11 Jan 2017 Meditation isn’t always what you think it is
What pops into your head when you think of meditation? I think for a lot of people (me included) it was the image of sitting legs crossed desperately trying to keep my mind quiet, allowing thoughts to come and go but without being drawn to them. Traditional meditation practice like this is a fantastic thing to do. It has been found to have numerous health benefits including stress reduction, a calmer mind, greater clarity, lowering of high blood pressure and improved immunity. These are just a few – you can find numerous articles online about the wealth of benefits from meditation.
I love meditation practices. I bring them into my life and that of my clients – but they don’t always resemble the traditional image. One way I do this is through conscious breathing practices – I have found the best way for me to quieten my mind is to focus on my breath. Simply watching the breath flowing in and out of the body brings on the most wonderful state of connection of mind and body and a deep sense of calm. Often when we try too hard to keep the mind quiet, thoughts seem to have free reign. It’s like that old trick of being told not to think of blue elephants: of course, we all do immediately.
Movement brings the same calm and clarity to the mind. Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, martial arts – all well known for their ability to focus the mind. People often report feeling relaxed after a class – it’s because for that time the mind has been devoid of those thoughts that can lead us to a state of stress and tension.
But one way I’ve absolutely come to adore is what I call ‘movement meditation’ – I am not deliberately attempting to meditate or attend a class specifically to achieve these results, but I can access them anyway. This is really powerful for me. I regularly go cycling with my family – this is a fairly typical photo – my boys are cycling off daring each other to go faster. I’m the one at the back, focusing on the journey. My mind is drawn to the sensation of wind on my face, the sounds of nature around me, the colours of the trees, flowers and sky. It’s visual, sensual, and alive. I live and breathe it. I feel connected to the movement of the legs on machinery, the flow of breath, the heart beating. And as the boys race further away, the road gets quieter. I find my mind quietens too but with that brings a creativity that I cannot access when I am caught up in the busy ‘doing’ of everyday life.
I find this powerful because there is the ability within us to tap into this wherever we are. Through stressful times, decision making or required focus, we can all access this movement meditation. When you add the movement element to meditation, your physiology changes, energy flows and your mind is able to settle where it needs to be. It may be walking, running, cycling, gardening, singing, jumping – any activity that allows you to be fully present. Meditation is after all about being fully present. It doesn’t matter what it looks like so long as the result is the same.