Many people assume that meditation is the best way to achieve calmness of mind and inner peace.
I can tell you from experience that it works: I have used meditation as part of my morning routine to great effect in this way.
But just because meditation is “in vogue,” it doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives out there.
Even if you don’t practice the sitting on a pillow and a fluffy Indian quilt with devoted attention to stillness method, there are many other forms of meditation available which I use every day to great effect. After all, meditation could be any activity or technique that is designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force, and develop our compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness.
I can think of many ways of achieving that.
Truth be told, if I were to rely on my morning meditation practice alone, then I wouldn’t be able to meet the demands of my busy lifestyle. My personal and professional commitments require a high amount of energy from me to sustain them, so I need means to recharge my soul that align with activities I truly love.
What? Meditation from doing things instead of not doing things?
That’s right. I experience meditation in many activities that are repetitive in nature, require little thought, and which put me into a state of trance.
If you’ve ever watched late night TV and been drawn to an infomercial—only to find at the end that hours have slipped by—then you will likely appreciate what a trance is.
Curse those infomercials…
I achieve a similar state of trance through some types of repetitive activity, especially (but not always) those that require a connection with nature, one of my highest and most important values.
I find that it’s the activities that align with my values, as well as my morning practice of stillness meditation, which provide me with the greatest source of energy to repair my tired mental state.
To get you inspired, here are some of the activities I enjoy on a regular basis that provide a meditative effect, which you can try.
1. Take a long walk.
I try to get out for a long walk (or run) on my own at least once a week. Without music or a partner who continually talks, a long walk allows you to reconnect with the present, and the state of your body.
You can focus on breathing, let your thoughts run free, and be inspired by your increased creativity and awareness. Try it. Take a long walk on the beach, in a park with your dog, or in a protected forest.
2. Swim laps in a pool.
When I went through a swimming phase a year or two ago, I found the act of following lanes in the pool, practicing tumble turns, and perfecting my breathing practice very meditative elements.
There are few distractions when you get in a lane and glide out twenty to thirty laps, so it’s a good time for you to focus only on that which needs your attention—your direction, your breathing, and that upcoming wall you don’t want to collide with. There’s little room for anything else, hence its ‘meditative’ ability to quiet your thoughts.
3. Stare into an open fire.
Camping has to be one of my favorite things to do, and what makes camping so cool is the ability to have a fire.
My fondest childhood memories of camping include sitting around the open campfire next to my dog, staring into the flames, and watching their beautiful patterns as they erupt from the glowing coals and pierce the bellowing plume of smoke.
I would find myself lost in a trance, thinking of blissful nothing, comforted and energized by the fire’s warmth. Sounds a lot like meditation…
4. Connect with nature.
Those who know me, know that any chance I get, I’m outdoors in bare feet attempting to connect with the wonderful power of Mother Nature. This simple act calms my nerves, increases my energy, and improves my mood instantly.
It could be as simple as lying on the grass staring at the sky, or walking barefoot in a local nature reserve. We are creatures of nature. Connect with it intimately and receive its restorative energy.
5. Sit on a beach.
I love nature, but my soul mate is the beach, where land meets the ocean. When I visit beach destinations, I love nothing more than heading to the beach early in the morning before the crowds come in, to listen to the power of the ocean.
The vibrations made as the waves crash into the sand are extremely calming, and the fresh air on my face is soothing and refreshing.
6. Visit a waterfall.
Almost as powerful as listening to crashing waves on a beach, water cascading over a waterfall has an equally powerful restorative effect on my soul. If you can’t find a waterfall, then running water in a water feature at home, or a local stream or river, may have a similar effect.
The stillness and silence you can experience by paddling to the middle of a lake is breathtaking. The act of paddling in itself is very meditative for the mind and body, as you are required to focus on a rhythm both for your breathing and for your paddling.
It’s this focus on the here and now of kayaking that force distractions from your mind and provide a meditative effect.
To cook is to develop an intimate connection with the nutrients that create us. It’s true that we are what we eat, so cooking is one of the most important skills (aside from growing food) that we can learn in order to care for our well-being.
I love cooking. The chopping, stirring, methodical act of food preparation is what I find meditative, and the result is always a healthy restoration of my body’s energy stores.
9. Run without music.
I’ve been a runner on and off for the last thirteen years, and I know from experience that if I’m ever stressed, in a foul mood, or even feeling drained, then a run of any intensity or duration cures me.
The combination of breathing and concentration of physical effort creates a trance like no other, and the increased blood flow fills my brain with oxygen thus ‘clearing my mind’ of toxic thoughts (and waste).
10. Practice yoga.
Where would an article on peace, meditation, and body restoration be without mention of yoga? I love yoga, and practice Ashtanga Yoga twice weekly to stretch, breathe, and focus on the technique and posture required to get the most out of my session.
The results are like no other physical activity that I undertake. It’s a true restorative and meditative form of exercise, and a must try for those who’ve not experienced its benefits.
Everyone can achieve the results meditation has to offer. Find your vehicle.
As you can see from the everyday activities above, meditation doesn’t need to be a ‘sitting still in silence’ activity. You can get similar restorative benefit from activities that promote your connection to love and self-restoration, and may either be physical in nature or not. Maybe painting, knitting, or vacuuming is your meditation practice for the day.
No matter what it is, the common theme is to devote time for you each day, focusing your energy inward rather than on your external surroundings.
Create the time to restore your soul with meditation, and re-establish a connection to activities you love in the process. It’s an activity that’s as flexible as your imagination, so starting tomorrow, get out there and discover what’s possible for you.
I guarantee your soul will smile.
Author: Jason Townsend
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Todd Quackenbush at Unsplash