If you’re like me, the word “meditate” is a major turn off.
It brings to mind “free love” and peasant dresses, Woodstock and flower power. But intellectually I know that science supports the benefits of meditation—decreasing stress and pain, improving our immune systems, expanding the grey matter in our brains and increasing our happiness and social connections.
That makes it difficult to reconcile for me—I can’t see myself sitting down motionless for 20 minutes a day, even though I know there are lots of benefits of doing so. The most important benefit yet to be proven by science, though, is a connection with a higher plane—an increase in creative ideas, solutions to complex problems, and—for those that believe as I do—heightened intuition and psychic awareness.
So what is my solution? I like to call it un-meditating. The science supports the benefits of un-meditating just as it does meditating, and un-meditating is easily done “on the fly” during a regular day.
Here are the top five things I do when I can’t (or don’t want to) meditate:
- Mow the lawn. Yes, really. For years, I’ve called mowing the lawn a “mindless” activity—for a reason. When I’m mowing the lawn, I’m focused on making straight lines—getting the job done and little else. It’s at this time that my mind finally becomes quiet, and I find lots of information comes to me. It’s quiet, uninterrupted time that I find perfect for un-meditating!
- Go for a drive. It doesn’t need to be to a special destination, even a regular commute can work. I have found that the key is to drive without the radio or other distractions and just let my mind wander. I used to have an hour long commute where I picked up riders at the nearby commuter lot. Rule number one for ride sharing was “no talking.” Only the driver could initiate conversation, but often, the passengers simply weren’t interested in chatting at six in the morning, so I had a lot of time to think along the way. It turned out to be the perfect time to zone out and clear my mind!
- Take a hike. Tuning into nature is another area that science has weighed in on as having benefits to well being, specifically in preventing depression and improving memory and attention. So it follows that a walk in a natural area will also clear the mind and serve as an un-meditation opportunity. My favorite hikes are simple walks along trails in nearby parks. In just a few minutes a day, I feel more connected and at peace.
- Enjoy a shower. Many years ago, I remember a professor explaining the concept of moving water giving off negative ions, which he suggested improved attitude. At that time, not much in the way of science had provided the proof, but certainly I was aware that some of my best ideas and solutions come to me first thing in the morning in the shower. I’ve always wondered why more study wasn’t done on this simple fix for everyday crankiness, at the very least. One study has linked aquatic exercise to improved mood and athletic performance, but not all of us have access to a pool—perhaps a shower is just as effective!
- Take a walk on the beach. See a trend here? Being near moving water (which gives off negative ions, of course) has been shown by science to improve mood, stabilize our circadian rhythm, enhance recovery from physical exertion and protect us from positive ion-related stress and exhaustion disorders. Combined with the beach being a natural environment, it likely doesn’t get much better than that to improve focus and clear the mind. Just breathing in sea air is a positive experience for me and walking at the water’s edge definitely connects me quickly to my higher thoughts. Try it when it’s not sun bathing season and you’ll definitely appreciate the solitude, too!
Yes, these are simple activities that anyone can do. That’s exactly the point—meditation doesn’t have to be so complicated. So take a drive, mow the lawn, shower or go for a walk. This is valuable time to clear your mind and un-meditate!
Author: Carol Pollio
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Nicolas Raymond