The word ‘meditation’ is off-putting to many people, but meditation doesn’t have to be something intimidating that only ‘advanced’ yogis know how to do. In fact, I bet you already meditate and don’t even realize it. Here are four simple ways to try meditation.
1. Take a walk. Moving meditation is understood by a lot of athletes—when my husband mountain bikes, he’s meditating. You can try this form of meditation by stepping out your front door for a stroll. Focus on the feeling of your feet hitting the ground—and the feeling of picking up your feet as you take each step. If thoughts come to you, don’t judge yourself or be discouraged. Rather, think of your thoughts as bubbles. Acknowledge them and then let them drift by. Something else to consider is that your yoga practice is also a form of moving meditation. Try really getting inside of yourself, feeling the sensations that you’re experiencing instead of mindlessly just going from pose to pose.
2. Listen to music. Audio meditation is one of the most widely used—and rarely acknowledged—forms of meditation. Close the door, turn up your favorite tunes and listen. Without even realizing it, I’m sure that you already blast your favorite song or band and let your mind go as you listen to the music. Pay attention to how much happier and more relaxed you feel afterwards. It’s because you were just meditating.
3. Breathe. Breath is what makes a physical yoga practice special. Even the simplest yoga breathing techniques allow the practitioner to experience an almost instant state of calm. Couple this with flowing movement and you’re on your way to meditation bliss. One accessible breathing technique is the three-part breath. Imagine your lungs as pitchers. ‘Pour’ air into the bottom of your pitchers and work your way up—breathing into your belly (deep into your lungs), chest and throat. Take off one more bite of air and then exhale, ‘pouring’ the air first from the top—exhaling out your throat, chest and belly. Remember that we’re three-dimensional. Send your breath into your sides and back body. It might help to visualize breathing into the back of your heart and lungs.
4. Visualization. When I was preparing for natural childbirth, my midwife connected me with self-hypnotization. It was almost identical to some of my simple yoga meditations. This can be as basic as picturing yourself in your favorite place, feeling completely safe and content. For example, I loved hiking the mountain nearby my home when I lived in New Mexico. No matter where I am, I can shut my eyes and smell and feel the cool, crisp mountain air on my skin. I can hear the crunch of the trail under my feet. I can feel sweat pouring from my skin—and the endorphin rush—as I check out the view from the top of the mountain after my steep ascent. Maybe your place is a beach in Florida—it doesn’t matter. Close your eyes and go on vacation for a couple of minutes for a quick and refreshing meditation.
Like just about anything worth your time, meditation is something that takes practice. There are advanced forms of meditation that do require skill and knowledge, but there are also easily accessible forms of meditation that we already do without even thinking about. Learning to calm and refresh yourself in a short period of time is something that will help you be successful in any arena—and simply enjoy your life more.
So take a moment to walk in the park—even if you’re only in between phone calls at your desk—or really make your 30-minute workout count by staying present. Too much of our time is spent doing one thing while thinking about another. You might find that these simple meditation techniques are just what you need to begin quieting a noisy mind—and finding the joy in your present moment.