Slowing down is something I have always struggled with, as a self proclaimed productivity freak. This may be part of the reason why traditional meditation has always been difficult for me. The dreaded thought of sitting in the same spot closing my eyes and “clearing my mind” for an hour, playing awkward rain sounds on an app, was the reason I often put off trying the practice. This impatience is why I grappled with the concept- is the fact that I can’t sit still part of why I should practice meditation? I’ve always felt so much more connected to myself, and the world, when I was moving- especially outdoors.
It wasn’t until I started solo hiking as another way to connect with God, my version of a prayer walk, and practicing yoga that I naturally discovered movement meditation- using your body with intention as a tool to focus your mind. There are several different ways to practice this; some people choose to dance, stretch, or walk as a form of moving meditation while others prefer more traditional forms like Tai Chi.
Movement meditation begins with being in a familiar environment and moving your body in a way that brings you awareness and calmness. It is easier to do something you already enjoy relaxing into and elevating it with this practice, rather than exploring a new form of movement. This is simply because you want your mind to focus on your thoughts rather than focused on learning a new skill.
One of the most simple and familiar types of moving meditation that is easy for beginners to try is “daily life practice meditation”, also called Samu work meditation in the Buddhist Zen tradition. This type of movement meditation is all about slowing down your simple daily activities and limiting your distractions to be extra aware of thoughts. It can play out in many forms and can take an activity that regularly softens the mind to the next level. It is all about optimizing your time while already doing things that bring you peace, and to be intentional about each moment. There are times when I feel most clear-minded and intuitive during my alone time of deep cleaning and organizing. Depending on the person, any activity, from gardening to driving, can slow down our minds. But daily life practice meditation uses intentionality to elevate these moments.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that there are many benefits that derive from moving meditation. A few benefits are reduced levels of stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, increased blood flow to the brain, a healthier sleep schedule, and increased concentration. For me, at least, this increased concentration also helps me reflect and respond mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; slowing down enough to become more sensitive to my state of being.
Try to be in the moment
Sometimes I turn on music at home in the background, but eliminating distractions is the key to centering oneself, focusing on your breath, and coordinating your movement with it. When practicing yoga, I try to move into each pose on the inhale, and stretch a little deeper on the exhale. When hiking, I try to focus on my steps and the natural sounds around me, often stopping to breathe deeply and admire my surroundings, helping me concentrate on the movements and my mind rather than the end destination of the hike.
“Slowness allows us to perceive more of the individual motions within a larger motion; for example, if we quickly raise an arm straight up, we probably notice only the single upward movement – but if we do it slowly, we perceive many separate events within the body.”
Personally, as a creative person, I struggle with getting so wrapped up with different ideas that it is hard to focus my attention on one project. I wake up a few hours before work every morning to get ahead on my side projects, and often go to bed at the end of the day feeling even more distraught. Movement meditation has helped enhance my creativity and open my mind to new ideas while balancing my emotions. When I am having a busy or tense day, I practice yoga in the morning or go on a walk on my lunch break. I find that it helps me feel confident with my thoughts and to make grounded decisions. Practicing movement-based meditation has given me a clear perspective in several areas in my life, revealing that the whole world is my yoga mat.
Have you tried movement meditation? What helps you center your thoughts?