Do what you love: small acts of daily meditation.

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While I’ve always maintained a strong interest in it, meditation has never really been my thing. Historically, it’s usually gone one of two ways for me:

  • I’d watch my thoughts (“like a waterfall,” as they say) zip and zap like lightning all over the map of my skull, disparate and brief and electric, and gone as soon as they’d appeared, until I’d become overwhelmed and agitated and shut the whole thing down.
  • I’d sit down to meditate, remember a thing I Had To Do, make a mental note, and then remember another thing I Had To Do, until the mental note became a mental list, and I’d become overwhelmed and agitated and shut the whole thing down.

I admit that meditation has become easier with practice, but even on my “best” meditative days,  I typically max out at fifteen minutes. Sitting still for long periods of time is not my thing.

Because many of my clients are overachievers and perfectionists, I hear the same frustrations from them about trying meditation – if I can’t do it right, why would I do it at all? Who has the time to sit and do nothing when there is so much to DO in the day? Understanding this sentiment, working with my own Perfectionistic and Overachieving Parts, and not wanting to push something that doesn’t need to be pushed, I say, “Right. Exactly. Let’s go ahead and not do that.”

So what, then?

Well, what if meditation doesn’t have to be such a structured and specific practice? While we envision the cross-legged, thumb-to-finger pose of a silent yogi (which is of course one way to do it), what if meditation can be many different things, for as long or as short of a time as one wants it to be? The process of mindfulness, of being in and appreciating the moment, can look a lot of different ways, after all. If we remove the perceived rules from the thing, we might notice ourselves appreciating all over the place. Hearing your child play an instrument. The beauty of a first snowfall. The first bite of a rich chocolate cake.

Dancing in the shower. The morning crossword puzzle. A hike in the winter. Journalling at the end of the day. The possibilities are infinite.

In my own case, meditation is often walking a loop around town with the same song blaring over and over on my headphones. I know this doesn’t sounds particularly meditative, and I have no idea how I landed on it, but I’ve been doing it since high school, and it works for me. I find it immediately grounding and restorative, and it totally clears my head. I don’t know WHY it feels great to walk with my music. It JUST DOES.

So here’s a brief how-to on recognizing meditative moments, and and practicing meditation in daily life:

  1. Think of the things you love to do, that ground you, organize you, and bring you into the moment. Don’t discount anything because it sounds non-meditative. Maybe make a list with different colored pens. Maybe making the list with different colored pens is the meditative thing (one of my clients swears by this)!
  2. Do the things you love to do. Notice how you feel when you do them. Look for feelings of coming into yourself, and feelings of centeredness. You’ll know it when you do it (you may know what it is already).
  3. Give yourself the space and time to do that thing, every day. Even if it’s for five minutes. Even if you have to tie it into a productive thing on your to-do list – whatever. It still counts.
  4. Recognize small moments of grace – when appreciation of beauty wells up un-summoned, just because. That’s the stuff life is made of, and that’s meditation, too.
  5. Congratulate yourself on incorporating a meditation practice into your daily life.

So let’s disabuse ourselves of this notion that we’re doing it wrong. Set yourself free of the rules and expectations, find your unique outlets, and do the things you love.

Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych

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