Updated: Mar 10, 2020
As a Meditation teacher I’m always surprised when someone asks me if I teach Meditation, but not Mindfulness? And vice versa! For me, (other people may have a different understanding) Mindfulness is an internal awareness. For example, I can be mindful of my breathing, mindful of tension inside my body, mindful of thoughts and feelings, or even mindful of my responses to people and reactions.
Mindfulness can be considered as an awareness, an internal process that allows to check in, listen, observe and connect with our self, our emotions, thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Meditation on the other hand is a relaxation process to focus the mind positively and uses deep breathing practices, and it often involves external influences. It might be listening to chimes or singing bowls, or visualising somewhere like a garden or beach, or breathing a colour, word or feeling into the body. These things begin external, and that's why I would consider it as Meditation.
So one of the biggest myths I would want to rid the world of, is that you should do one or the other.
Because, they are in fact a perfect match considering you can always take a mindful breath as you start a Meditation.
A second big myth is that you need to clear your mind, or think of nothing. No. You do not.
You don’t need to be good at relaxing or able to clear your mind, Mindfulness and Meditation is relaxing with those thoughts – and yes whilst it’s likely with a little practice the whirlwind of thoughts that you began with may began to dissolve or disappear during the process, it’s unlikely to have happened because you have “switched off” completely!
If you are interested in understanding more on that then absolutely acquaint yourself with my Meditation for Beginners blog now.
But the 3rd myth to bust now, and covered in this blog is the idea you must stay still for mindfulness and meditation. Because in my experience, it’s something that puts many people off from even trying. For those of us who are a “movers and do-ers” kind of people, it can be daunting to think of doing nothing. Likewise, those who are fidgets, or simply enjoy the freedom of movement and enjoy being active, may feel pressured by the idea of mindfulness, as if trying to fit into a mould of something that you are not.
But it certainly doesn’t have to be that way! When we consider that Mindfulness doesn’t need to be a set practice, but more of an everyday awareness, we can allow it into a multitude of activities that allow freedom of movement, deep breathing and open thinking.
So here are some mindful activities that don't need you to sit still:
The body is always present, so it’s a great place to begin your journey with mindfulness. In yoga, we start with the body—allowing the body and breath to lead, and the mind to follow, since many people find the mind difficult to calm.
Many people find their way to meditation and mindfulness through yoga or similar classes, because it’s easier to focus on the physical body first and yoga allows deep breathing to be combined with movements to encourage flexibility, good posture and muscle strengthening. As much as it’s a relaxing and gentle way to exercise a good class will help you to stretch your body and break a sweat, whilst making sure you are really exhaling any built up tension.
Painting, drawing, playing an instrument, decorating a cake, singing (even in the shower) can all incorporate movement, focus and breath work for enjoyment. And remember there is no need to strive for perfection, it’s about being in a creative flow, because whilst in the creative flow the mind can focus on a positive task, allowing you to be mindful of good feelings.
I’ve had lots of clients the last few years say they don’t feel able to meditate because they are not creative – and really what they mean is they aren’t traditionally creative as in arty. This doesn’t matter – consider creative as another way to problem solve – it allows you to think outside the box and find solutions to problems, and importantly learn to let go of rigid thinking patterns.
Mindfulness and Meditation has been shown to increase brain activity in the neocortex (the part responsible for free thinking, creativity and problem solving) so when combined with a creative task that allows you to use your initiative so you’re getting a double whammy of positivity!
Welcoming in some long, slow deep breaths allow you to be mindful of the enjoyment and process, which means you really are helping yourself to think clearer and openly without the need to sit still.
Running is the big one here! I can’t begin to put a number to the amount of clients who describe running as an activity to gain a mindfulness attitude. There is something very methodical about running, with the pounding of the feet creating a beat that matches the drumming of your heart – it’s often the entrance into the “zone” and is a great activity to practice mindfulness.
Walking is as physically beneficial as running and many people who enjoy a good long walk note that everything else in the world disappears when they are out.
And remember you don’t have to do a long walk, 10 or 15 minutes has been shown beneficial for the mind and body, but for those who can’t simply sit outside or near the window.
Take in the sights, sounds, smells and surrounding, walk without need to reach a destination but for the enjoyment of nature, and for lots of information about how natural settings influence the mind and brain you can read more in our quick read blog The Natural Healer.
Tai-chi is another movement based activity combined with breath and mindfulness and one that flows with grace and focused attention. Many people misjudge this thinking it as a form of martial arts and karate, but personally I would liken more to yoga and one that allows you to be mindful of your breath, posture and ease of movement.
But remember, any activity that allows your deep breath and movement to combine will put you in a heightened state of awareness – which helps you reach a mindful state of being with your thoughts focused inward on what you can achieve.
Hopefully, this has got you thinking about some mindful activities that suit you as an individual without the need to sit still. But the main thing to bear in mind, is practice is important.
Anything new will feel odd to begin with, and where many people fail is trying once, feeling uncertain and giving up. As a culture it’s time to let go of such high expectations of being good straight away and learn to enjoy getting better at something. One of the great things about mindfulness is that there is no limit or standard you need to achieve – it is a purely individual and internal process, so only you can decide if you’ve enjoyed it or not.
And remember to set realistic goals and plans – don’t adopt the all or nothing attitude! It’s the kind of rigid thinking that we are trying to release through mindfulness.
Be curious, enjoy experimenting, try and try, and then try again! Enjoy being a beginner with something new or maybe reengage with an activity you enjoy that has been lost in the rush of life.
You are the writer of your own story, so don’t let anyone else hold the pen!