woman having trouble meditationDoes the world really need another post on meditation? Probably not. But there’s a reason it gets lots of attention. Meditation’s benefits are numerous, including training a restless mind to thrive in that elusive present moment. That reason alone may be worth trying for many of us. 

But what if you’re bad at it?

Long-practicing gurus will remind us there’s no such thing as being bad at meditation, that we are only beginners and shouldn’t judge ourselves as we work to get  better. 

Yeah, but…

It doesn’t feel that way when you sit down to practice and five seconds in, counting your third breath, you start wondering which kid you will strangle first to break up the wrestling match on the second floor, or has the air conditioner always been this loud blowing through the overhead vents, and did Carole Baskins really feed her missing husband to the big kitties on Tiger King?

Confused couple watching TV
What did we just watch?

Experts remind us to let these rogue thoughts go, to visualize clearing them away with the gentle sweep of a beautiful feather. Is something wrong with me then, if I imagine drop kicking them instead, into the street where I see them getting flattened by a cartoon steamroller? 

Wait… where was I?

Thought Flattening Steam Roller
Anyone need some pesky thoughts flattened?

 Oh yeah… something about the benefits of meditation.

Tim Ferriss, who wrote the 4-Hour Workweek, has an excellent podcast where, in his words, he “deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use.” If there’s one common denominator he points to that connects the uber successful, it’s meditation.

That’s a big endorsement.

But meditation, the way it’s commonly taught, sitting in a comfortable position but not too comfortable, breathing in and out and counting those breaths, while trying to clear your mind, vexes me. Something about that sudden stillness makes random thoughts rush me like a surging tidal wave.

Me attempting regular medtiation

Yet, after years of attempting that seated, try-to-still-your-mind meditation, only to get frustrated and stop trying altogether until some article with an enviable list of meditation benefits lured me back for one more go, I noticed something. 

Some other activities gave me the same meditative benefits multiple experts had touted. I also recognized that certain periods of my life where I did these activities more often, were some of the most calm, peaceful, and centered times of my life. 

Only then did I realize I’m better suited to moving meditation.

So, what is moving meditation?

You can probably find multiple definitions for it. I’ve seen yoga movement mentioned as moving meditation. But I don’t count it for me since I don’t find it as peaceful and calm as some because I’m always wondering how long the freak-of-nature yoga instructor is going to make me hold the pretzel pose. And they’re all pretzel poses to me.

For me to count something as moving meditation, it must meet four essentials:

  1. I get lost in it and time gets bendy 
  2. It doesn’t involve electronic screens of any kind (no TV, computer, or handheld device)
  3. There’s enough concentration involved to root me in the present. (no ruminating on the past or agonizing over the future)
  4. I do it by myself

Below are my personal moving meditations that give me the benefits most often linked to regular meditation:

Since everyone’s different, what works for me may not work for you. Your goal is to find what does. If something doesn’t immediately spring to mind, try searching your past. Maybe there was something you did as a young child or a teen that you loved and got lost in. What was it? Would it be that hard to do it now? Or maybe it’s a new activity you haven’t discovered yet. Here are some to consider:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Woodworking
  • Building/assembling a model
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Hiking in nature
  • Cooking or baking for fun
  • Crafting
  • Planting and working a garden

Whatever it is, I believe the most important thing is you get lost in it without thinking about the past or future. Most of us have been on auto-pilot for some activities as our brains run amok, fretting over crushing worries and letting frustration weigh us down. That, my friends, is not a moving meditation, it’s a moving mess. If you don’t feel calm and and rejuvenated afterward, find something else. 

As big as this personal epiphany was when it came to me, another important one followed on its heels. When I began doing these moving meditations often, incorporating them back into my life after neglecting them for a long time, whenever I did sit down to attempt regular meditation once again, guess what…? 

It became easier.

In those moments I was suddenly able to channel my calmness from the other activities. Funny how that works.

Some may ask, if moving meditation gives me much of the benefits of regular meditation, why still try the latter?

Because… we can’t always stop the unpleasant thing we are doing during the day, and run off to do that activity that helps us get lost in the present and reenergizes us. Sometimes we are sitting in the way-too-long meeting, tempted to stand up and scream, and perhaps terrified that we just may do it. This is where practicing regular meditation pays dividends: to deepen your breath, calm your thinking, and have gratitude you are alive to experience all moments, good and bad. As you get better at the still meditation, you can access that state more easily no matter what you are doing and suddenly the down moments don’t feel as bad as they once did.

If you crave the benefits that regular meditation promises, but have rarely been able to sit still long enough to gain them, find a moving meditation to incorporate into your life and discover where it takes you.

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