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By Katie Marshall
From one person with ADD to another, nothing about sitting still and deeply breathing sounds appealing. For those of us yearning to connect with the energy of the universe and make sense of our inner monologue but will leave a movie that lasts longer than two hours (plus previews? I mean???) here are eight ways to meditate while moving.
1. If you never cursed more than when your friend brought you to Yoga or Pilates and you couldn’t hear the instructor over your internal screaming, Tai Ji is for you. Tai Ji (“Tai Chi”) is the Chinese art of balancing “Qi” or energy through moving meditation. It is known as an internal martial art, and as such, is easily underestimated. “Old people in parks do it, it looks ridiculous” etc, etc.
After practicing Tai Ji for a couple of years, I can tell you that these techniques are not only challenging, they are bad ass. Tai Ji is definitely meditative, but each technique can be quickly applied in a combat situation. There’s a reason why those old people in the park are smiling while they do these motions and walk in circles: because they are at peace with the fact that they could totally kick your ass. Tai Ji requires deliberate movement and true physical and mental presence. It is as soothing as it is challenging.
2. Zen Tangle is a new doodle movement that gives your inner artist a chance to find some peace. The website and book offer instructional art pieces that focus on deliberate strokes, because, as the website says, “by practicing the Zen Tangle method to make each stroke deliberate, you understand how those apparently small and insignificant ‘strokes’ of our moment to moment lives contribute to an overall life pattern.” The “tangles” are simple, yet beautiful, pieces that require you to draw repeated patterns, forcing you to focus while drawing. Plus, doodling is proven to stimulate your brain and creativity.
3. Go clean your room. Not because you’re in trouble, but because putting your belongings in order, or in a new place than before, can be quite meditative. Plus, finding clothes and books to get rid of or even sell is both financially and mentally beneficial. I heard once that you can determine a person’s mental state by the way their room looks. It’s okay if you don’t believe it, but if you are feeling anxious; take stock of the way your room looks. Is it messy? Clean it. You might just feel better – and finally find that other sock.
4. What if the trick to enhancing your memory, organizational skills, and coordination was also beautiful to listen to? Playing an instrument does all of these things and more for your brain. If you’ve never played an instrument before, a good starter instrument is the ukulele, which you can purchase for less than $60 and can learn how to play for free from YouTube videos and at least one of your hipster friends. Besides, few things are as soothing to the soul as music.
5. A desk job is practically kryptonite to someone who hates sitting still. Add the pressure of a deadline and your boss’ approval, it’s almost impossible to accomplish anything in a timely manner. About a year ago, while scanning for classical music to help me focus, the recommended video list included one called “Intense ADD relief,” leading me to Mind Amend videos on YouTube. Jason Lewis has looped orchestral music, beach sounds, and piano with Isochronic tones and binaural beats in the background, both of which signal brain stimulation and encourage focus. It’s like the Hulk version of Bach and Mozart, encouraging you to finish your work, or else.
6. Counting calms us in many ways – counting sheep to fall asleep or counting to 10 while breathing in and out to relax. It’s something we all know how to do and is readily accessible. However, for when you need to move to find stillness, applying exercises that require you to keep track – sit-ups, push-ups, squats – can help you. I underestimated counting as a meditation technique until an instructor explained that if you count while doing something, you are teaching your brain to focus on two things at once, keeping you alert and present in the moment. That’s whole point of meditating, isn’t it?
7. Brainstorming and day dreaming are two of my favorite activities because both inspire creativity and let the brain run free. However, one of the key principles to meditation is focusing and directing your thoughts. One meditation instructor told me once to see my thoughts, acknowledge them, and then let them go. The next time you’re waiting for something – your table to be ready, your tank to fill up – start with one thought, then build off of it. For example, start with a color (Blue). Then think of all the blue things you know. (Blue berries, the ocean, the sky, Facebook, crayons, Blue Ivy….) At one point or another, your brain will try to jump to another topic; direct your thoughts to keep thinking of blue things. When you finish with blue, pick another color. For added spiritual benefit, think of why you are grateful for each thing you’ve listed.
8. The purpose of meditation, or at least one of them, is to be as present and at peace as possible. The good news is, being in the present moment is something you can practice with anything you do. The next time you’re at a live, local show, dancing with your friends, think about what you’re doing. I am dancing. I am with people I love. I am drinking a pumpkin beer even though it is early September. I am smiling. When you’re walking, think, I am walking. I am putting my right foot in front of my left. I am moving forward. I know this narration may sound like it would take you out of the moment, but actually, it puts you right in it. Focusing on exactly what you are doing at the moment is one of the best ways to meditate without having sit uncomfortably on a pillow, field, or anywhere else.
Now, take a deep breath, get up, and go find your peace, you wandering soul.
Image: Camila Damasio