Movement Meditation…When You Can’t Sit Still
If the number one hurdle between you and meditation is the fact that it requires you to sit still then I have some good news!
Just this week I had two people (a friend and a client) inquire whether they could “cheat the system” and move while meditating.
My first instinct is to just give it to them straight, ‘You must train yourself to sit in stillness.’
After all, this is how I began. But I begin a lot of things in a strict no-wiggle-room kind of way. I like a good challenge and ya know what’s a good challenge? Sitting still…without a device or distractions!
Truthfully, this was the challenge I set for myself (it’s not for everyone), along with the thought, ‘If those monks can sit for hours, I can sit for ten measly minutes…if it’s the last thing I do’!!!!!!
There are some people who genuinely cannot sit still effectively in meditation. Don’t believe this is you just because you don’t want to sit still.
If you’re just beginning, it’s important to alternate between both- sitting one day in meditation and using movement the next time you meditate.
After years of meditation practice there are days when I can’t (don’t want to) sit still. Usually this signals to me that I need it even more, but it’s nice to gradually get back to my regular practice by mixing in movement from time to time.
There’s no reason you can’t enjoy plenty of mindful movement and meditation techniques. They can be as beneficial as the sitting type.
Our body was made to move! I bet you have experienced getting “in the zone” when running or walking. Perhaps you think of Yoga or Tai Chi as meditative movement. These forms of repetitive exercise can feel good for our mind, body, and soul.
The goal is to connect our mind and body into one cohesive, happy unit.
GUIDELINES OF MOVEMENT MEDITATION:
Slow: Sorry runners, but mindful and meditative movement should be slow. Slow creates calm. Running produces a myriad of benefits such as feel-good endorphins to ward off depression, but skip this one as a meditative exercise. “In the zone” is not the same as meditation. Doing something slowly allows us to become aware of many events in our body in just one single motion.
No fitness goal: Meditative movement should not involve a fitness goal. One of the beautiful things about meditation is not having hidden judgments or expectations of the moment or your experience. If you already practice yoga with hopes of advancing certain postures then you should try another form of movement for your meditation practice. Needles to say…no speed-walking!
The whole body: Be attentive to all parts of your body when practicing meditative movement. Pay attention to muscles as they contract and sensations in your body as you move; the gravity of various parts of your body through movement. This also aids in discovering which parts of our body you ignore or have body issues with. In mindful movements, you can connect to all parts without judgment; only loving-kindness (self-compassion) and self-awareness.
No gadgets: Gadgets such as your Fitbit or yoga gear for some exercises are considered distractions in meditation. You may need a yoga mat or a cushion and that’s fine.
TRY THESE MINDFUL AND MEDITATIVE MOVEMENTS:
Gratitude Stretching: Keeping flexible helps maintain a good range of motion. You can add meditation to the benefits of stretching. Try thoroughly stretching your body, part by part or muscle by muscle. Relax into each stretch. As you stretch your legs, say, “Thank you legs (or quadriceps) for keeping me mobile!” Working your way through your body, “Thank you spine for keeping me stable.”
Mindful Movements: For some people there will be a learning curve as you try mindful movements such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or even yoga. You can find video instruction on YouTube or for purchase on Amazon. (Check out this video for Tich Naht Hanh’s traditional mindful movement sequence.)
Synching Breathing with Motion: Breath is a signature focus in traditional meditation, and it can be in movement meditations as well. Try a movement sequence that pairs your breath with your movements. While sitting down, raise your arms up as you breathe in and lower them slowly as you exhale. Standing up, breathe in, bending over exhale. You can create your own sequence.
Dancing/Monkey Movements: Maybe you just want to move freely or you’re helping your kids become more mindful through movement. You can have fun with this one. You and your child can pretend to be monkeys. Move how you think a monkey in the wild might, creating your own monkey movements or dance moves.
Self-massage: Grab your favorite smelling lotion and gently massage your body (lightly, nothing vigorous) beginning with toes up to your legs or focus only on your feet.
Kundalini Yoga: This type of yoga incorporates specific movements, breathing exercises, and mantra chanting. It’s a very in-depth, but rewarding practice that is best with a teacher’s guidance or a detailed video series.
Mindful Walking: Taking a mindful walk is one of the best movement meditations! This type of walking does not focus on getting from point A to point B. It focuses on the journey, specifically paying attention and noticing your journey instead of speeding by it wondering how you got to point B.
How to take a mindful walk:
This isn’t going to be a typical walk.
Here’s one way: During this walk you will spend a couple of minutes on each sense. For instance, you can grab a leaf or a flower and walk with it in your hand, feeling its texture and discovering sensations in your fingers.
For sound you can truly listen to the sounds around you even if it’s city noise or birds, a water source, leaves rustling. Whatever. See if you discover a noise you wouldn’t necessarily notice on an ordinary walk- maybe you can hear a bee buzzing or bark chips crunching underfoot!
Next, smell the air around you. Any particular aromas? For taste, you can simply focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your mouth, practicing slow purposeful exhales.
MOVEMENT VS. STILLNESS
I would encourage you to try both movement and traditional sitting meditation. What you may find is it wasn’t necessarily sitting still you took issue with but being with your thoughts.
Helpful hint: Incorporating more everyday mindfulness activities such as adult coloring, golfing, and mindful cooking essentially “trains” you to settle for sitting your tush down on a meditation cushion.
Meditation has been a natural part of human history for centuries. Somewhere in your DNA lies the memory for meditation.
Bottom line is find what works for YOU!