Question #6

Here comes question #6:

I’ve tried and tried and I just don’t do well with sitting meditation. Are there any alternatives to traditional meditation practices?

IMG_20120821_175342If you’re finding that a traditional sitting meditation isn’t doing it for you right now, or in general, there are indeed alternatives.

So one of the intentions of meditation is to calm the mind (and body, too!), right? To do that we need to reduce the cycles per second of our brain wave activity. (And please know that I know I am greatly simplifying all of the intentions and outcomes of traditional meditation here.)

An Alpha brain wave state (8-12 cycles per second) is a light meditative state, great for imaginative thinking, mental concentration and learning, and access to intuitive processes.

A Theta brain wave state (4-8 cycles per second) is a deeper meditative state. Access to unconscious material can happen at this level.

With that said, and with that specific intention for your mind-calming activities, there are many things you can do to induce those brain wave states. Over the years, most of my bodywork clients fluctuate between Alpha and Theta. So there’s one for you: get some bodywork done! With the right practitioner who knows your intentions, you can find moments to clear your mind and calm your body, releasing its holdings.

Here are some other meditation alternatives that I do:

Walking meditation. Walk quietly, by yourself, with intention. Notice all of your senses activated and just notice. Feel your bodily sensations as you walk. Just make note of them without judgment. Sure, just like in sitting meditation, thoughts will float through you mind. Let them coast on by and focus on a leaf or the feeling in you left toe or the sound your breath makes inside your own head. And though I haven’t yet tried these forms of moving meditation, I hear that Tai Chi and Qi Gong are marvelous ways to get yourself into a meditative state.

Afternoon rest meditation. I bet you’re laughing at this one. I’ve made up this one, but it works for me. Some days at the 3:00pm to 4:00pm hour I hit my energy slump. When I do and I also feel like I have a crowded mind, I get into bed (or lie on the couch), put soft music on, and set my intention for allowing my subconscious to work on my issues while I rest my body. What’s interesting is that when I set the intention for this unorthodox meditation, I rarely fall asleep. I seem to float in an in-between place — between sleep and wakefulness — and yet I’m not thinking. It can last between 20 minutes to an hour and then I get up, usually with a clear mind and perhaps even a solution to a problem I didn’t even need to consciously think about. If you try this and always fall asleep, this might not be the best meditation practice for you.

Nature meditation. Sit somewhere in nature and take in its smells, sounds, and colors. Give yourself the permission to not think about to-do lists or problems. Just look at the ocean waves or stones or leaves or sky. When you find yourself taking a mind detour, look to nature to bring you back. Perhaps a beetle will walk by or you’ll notice a crow in a tree nearby. The essence of nature meditation is absorption. Smell the pine needles, taste the cool air.

Art meditation. I find creating art a meditative process at times, but I also find it invigorating, so I have to be very intentional with this one. When in comes to art meditation, I go for coloring, doodling, maybe finger painting. I get in my head too much if I am trying to create “serious art” or work with collage images. Those mandala coloring books are great for art meditation because you don’t really think too much, you just choose a color and go. Focusing on color and design can help you channel your energy and clear your mind.

Music meditation. You can add music to any meditative experience, but music meditation all on its own can be quite powerful. Fill a room with ambient music, perhaps even alpha or theta wave infused music, sit or lie comfortably and allow your body and mind to respond to the music. Earphones might work better for you because you can be in a little insular world. However you do it, choose slow music, heartbeat pace or slower (ocean wave pace is good), and just feel the vibrations of sound in your body. Notice what sounds make your body feel open and free and what sounds make you feel earthy and grounded.

Make up something. If traditional meditation doesn’t work (and these above ideas don’t seem to be the ticket either), don’t fret. Make up something. I believe experiencing altered states of consciousness can be very specific to each individual and what calms one person, excites another. Sometimes I spend two minutes looking at the flicker of a lit candle. That’s being mindful. Try something. If it doesn’t give you an “ahhh” feeling, try something else.

And finally, don’t force yourself to meditate. I think that defeats the purpose. Be where you are and who you are now, with the time and space you have, and just be intentional about doing something to calm your mind-body system. That’s a starting place. And from there, who knows what you’ll discover.

with lotus dreams,

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About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
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