“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” ~ Sharon Salzberg
Most of us are maniacs these days.
Life is busy with a seemingly endless list of tasks, commitments, priorities, and responsibilities. The breakneck speed of technological development and the rushed pace of urban life create the perfect storm. In summation, many of us are currently more productive—and more stressed out—than ever.
The human mind entertains an incredible 50,000 thoughts each day. In the Buddha dharma teachings, the concept of the monkey mind relates to the unsettled, restless, grandiose, confused, and/or uncontrollable aspects of the mind. The myriad thoughts passing through the untrained mind constantly jump all over and swing from branch to branch like a monkey.
Monkey mind wants to multitask. Of course, when we do many things at once, nothing gets done well. Our inner monkey does not want us relaxing or meditating; it will always choose instead to plan and predict, wonder and worry, approve or deny, project and analyze.
Sitting meditation is difficult for folks who can’t sit still. Luckily, there are many dynamic methods of mindfulness.
Here are five great hobbies you can take up to calm down a restless mind. May they be of benefit!
Shake those hips! Learn and practice a structured step like salsa, ballet, or bachata, or partake in a funky, freestyle boogie to the beat of your favorite music. Moving the body through dance is liberating for the heart and mind and is an excellent exercise for the soul and body.
Dance like no one’s watching. Dance in private. Dance in public. Dance in a group. Dance by yourself. Mindful dance is the new meditation.
Sound healing is all the rage these days, for good reason. Playing simple instruments like chimes, Tibetan singing bowls, drums, maracas, and practicing vocal toning is soothing and energizing, particularly on days when we need to find rest and balance.
Chimes create a sense of inner peace and stillness and are a great tool for sound meditation, since they often sounds like the universal syllable, “Aum.” The ringing of bells has been used ritually for centuries in churches, temples, and monasteries in order to help focus the mind, encourage present-moment awareness, introspection, and mental flexibility. Shamanic journeying involves listening to drumming or maraca shaking at a certain rhythm.
For people with lots of energy, going on a long hike or bike ride in nature can be a wonderful form of moving meditation. Forest bathing is a thing. Simply spending time in a forest around a bunch of trees, fresh air, and birds does wonders for our health.
Go on a walk or run, take a picnic, and leave your phone at home—or at least in silent mode. Go with a friend or a small group of friends. Go by yourself. Make it a priority to spend at least one afternoon per week out in nature, away from screens and city stresses.
Learning to knit, crochet, or make macramé is a wonderful way to train your mind. It does involve sitting, but you get to learn a new skill, which is good for the brain and has been proven to help prevent dementia in old age. Plus, you get to create something!
Get yourself a needle or hook and some yarn. Find a friend who can teach you, or watch a video on YouTube. Learn to crochet and make a scarf. Take up knitting and design your own colorful leg warmers. The repetitive motion involved in crafting requires the brain to focus on the movement. Eventually, the stitch becomes second nature and the mind can drift off into thought or meditation.
Meditation in Motion
Move your body in a rhythmic, intuitive way, along with the breath. The arts of qigong, yoga, and tai chi, among others, are exceptional ways to increase flexibility, coordination, strength, balance, and grace—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Try out different techniques and teachers until you find what really resonates with you. Once you have a foundation in a specific technique, you can develop a home practice.
Befriend your monkey mind and remember that its wild nature doesn’t define you. By integrating any of the above activities into your life, you can calm and relax your wild mind.