October 17, 2018

19 Ways to Meditate off the Cushion.

One year ago, my meditation practice was a formal, elaborate event.

I wore a kundalini gown all day and sat at a shrine with candles, flowers, and crystals taking post-meditation photos for Instagram throughout the day.

Is this sort of meditating wrong? No. But it doesn’t leave room for a natural, daily rhythm to take place.

We can’t all live on the mountain tops of our living rooms meditating the day away. Life tends to call us back to it.

So, my formal approach to meditation fell apart. Now, it is as common as washing my face in the morning. I wake up, find my cushion, and take a seat for 5 to 15 minutes—it doesn’t stop there though.

Meditation can be anything we need it to be. It can be a part of everyday life.

The idea of stepping away from my cushion and finding meditative stillness in the motion of the world appealed to me, and so I started paying attention.

Here are some of the unlikely ways I find meditation away from the cushion:

1. Making the best peppermint tea in the best mug and sitting on the front porch first thing in the morning.
2. Taking a contemporary dance class. As a contemporary ballet dancer, moving through the studio is the purest sense of transcendence I know of—surely this can be some sort of meditation.
3. Meeting up with a friend for matcha. Making time for a friend and listening to what is going on in his or her life.
4. Folding the laundry and doing the dishes. I either hate these things because they feel like chores, or I just get into a rhythm. It becomes therapeutic. I wouldn’t know what to do with an automatic dishwasher these days.
5. Sitting by a river or stream to simply listen.
6. Going forest bathing. I started doing this several times a week at Whitemud Park in Edmonton, Alberta. It was medicine for me. I did some research and found out that forest bathing is scientifically proven to calm us and bring us to stillness.
7. Waking up early and filling the bird feeder. At my grandmother’s house in Gainesville, Florida, we wake up when there is still dew on the grass and fog on the pond. She fills the bird feeder and we sit in silence together over black coffee listening to songbirds.
8. Packing a blanket in the car and heading to the beach. Sitting by the ocean and listening to the waves.
9. Going for a walk. As I step outside of my building and into the humming of construction and the passing of cars, there is a clear rhythm that begins with my steps. I am totally present.
10. Pulling out a clear umbrella and ankle high galoshes to go strolling through the rain.
11. Stepping aside in the rush of pedestrians and finding two deep breaths of stillness.
12. Listening to ambient music with headphones while walking through large crowds of people.
13. Going for a bike ride. When I ride a bike and feel the wind brush through my hair and my body, I become a comet.
14. Cooking a new vegan recipe in the kitchen with my brother.
15. Taking hot apple cider and a blanket in the backyard to stargaze.
16. Reading a book in silence. Letting someone else’s words fill our minds can be a wonderful form of meditation.
17. Going to the museum and paying for an audio guide. Strolling through the paintings and listening to who painted what and why. Museum bathing is one of my favorite meditations.
18. Going to hot yoga and breathing in sync with a room full of humans.
19. Writing letters and postcards to family and friends. Taking time to write, in my best cursive, all of the things I love about the people I love the most.

When we open our minds beyond traditional meditation, we bring an attitude of awareness into our entire day.

Sure, seated meditations are important for daily life—I take a seat on my cushion every morning and evening. But it does not have to be a formal event all of the time.

We can practice meditation anywhere at any time in many different ways. It does not need to consume all of our time and attention. If anything, it is the one thing that makes us more present and aware of our lives.

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Jacqueline Hathaway Levin

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