The idea of meditation can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 4 ways for the “non-meditator” to creatively begin a meditation practice that don’t just involve sitting still in one place. Meditation, when considered as part of your yoga practice, means more than just thinking or contemplating; meditation allows you to escape from the ordinary waking state of your mind to, instead, not actively think. If this sounds rather difficult to do, that’s because it is. The mind finds ways to just churn out those thoughts, especially at moments where you are still. If you are new to meditation and the thoughts of sitting still on a cushion do not perhaps immediately appeal to you, here are ways to meditate that involve art, movement, and smaller spaces of time for true relief from thought. Consider these your gateway meditations to longer moments of stillness and freedom from any worries of the mind.
1. Visit a museum or art gallery during a time that it is likely to be more quiet. Besides avoiding the crowds, visiting a gallery or exhibit during off hours allows you to more easily pause at something that is of particular interest to you, to absorb details, actually read any historical or informational signs, and just generally slow down to enjoy the experience. In our fast-paced world of information, we tend to not look at paintings or art as we did a hundred years ago, with a reflective, contemplative eye. Allow your eyes to lead your meditation on the pieces you like best—look at colors, shapes, scenes. What are you drawn to? Allow yourself to stand in front of any art as long as you like. For a more thoughtful though not entirely meditative addition to your trip: bring a notepad and pencil (if allowed) and take notes on your favorite aspects of the experience, whether noting names of favorite pieces or artists, interesting facts, or smaller details of a sculpture or painting that stood out to you.
2. Visit a botanical garden or park. Again, try to go during non-peak hours so you’re able to better focus on your surroundings. Let yourself explore and wander at leisure. Find a favorite plant or space within your outdoor setting. Pause there, and breathe, relax your face, and let yourself enjoy being where you are. This is also great to do in the middle of a trail run if you climb any sort of height—give yourself a moment of reflection at the top.
3. Alternatively, create your own garden space in your home—whether inside or outside. If you have a yard, find a corner where you can create some calming landscaping or grow flowers. Ideally, your outdoor meditation corner is somewhere peaceful and fairly private. Take your time and be mindful of your surroundings as you cultivate your garden; let yourself focus on what you are doing. After your garden is complete, this becomes a space for you to relax. If you have no designated outdoor space where a garden will fit, grow one inside your house! Houseplants are actually one of the most effective ways to eliminate indoor pollution (move over, electronic air purifier!), and you can easily arrange them in an indoor corner to create a peaceful nook. Use your time spent watering your plants as time to be mindful and present. Whether you build an indoor or outdoor garden, this space can serve as your mini-retreat for future meditations. Visit it and release your mind from having to think about anything.
4. Add meditation to the conclusion of your home yoga practice. Take advantage of your more calm physical and mental state after yoga to sneak in some meditation. Savasana only really works after some more physical asanas—if you just lie down in the middle of the floor in the middle of the day, you are not likely to feel quite the same as when you do so at the end of a yoga session. Do this meditation before your reclining savasana, and you may find meditation is a little bit easier to do than you might have thought; keep a seated posture so you do not fall asleep but can remain awake but relaxed. Ahead of time, set up your space, ideally quiet and lit in a calming manner, whether with candles, a string of lights, or sunshine. Sit on a folded blanket or cushion. Try sitting cross-legged, or just straight back on your heels, or perhaps even try virasana (hero’s pose) where you sit your bum directly between your heels. If you choose virasana, remember to keep your knees touching in order to protect them. You can always take a less intense version of virasana by sitting on a block between your heels rather than the floor. Once you’re seated, close your eyes, and progressively relax your face, your eyes, your jaw, and travel down your body until you are fully relaxed. Pause and breathe here. After a few minutes, lay down for your savasana.
Even a minute of meditating is better than none. Whether you plan a meditative visit to an art gallery, museum, park, or garden, or create your own garden space, life has an infinite number of possibilities for spaces and times to be mindful, calm, and free. Along with your more movement based meditations, try incorporating a seated meditation into your yoga practice.