As soon as I entered my thirties it seemed like everyone I know started meditating and doing yoga. I've dabbled in Kundalini and Transcendental and I've tried Nidra and Bikram Yoga. I just can't get into any of it. My wife literally meditates for 30 to 60 minutes a day, EVERY day. It brings her amazing benefits. It's hard not to compare myself to her or other friends. Frankly, it's led me to feeling like I lack discipline, and stirs up thoughts that there must be something wrong with me.
If you relate to what I'm saying here are 5 alternatives to meditation that bring me the calm transformational benefits everyone wants in their lives.
1. Online Guided Meditation
When sitting quietly alone feels like torture, sometimes all you need is a little help. There are plenty of online guided meditation's on offer, including these two that you can find here on TheFedCollective:
YouTube, HeadSpace and many more have both free and paid options. Using guides allows you to go a lot of places within you might never discover on your own. Guided meditation is not a stepping to stone to "REAL meditation". It is a tool all on it's own that works well, especially for A type personalities and busy people who have a hard time settling down. Over time you will find the guides who connect to you the most, and your practice will deepen. You will find that you can listen to the same guided mediation a bunch of times, and it will yield new and different experiences each time.
2. Intentional Music Discovery
Pick an album that you've never heard before that has a vibe you like. Branch outside of your regular music tastes. Sit or lay still and intentionally listen to the music. Emotions and thoughts will definitely be stirred. Write down what comes up, and then return to listening. After one song or a whole album, you should have several thoughts written down. Use these to journal from or reflect on the rest of the week. If you feel like crying, then let it flow. If you feel like falling asleep that's fine too. It's just "Me Time" to allow your body and thoughts to be recalled from your subconscious through whatever you are listening too. I love using Cirque du Soleil albums, sacred bowl music, folk singers, and international music.
3. Staring Contest
When you don't have the space or time to the first two, you can using a staring technique. This is a proven method for calming your nervous system, and helping restore balance physically. It's super simple. Find the most appealing thing in your view, and give yourself 2 to 5 minutes to stare at it. Breath intentionally, and just stare. You could go to a park and sit on a bench, or do this right from your office desk. Breathing and holding your stare will give you a few moments for your brain and thoughts to catch up and release. Breathing brings your mind and body back together. You can blink! Allow your thoughts to flow in without judgement and let them flow back out. Try not to get stuck on any one thought. It sounds too simple, but it really works. I use this all the time.
4. Sing a Song
You don't need to have a good voice, no one but the gods will hear you. Singing is very therapeutic because it brings intentional breathing, emotion and release all together in one natural expression. If you are angry, pick a scream-y angry song like Alanis Morsette's "You Ought to Know". If you are feeling silly, sing some Monty Python. You get the idea...use the moment to express your true feelings through a song. Any song. This is great to do while driving. The key is just to really get into it. I suggest doing at least 3 songs if you can. The action releases endorphins, and there are tons of studies showing the musical vibrations from your vocal chords assist in restoring balance in your nervous system.
This is pretty self-explanatory. To get the maximum benefit place your full attention on the coloring. No TV, no radio, no conversations. However, you really can get a benefit in any circumstance. Coloring connects us to our inner child which is generally where most of our "damage" lies. Connecting this way is soothing, and induces a feeling of safety and calm. If you don't have a coloring book, just take any paper you have and begin coloring it. There is no wrong way to color.
So, if meditation isn't for you, but you are looking to quite your mind, relax and improve your balance try some of these ideas. Allow yourself to feel silly trying them. Allow yourself to do them wrong. And, allow yourself to prioritize a window of time wherever you can find it. It all adds up!
Jennifer O’Brien is a spiritual counselor, minister in training, corporate video producer and voice over talent out of Seattle. She is currently on a personal sabbatical and taking time off to write and reflect. You can connect with her in spirit, and through her writings at the fed collective.