What comes to mind when you think of meditation?
A silent retreat in a pretty location?
A cozy yoga studio?
Sitting in the wee hours of the morning?
Or maybe your racing thoughts slowly driving you nuts, or a lower back that feels stiff and sore from sitting?
Meditation is a powerful, centering practice that can help us become more creative, and cope better with depression and pain. For some, it’s simply a way to manage stress, and for others it’s also a path to spiritual connection with the universe and all its beings.
Even though meditation can be healing and restorative, the fact of the matter is that many of us struggle to invite stillness into our bodies and minds.
As a yoga teacher and self-care coach I frequently witness people’s initial resistance to meditation. I hear clients say:
“Meditation just seems so boring.”
“I HATE sitting still!”
“I’m trying as hard as I can, but I can’t slow my thoughts down.”
When I teach quiet, gentle poses in yoga lessons there is often a student desperately waiting for the rest and quiet to be over, while they fidget or sigh audibly.
I have definitely been that restless student, and still struggle to be in the here and now at times!
And it’s ok. In fact it’s thoroughly human.
After all, our culture is one of pushing and accomplishing, so it’s no wonder that when we try to become still, our thoughts start to whir and we become aware of the tiniest thing that itches or the slightest discomfort in our bodies. We impatiently await the opportunity to quit being with our thoughts and get back to doing things already!
During those times when you are slogging through a seated meditation or avoiding it altogether, give yourself permission to find another option that feels good today. Practice mindful self-compassion by letting your meditation practice be as accessible as you need it to be and you’ll let go of dread and embrace more peace.
That’s what it’s all about anyway.
So, if you’ve got a foot compulsively tapping, you’re bored, or it’s simply too chilly to sit still, try this simple walking meditation instead.
Stand quietly with your knees slightly bent. Slow your breath and soften your gaze. Visualize how it might look to breathe each breath all the way up from the soles of your feet, to the crown of your head.
When you’re ready, as you breathe in, slowly peel your right heel off the ground, rolling forward until you can lift your entire foot and toes off the ground. If your balance allows it, let that foot hover above the ground for a brief moment.
Then, as you exhale, step slightly forward by placing your right heel on the ground and gently rolling your weight forward. Exhale fully.
On your next inhalation, slowly lift your left foot off the ground, and as you exhale, place your weight softly into your heel and gently roll forward again.
Let your breath initiate each movement as you continue to slowly and intentionally sync your breath with your steps.
When you’re done, pause with your knees slightly bent, close your eyes, and take a couple of deep breaths. Again, visualize your breath moving from the soles of your deeply grounded feet, and up through the crown of your head, toward the sky.
If it feels easier to have a start and end time, you might set a timer for your practice or decide on a distance like up and down the hallway or your driveway a set number of times. For however long you practice this meditation, keep bringing your mindful awareness to your breath.
You may be surprised at how a meditation in motion can bring stillness to your mind.
Emily Burrows is a self-care coach and yoga teacher, and a fierce advocate for self-compassionate, body positive living. Find more mindfulness tips and a self-care action planning guide www.emilyburrows.com.