Here is an article I wrote recently for a fitness magazine in answer to the question: What is active meditation and how can it help people who are just beginning meditation. Especially people with busy minds and challenges such as ADHD?
If there is one thing I could say to help every single person on the planet, I would say MEDITATE!!! The impact is profound and it is what I believe will actually support the evolution of our species and the rebalancing of our world. BOLD STATEMENTS for sure and my deepest conviction. The good news is there is a kind of meditation for everyone. Read on and hopefully you will find one that works really well for you.
This is a fantastic subject that I am excited to share about. I am a certified Kripalu yoga and meditation teacher and the co-creator of a breath based meditation practice that helps people calm their physical, mental and emotional distress and easily shift into a space of peace and empowerment. I am also trained in many meditation practices. I have a personal propensity for active meditation so this subject is near and dear to my heart.
It is my life’s work to share these amazing practices with as many people as possible. I have taught and facilitated thousands of people from executives, to children, people with physical, emotional and mental disabilities and many, many people who have never meditated before. It is profoundly moving to me, still!, after all these years, to see the gentle and powerful shifts people make even after as little as five or ten minutes of practice.
When I was first introduced to meditation it was through the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and the type of yoga that was taught there was called MEDITATION IN MOTION!!!!
I have practiced this and many other types of active meditation over the past forty years and am delighted to pass on some of my suggestions for beginnings.
Meditation in motion as a yoga practice is a very slow series of gentle stretching movements that are done while also slowing down the breath and focusing the mind on the sensations, feelings, thoughts and life force as they move, shift and change during each stretch.
The premise of meditation in motion is that western culture is so busy and hyperactive that the tradition of seated meditation is very challenging and quickly leads to a sense of failure and conclusion that “I can’t meditate”
When the focus of the mind is on the activity of stretching, breathing, and paying attention to the details of each moment, there is plenty for the typical person to “do” and thus it is more engaging and leads to a surprisingly easy adjustment into a more mindful and meditative state.
One of the most common beginner level active meditation practices is called The Body Scan.
While seated in a comfortable position, the person simply focuses their attention on a starting point in the body, often the top of the head. With a slow sweeping awareness, they pay attention to the sensations they notice and report them outloud. Gradual they allow their attention to sweep down through the body and continue to report even the most simple and mundane of sensations.
Here is a typical example. “back of neck – tight and tingling, right shoulder – hot and aching, heart beating- fast, stomach- gurgling arms – relaxed, low back – gripping on left side, feet – cold.
With each sensation reported, the person also takes in a slow breath as if to send oxygen to the place of focus and on the exhale offers a gentle suggestion to the sensations to soften. The overall intention is acceptance of what is happening and noticing the shifts and changes that occur as the body scan is continued.
I have used this practice for hyperactive teenagers and also at the beginning of Executive Board meetings, as well as with every single client and it is so successful at quickly and easily helping people to shift and settle into a more centered state.
Other examples of active meditation are:
Walking meditation – simply walking slowly, in a natural setting if possible, with the focus of attention on each placement of the foot and synchronizing your breathing with your movement. The attention shifts back and forth from the placement of the foot to the details of nature as you move slowly and mindfully.
Heart Coherence is a beautiful and simple active meditation that also allows beginners to achieve amazing health benefits and feeling states of inspiration, hope and connection.
Seated in a comfortable position, place your hands over your heart. Breathe into the heart for a moment or two. Then bring your mental attention to the heart. This is called Mind Heart Coherence. Just these two simple steps help to regulate the heart rate, blood pressure and also harmonizes the right and left hemisphere of the brain.
The next step is to focus on something or someone that you appreciate, are grateful for or have compassion for. This meditative act of focusing on positive regard for someone or something is very engaging and often deeply moving for the practitioner.
The HeartMath Institute developed this practice and has done scientific research on the positive effects on brain and heart health. They have also measured the ability of this Heart Coherence practice to actually impact change in the reported sense of peace and well being for the practitioner and when practiced in a group setting for the entire group.
One more active meditation practice that is easily learned and can be done silently and therefore is very applicable even in busy situations is Word Repetition.
In eastern meditation traditions this is called Mantra Meditation.
The practitioner simply chooses a word or a phrase that is inherently soothing such as Peace, Calm, or a phrase such as I am Peace, I am Calm, I am Safe and at Ease.
Sometimes it can be helpful to use a phrase that is in a foreign language so that the mind does not get caught up in fighting with the statement and responding with such things as “that is not true, I am not peaceful” etc.
OM is the most common simple word repetition meditation which translates into English as ONE. The science behind OM is amazing. Repeating this word and especially speaking it out loud on the slow exhale creates a vibration that is said to calm the nervous system, balance the brain, regulate the heart and bring harmony to all of the glands and organs of the body. The frequency of OM is said to be the exact same as the rotation of the earth around its axis so it could be said that the Earth is chanting OM. This is a beautiful, simple meditation for people who feel deep distress about climate change and the well being of our planet and natural world. Chanting OM allows our earth body to come into balance and also can be considered a way to support the balance and harmony of our planet.
The goal of this kind of meditation is NOT to stop the mind but to give the mind the prompt to focus on the experience of each moment. When the mind shifts into its higher function of focused observation and awareness there is an instant calming effect. Even when the mental chatter continues in the background, it becomes something to notice instead of something to react to or carried away by. The same goes for physical sensations and emotions. They can be noticed, felt, and ALLOWED to exist. This may be the most empowering and relieving benefit of all mediation and especially active meditation. There is nothing we need to do to change our experience. Simply being with what is happening with presence, breath, focused attention and acceptance reveals the greatest secret that we humans are here to discover. Life knows how to restore balance and harmony on its own when we allow it to through these meditative practices. Our natural state is one of equilibrium and equanimity. When we allow the waves of life to flow in a state of focused attention, we discover that they move to shore on their own and carry us to our shore of ease and clarity.
I hope you will give active meditation a try dear reader. Please let me know how it goes and send me any questions or share your experience with me.
And please consider a complimentary consultation if you would like some support with your meditation practice.
Be Well and Blessing on your meditation practice.