Monday, June 23, 2014

Accidental Meditation: You Mean I'm Already Meditating?

   I have a confession: I'm a terrible meditator. I want to be good at it, I TRY to be good at it, but I find it very hard to sit still for even a few minutes without all these thoughts going through my head like "You should be working, think of all you could get done right now, you should go for a run, you need to do the laundry today..." on and on--the list is endless. Here's the thing: I thought I was the only one or one of a minority of people, who find it hard to sit still. I'm a mover-I love moving around throughout the day so even sitting in front of a computer is really a struggle for me. I know it's good to take frequent breaks anyway, but my breaks become longer and longer while I find more things to do away from my Mac and my work. When I go on a walk or run or when I swim laps at the gym, I find it so much easier to just be mentally quiet and really observe my surroundings and just BE in the moment. Are you like this also? If so, you need to read the article below by J.C. Peters entitled "Accidental Meditation: You're Already Doing It."
If you prefer to listen to this in podcast form on your phone or laptop, medium Laura Evans reads it on this free download here:

   This article explains in an easy-to-understand format the way our brains are built to wander and how we are already meditating sometimes whether we realize it or not. She talks about repetitive activity being the perfect conduit for meditation because it frees up our right brain to have a physical, present moment experience. As she says "We all need moments where the mind can wander, and if we don't sit still in mindful meditation the brain will figure out a way to zone out."
So if you're like me and find it hard to sit still but you feel like you should be meditating, take heart--you probably already are.  Or, as J.C. Peters says "You're not bad at meditating, you're just human with a brain."

Wed, October 30 2013

Accidental Meditation: You're Already Doing it


Most people think they are bad at meditating. Can’t sit still and turn your thoughts off for at least 20 minutes? You’re not bad at meditating, you’re just a human with a brain.
Actually, most of us already meditate—we just do it accidentally. You know that feeling when you are taking a shower, and the warm water pours over your body, and you forget what you were rushing to get ready for? Time disappears for a moment, and when you step out of the shower you snap out of it. Maybe you’ve driven down a long empty road with no traffic, and suddenly you’ve hit the next town. This feeling of time lapsing and your thoughts tumbling freely like dryer sheets happens all the time: on walks or runs, in the moments before you fall asleep, when you are staring out a bus window, or daydreaming in a waiting room.
We all need moments where the mind can wander, and if you don’t sit still in mindful meditation, the brain will figure out a way to zone out. Meditation doesn’t have a standard definition because it’s something different depending on which tradition you are working within. Most meditations are essentially techniques for releasing the hold of the moment-to-moment crush of daily life so we can slip into a quieter place where we can connect to our bodies, our intuitions, or perhaps some form of spirituality. 
One way of thinking about this (greatly simplified) is that most of the time, we are very active in the left brain hemisphere, which governs language, analysis, rational thought, and planning for the future. The right brain doesn’t have language, and governs our experiences of sensation, image, intuition, and energy. We live in a world that privileges our left brain, and we feed our information addictions constantly through our smartphones. We need to balance that with moments where we can slip off to a space where time stops its incessant tick, and we can access our subconscious, emotional, and creative selves.
When accidental meditations happen, the left brain is occupied with a repetitive task that’s familiar enough that it doesn’t require a full engagement. Showering, walking, or figuring out where to put your foot in a yoga class can give your analytical left brain something to do, which frees up the right brain to have a physical, present-moment experience. Even forms of classical meditation, like repeating a mantra over and over in your mind, are essentially techniques for occupying your left brain so that you can slip into a different state.
This different state often means your brain is in an alpha brainwave rhythm, a relaxed, open-minded experience where creativity is at its most potent. When we are stressed and over focused, we can’t see any new ways of thinking. Alpha state blurs our sense of boundaries and rationality, so new ideas and connections can appear. That’s why we often get our best ideas in the shower.
You know, then, that you are already a great meditator, whether you mean to be or not. Creating more opportunities to enter into this creative state is as easy as incorporating more light, repetitive, physical activity, like walking, into your day. Next time you are sitting on a bus, resist the urge to check your phone: just stare out the window. Knitting, cooking, and cleaning can also be very effective accidental meditations. The more mindful these meditations become, the less accidental they are. Soon enough, you may notice yourself getting stuck worrying about the future or trying to think out a problem, so you stop and try one of these activities instead. You may even decide to sit still for 20 minutes, and find out that meditation on purpose isn’t so bad, after all.
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