So let me be honest – I have been a pretty tightly wound person in my life so meditation is not a practice that comes easily to me. But I am working on it! And I must say, that meditation helps you calm that annoying mind that is always worrying and problem solving and making “to do” lists and arguing with my mother, and, and, and… Meditation is an ancient practice that is designed to help us quiet what is called the “monkey mind” to find more peace and centeredness. There are different types of meditation and like other tools on this site, use your own intuition to guide you to the right one for you.
A great book is Journey of Awakening: A Meditator’s Guidebook by Ram Daas. He makes meditation really easy to understand and gives you simple and accessible ways to start. It really helped me feel like this was something I could do without having to first become someone I am not (i.e., calm and centered). Ram Dass offers great online materials and retreats on meditation.
The value and power of meditation is highlighted in Susan Cain’s recent book and TED talk on the power of quiet and solitude. Our greatest moments of inspiration and creativity come from those still spaces when we can hear our inner guidance.
For me, I have had to start with meditation practices where the body is active, also known as moving meditations. Walking meditations were good starting places for me, but you can also meditate while cleaning your dishes or swimming in a pool. You just have to choose a physical activity that is rhythmical enough to be calming and that is fairly safe for you and others (i.e., driving heavy machinery is not a good choice!).
The whole point is to stay present in the moment. Sounds easy but it’s actually quite hard to do because our “monkey mind” wants to take us out of the present and either into the past (reliving that frustrating conversation with your brother) or the future (fantasizing about your next vacation). To meditate, you put your attention on something in the moment and when you notice that your mind is off thinking about the movie you just saw or making a to do list, you simply bring your mind back to the thing you want to focus on.
So far, I can go about 60 seconds of staying focused, and that’s a great improvement over my initial place of 5 seconds (not kidding!). But I can refocus over and over again during the activity and I find that just doing that is really helpful.
My favorite type of moving meditation is walking, which you can do anywhere but I found that nature is the best place. A hike in the woods or a stroll along the beach are great meditations, as long as you keep bringing yourself back into the moment – listening to the waves and feeling the sand between your toes or listening to your breathing and looking at the trees. I also love fly fishing – it’s truly the most zen like thing I have ever experienced – but it requires some preparation and gear. If you ever get the chance, check it out.
One of my favorite types of moving meditation is walking a labyrinth. It’s an ancient practice that has enthusiasts all over the world. Some great sites to learn more are:
- The Labyrinth Society
- Veriditas: The Labyrinth Experience
- Worldwide Labyrinth Locator
- Information on Labyrinths
- Online Labyrinth
There is probably at least one walking labyrinth in your area and an online search will help you find it. I have found that many religious organizations and retreat centers have them but if you don’t find one, you can make your own with some rocks or string. There are even small desk versions that you trace with your finger!
Some people really enjoy doing meditation classes and retreats so check that out for yourself as well. Some really good ones are:
Again, there are probably local options in your area so explore that as well. A couple of friends have even traveled to Tibet and Bali to attend meditation retreats at spiritual centers with Monks, so a lot of fun can be had in developing your meditation practice.