Meditation has become rather trendy, hasn’t it? Touted by yogis, online influencers, the media, and mental health professionals, the practice of meditating seems to have received gold standard status. I mean, it’s cheap, it’s simple…anyone should be able to do it!
I took an entire mindfulness course last winter after being encouraged to go by my psychiatrist and mental health team. I assumed I would figure it out. Show up, breathe deep, close my eyes, and get zen. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?
But every time I closed my eyes, I either started to fall asleep or I would get triggered and begin to panic. I tried my absolute best with all the breathing, the chanting, the ohm-ing and the aah-ing. I tried guided meditations, music meditations, breathing meditations…so many meditations! And all of them resulted in the same thing: complete and utter panic, or complete and utter shut down. It became clear that I was not cut out for meditating, at least, not at this point in my life.
But mindfulness is such an important part of healing. It’s a core part, I would argue. So not being able to meditate really knocked me down because I so wanted to do the gold standard of mindful work! I wanted the experience of lifting myself up through meditation. I also wanted to completely nail it because I’m a total perfectionist and I don’t like tolerating failure of any kind ever! But I couldn’t do it.
I’ll be honest, I decided to give up on meditating, but I knew that I had to think of an alternative.
In the end, I actually thought of more than one alternative. Because I discovered that there are more ways to be mindful than just doing meditation. There are more ways to get in touch with your emotions and thoughts than sitting on a cushion saying “ohm”. There are more ways to reflect and discover, feel peace and work through feelings, than forcing yourself to meditate when it doesn’t feel authentic.
Writing is a good example. Writing is, for me, a mindful task. Especially the kind of writing I do when the goal is simply to achieve catharsis as opposed to writing for a specific audience or purpose.
And what about walking? Taking a stroll down the street is often my most meditative time of the day. I zone out with my thoughts, I breathe deeply, and I get a sense of release as I engage my brain and my body in mindful movement.
Yoga or other exercise can be mindful. Or what about cooking? Drawing? Listening to music? Gardening? Taking a bath? Painting your toenails? Eating something delicious?
Can’t all those activities create mindful experiences for us?
Traditional meditation has proven to be inaccessible for me, but I recognize that I need mindful moments in my life. So I create spaces and find places where I can achieve mindfulness without the pressure of performing a perfect meditation. I use my surroundings, the skills I have available to me, and the kinds of activities I enjoy and feel engaged with to “meditate” and bring more peace to my life.
Meditation isn’t always the answer, but mindfulness can be. Find what works for you; heal at your own pace. Take moments of peace and focus when you can. And allow yourself to breathe without pressure, but with intent.