Meditation as an Approach to Life

Six Ways to Quiet the Mind without Sitting on a Cushion

Andressa Voltolini via Unsplash

People who meditate in the traditional manner (sitting on a cushion, eyes closed, clearing the thought stream) are my heroes. I don’t know how they do it. I’ve tried for years — or I give up too easily; I take the easy way out. All I know is that it’s hard with an overactive mind.

I blame part of it on culture and upbringing. We live in a ‘get it fast, get it now’ society. We expect results with little work. I’m pretty sure that’s not how meditation works.

So how do they do it? Understanding the Ayurveda model, the sister science of yoga, I’m guessing some are predispositioned to a quieter mind than others. I’m not that lucky.

Interestingly, I find myself as a yoga teacher. I love what I do; I believe in it. A lot of folks think yoga teachers are chill AF all the time. Nope, not all of us; not me.

We teach what we most need to learn.

Yoga is a tool, but it’s one tool. Even as a lover of yoga, I’ve found myself needing other activities to create a sense of calm. In fact, sometimes yoga is the last thing I want or need.

Guess what? You can quiet your mind, find peace and solitude without doing yoga or sitting on a cushion. Aren’t you excited to hear that? In fact, incorporating more ways to meditate regularly is better than sitting on a cushion once a day for twenty minutes. I’d rather have a meditational approach to life itself instead of segregating it out as one thing I do each day.

Consider this: if you go to yoga only for a work out, aren’t you missing the point? Or if you go to quiet the mind while you’re on the mat but don’t let it work on the rest of you, how much are you helping yourself? What are you gaining? And guess what else? Yoga can create a repetitive use injury like anything else when the muscles and bones pattern themselves into habituation.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Since it stresses me out to sit on a cushion, I’ve explored lots of other ways to chill out and I’m happy to say I incorporate all into my routine at regular intervals. They work, and most people say I’m pretty chill (even if I can’t see it myself).

You CAN quiet your mind, find peace and solitude without sitting on a cushion.

Yoga is a tool, like many other tools available to us. The enemy is the mind and living in a state of disconnection. It’s goal is to unite us, to show us our true nature, to show us that we are complete human beings — body, mind and spirit. But if incessant mind chatter drives us all mad, what should we do? I’ve found several tools that help.

A Mindful Walk

For years I’ve sworn that my hikes are more for my mental health than physical. They work on both. Whether in the city or the country, get out and move. I typically don’t listen to music because I like my walks to be exercises in mindfulness. Like all of waking life, the mind can (and will) try to take over, it’s about bringing yourself back. Meditation teaches the same thing — bring attention back to the breath. Walking gives you something else to do while you’re doing that.

Pranayama

Controlled breathing practices help immensely with quieting the mind. It’s the simplest form of meditation — noticing the breath. Start by counting the breath, noticing the length of inhales and exhales. Recite a word or mantra to stay focused on in-breath and out-breath. Notice the sensations within the body as you breathe. Notice the coolness at the tip of your nose on inhale and the heat that is created on exhale. There, dont’ you feel better?

Art

I have never considered myself an artist. I looked at it from the same western mind that I looked at everything else. As an adult, I view art as a meditative, therapeutic tool. As an analytical thinker, I’m left-brain oriented, and art helps me exercise the other half. Over the last few years I taught myself to play the ukelele. I regularly pencil draw and play with watercolors. I enjoy making jewelry. Sometimes I use these sessions as everyday embodiment practice, incorporating better muscle control and a felt sense of my body as I enjoy them.

Sports

My sport as an adolescent was swimming — what an amazing practice in mindfulness. Running can do the same thing. Most runners will tell you the practice is as much mental as it is physical and running teaches them to discipline their mind. My daughter is a softball player and she finds no greater joy than being on the field. She’s told me repeatedly that softball allows her to escape the drama of teenage life.

Journaling

Whenever I’m going through something horrible, journaling is the only thing that breaks the cyclical thought pattern in my head. I can’t figure life out — until I journal. Things I didn’t know I thought come out. Everything becomes clear when I put it on paper or on screen. Journaling gives your thoughts a place to go so you can work with them in effective ways.

Everyday Embodiment Practices

Embodiment is direct perception of the body without the filter of the mind. It’s as elusive as a dream, yet as real as your physical body. Most forms of meditation are top-down, controlling the mind first, while somatic meditation (a type of embodiment practice) is bottom-up. It begins in the body and teaches us to use felt sensation in the body to quiet the mind. I’m creating an entire series on everyday embodiment as a tool I prefer over traditional meditation. I know I’m not alone in my orientation.

These are just six practices to quiet them mind. You may find others that work well for you. Experiment — and please let us know. Traditional meditation is great, but if it’s a struggle, try incorporating lots of mindful tools into your day and approach meditation as a lifestyle instead of an activity. OM Shanti!


ABOUT & OFFERINGS

Hi! I’m Heather, a writer and yoga educator from SE Ohio. I share daily-ish here as part of my spiritual practice, and am working on my first book, Yoga Prayers. Download the first 25 pages, A Prelude to Yoga Prayers, for a brief introduction into yoga history and philosophy — and let me know what you think!

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