. Just concentrate on what you are doing, rather than what you are thinking about. Any time you notice you are wrapped back up in “thinking about,” re-focus your attention on your activity, how your body feels, what your breath is doing. It takes a little bit of practice, but just keep coming back to focus your attention each time it strays.
Most of our breathing happens unconsciously (good thing!). But there’s a good reason that the first instruction of most meditation practices is, “focus on your breath.” It is always with you, it is repetitive, it is life-sustaining. The easiest and most accessible way to do this is to simply pause, wherever you are, and consciously take a few cycles of breath (Liz recommends 5 breaths as a great centering exercise). It might help to breathe in with a short mantra, like “I am here.” Then breath out with a different one, like “I am calm,” or “I am enough.” Bring your focus into your body, onto your inhalations and exhalations, and let go everything external for the length of those breaths.
Use Creative Focus
Last week I wrote about how coloring is a great way to relax, and I mentioned above that my head clears when I am knitting. Another way I love to calm my mind is with drawing. It is amazing how you can get to know the details of an object when you draw it. You don’t need to have great skills to do this. Try contour drawing, or just try to capture your impression of a scene or object. Notice not only what you can see, but what you can hear, smell, and feel. Get all of your senses engaged.
Although most Westerners think of Yoga as a form of exercise, the original intent of the asanas was to limber and strengthen the body and train the breath to support a meditation practice. In the right class and with the right teacher, yoga can be as meditative as, well, meditation. Look for a flow or Vinyassa class, which links the poses together to the rhythm of the breath. If you are looking for even deeper relaxation, try a gentle yoga or a restorative yoga class. I feel so calm and centered at the end of a restorative class.