- Religion and Philosophy
Ways to Meditate When You Can't Sit Still
There are just some people who can't sit still long enough to meditate. Just trying to sit still and find a calm center fills them with stress and anxiety, and they find themselves fidgeting and fussing until they just can't take it anymore. The longer they try to sit still, the further from a meditative state they get.
If this is you, I bet being constantly bombarded with advice to meditate can be frustrating. And usually the only answer people have for you when you admit you can't get the hang of it is to 'try harder'. I wouldn't be surprised if you want to say, "Shut up with the meditations already!"
Guess what-- you don't have to sit still to meditate. It's possible to get into a meditative state of mind when your body is in motion as well. A moving meditation can give you all the benefits that anyone can reap by sitting in the lotus position for a half hour every day.
Move While Meditating
Tell Us About It:
Has your inability to sit still impeded your ability to meditate?
Training Your Mind
Understanding the Meditative State of Mind
There are four states of consciousness: Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. The Beta state is when you're fully awake and alert. The Theta state is for sleeping, dreaming and deep trances. The Delta state is deep, usually dreamless sleep or comatose.
The Alpha state is the one you really need to understand. You're in Alpha when you're day dreaming, when you're 'out of it' or 'zoning out' on a boring task, when you're watching television or in a light sleep. You're also in Alpha when you're completely engrossed in something -- a video game, a game of tennis, a good book, playing an instrument, making a craft, etc.-- to the point where you don't notice time and your mind is fixated on the task-- you're 100% living in the moment.
If you've ever had doubts as to whether you can achieve a state of mind for meditation, realize that you already do. That state is Alpha, and it's a state you pass in and out of all day long. It's a natural state of being.
As you can see, you don't need to sit still like a statue with your eyes closed to achieve Alpha-- a meditative state. You can also achieve it when in motion.
Ways to Meditate in Motion
- doing a daily yoga routine
- tai chi
- practicing karate katas
- art-- painting, drawing, etc.
- playing an instrument
- playing video games (ideally not-too-difficult puzzle games on 'zen mode')
- crafts: knitting, crocheting, paper folding, weaving, anything rhythmic
- mundane chores: washing dishes, folding laundry, scrubbing floors, washing windows, etc.
- exercise: stationary bike, weightlifting, elliptical machine, etc.
- step climbing
- practicing a sport
- playing a game
Music can help drown out noises and give you an anchor to draw your focus back to the meditation, whether you're moving or not.
How to Choose Your Activity
- It should be something that engages you, something to draw your focus into the moment
- it should be something that holds your focus for an extended period of time; 15 to 30 minutes per day is ideal
- It should be something that's continuous, fluid, methodical, repetitive, etc. so the movements become automatic and it's almost hypnotic
- It should be something you can keep on hand or have access to every day
For example, jamming on your guitar for 20 minutes each day is a good way to meditate if you let yourself just go with the flow; learning a song where you have to keep looking to sheet music, where you're making mistakes or have to check your technique breaks focus too much to be good for a meditation.
Walking at a steady pace through the park, putting your attention on your breath, on the way the sun feels on your skin, the way the breeze tousles your hair, examining the trees, the leaves, the clouds-- that is a mindful moment. Walking while waving to neighbors, thinking about what to make for dinner or how you're going to pay a bill, stopping and going a lot through traffic, cursing the heat, etc., is not very conducive to meditation.
It's all about the state of mind you're able to achieve-- one of mindfulness, of living in the moment, of relaxed awareness -- that turns an activity from just something to do into a meditation session.
Is This You?
What About You?
Have you been meditating more than you realized?
I Bet You Meditate More Than You Think
Think back now to all those mindful moments-- I bet you have been meditating all along and you didn't even know it. Most likely, the only difference now will be that you're aware of it, and you do certain activities with the deliberate decision to meditate in mind. You might even schedule them regularly from now on.
Another pleasant thing to note is that motion meditations, or moving meditations, can enhance your rituals or magical practices. Magic and spirituality are also activities that we want to do in the Alpha state. People who are not used to meditating in motion can have more difficulty achieving Alpha without stopping and sitting still for a little while. You'll be able to slip right into it when you're gathering your stuff or setting up the altar.
So don't give up hope just because you're fidgety. It doesn't mean you can't meditate; you just have to learn to do it in new ways that are probably contrary to what you've already been told. And as you become more adept at meditation while moving, you'll find yourself able to achieve that state of mind more easily even when you finally do want to try to sit still.
Tai Chi for Beginners:
Practicing tai chi might be the ticket to learning to train your mind to get into a deliberate meditative state. Once is not enough-- this is something that should be practiced regularly. The benefits will build.
© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright