Through it all
Had to say
Told a story
The long way
Time to open
The benefits of meditation are far reaching and have been well known for centuries. However, the idea of formal meditation doesn’t sit well with some of us.
The idea of sitting cross-legged for extended periods and delving inward puts many of us off before we’ve even got started. Even the word “meditation” can be a very real barrier to entry for some. What a shame, as the many benefits of meditation can be good for us all.
A better understanding of what we truly think/feel/want
Less feelings of anger, hurt, or disquiet
Being more present
Being more content
A better understanding of who we really are
This little list is just starting to scratch the surface. Meditating can be that powerful.
If meditating in a more traditional way for extended periods feels right for you, all power to you— please continue with your journey. If that isn’t you, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
If you recoil a little when meditation is mentioned but still want to reap some of the rewards, I hope to offer several ideas that might work for you. But first, a bit of personal reflection.
I Confess I Do Not Have a Formal Meditation Practice
As someone that writes books and a blog all under the broad umbrella of simplicity and that can often be found leafing through books and words by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bruce Lee, Sun Tzu, and Lao Tzu, it may surprise you to know I do not consider myself to have a formal meditation practice.
Perhaps somewhat out of step with the trend of our time, my morning routine (if I even have one) does not have time carved out for sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, reflecting on the universe at large.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire that others do this, but it never really felt like a fit for me. I’ve tried to make it a habit, at a few points in my life, but it just hasn’t stuck.
If I’m honest, I think the word “meditation” itself intimidates many of us. We perceive it to mean we need some special point of entry, or skillset, to reap the rewards.
All this said, perhaps paradoxically, I am also totally sold on the benefits of meditation and I want them to be a part of my life. I just happen to believe you can get those benefits in other ways. Your formal practice doesn’t have to be formal, and you don’t even have to call it a “practice.”
This is where the art of meditating without meditation comes in.
Meditation without Meditating in Action: My Top 6
Here are some of my favorite ways to achieve some of meditation’s powerful benefits without actually feeling like I am meditating.
Walking is my ultimate reset. It blows away the mental cobwebs that can accumulate. It provides new stimulus and re-energises a tired mind. Complex problems I’ve been struggling with can suddenly feel like they fall into place on a good, long walk. A fresh perspective can somewhat magically drift into view.
I like to walk early, before the rush and before the noise of human traffic drowns out the birds singing. Depending on where I am, I like to walk as close to nature as possible (a nice park, a beach, a hike over rolling hills). This is as close as I consider I get to a formal meditative practice.
2. Being at one with the outdoors and nature
The natural world is a passion for me. Something that breathes life and color into any day, if I just make time to stop and notice what is going on around me. I find it grounding and uplifting all at once.
Nature presents us with a constant wonderland. It’s easy to take this for granted. We can fix this by spending some time just being at one with nature and reconnecting with the great outdoors, and we’ll feel so much better for it.
Be amazed by that spider’s web glistening with the morning’s dew.
Take in the sun rising and setting.
Make time to watch the clouds moving overhead, soak up the inspiration that comes from the view.
Be endlessly in awe at nature’s ability to evolve, adapt, and deal with challenges.
Enjoy the offerings of new life and renewal each and every spring, by making deliberate time to stop and notice.
3. Losing myself in music (art)
Some would say this is cheating, as you are using outside stimulus to get a response; I say call it what you will. The benefits that people claim to get from meditation, I have and feel from losing myself in music.
Music is transformative. It can lift our mood on our darkest days, it can ease anxiety when we feel on edge about something, it can shift our mindset.
We can leverage different music at different times to support our state of well-being. Music is one of life’s true pleasures for me, one of the very last things I would want to give up.
However, if music isn’t quite as powerful a force in your own life, perhaps there is something else that is. Literature can, and does, serve the same end. Or a beautiful painting or sculpture that really moves us, or even a really great movie. All of the above can be transformative, life-affirming, and even life-changing ways we can apply ourselves.
4. Seeking stillness
Seeking stillness may sound like a total contrast to the earlier suggestion to listen to music; maybe it is or isn’t, but this time is necessary for me. This is time to let my mind just drift without expecting too much of anything from it. Letting it wander where it wanders. In a results-orientated culture, we can spend too little time here.
Cut to the core, this is actually what meditation is all about. For me, all it really means is taking the time to get in touch with our own thoughts and finding a point of reflection. It’s cutting out the external world for a while and tuning into frequency us. It’s about reconnecting with the signal, amongst the noise.
This is time to turn off the phone, unplug from the internet, and make space for some calm in our day.
Disconnecting a little from the busy world around us, to reconnect with ourselves.
No special cushion necessary, unless you want one, no special seating position necessary unless it helps trigger the state. Just make a commitment to be mindful and find some stillness in your own way.
For me this means writing and playing guitar.
Writing, in particular, is something I spend much time on. I feel better on days and weeks that I have made time to write creatively. Ideas flow freely and come out on the page. I make sense of thoughts and words and try to communicate as effectively as I can, then I refine (edit). When I am truly in a writing flow, this creative process can definitely feel meditative.
6. Exercise (calisthenics, yoga, and breathwork)
I am a fan and practitioner of calisthenics (working with one’s bodyweight as the weight). I find this form of training both physically demanding and endlessly interesting. I enjoy the raw simplicity.
Learning new moves or practicing well-worn moves, trying to perfect them, also has a meditative effect. I’m totally in the practice, and often have to be if the move in question is getting hard or has a balancing element. Trying to create whole body tension for some moves also means I need to be aware of where my breath is (am I holding it somewhere or letting it flow?).
Yoga is relatively new to me and I have been slow to embrace it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as my wife is a yoga practitioner and teacher and has encouraged me to give it a proper go for years. Knucklehead that I am, I finally took note and I’ve come to really enjoy this time. I now make time for working on the mat through my week, amongst other exercise I do.
As I am new to the yoga poses themselves, and how different teachers teach, I find I have to be totally present for yoga. No time to think about what comes after or what has just happened; to keep up with the class I have to listen. This has a calming effect on body and soul on the best days.
The breathwork, and constant queues to focus on breath, have also made me aware of where I tend to keep tension (physically and mentally).
What’s great about this list is that you can use these practices interchangeably, and they can happily co-exist at the same time.
I think the “meditation” label puts as many off as it attracts. In busy and distracted times, this is a missed opportunity for us all to feel the benefits.
When we forget the labels, all we’re doing with the practices above is resetting a little. The art of meditating without meditating if you like.
Give it a go. String these resets together on a regular basis and feel the benefits for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be open to further experiments in formal meditative practice after doing so. If not, just find your own way. Keep what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and call it what you want, or call it nothing at all.
Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.
You know the saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Well if nothing changes, we stay the same. We don’t grow. We don’t evolve. We don’t get better. And that’s not going to work—not for you, and not for the world. We need positive change. We need new ideas. We need progress. Read these quotes on innovation to inspire your next big idea and contribute to yourself and the greater good.
There’s plenty to recommend Italy already: The rolling hills of Tuscany, the canals of Venice, the charm of Cinque Terre, the wine and food of…well, everywhere. After all, there’s a reason it’s consistently ranked among the most-visited countries in the world, with tourism revenue well into the twelve figures. But add the incredible number and variety of beaches to the equation, and suddenly the country becomes a mandatory item on every traveler’s to-do list.
Ready to traverse the boot? Read on to start plotting the perfect itinerary. And if beach-hopping across Italy isn’t in your future, this list is still worth a look: these places are beautiful enough to cure even the most severe cases of Monday blues, mean reds, or winter doldrums. And after a few glimpses, you may find yourself tallying up your vacation days, scoping out your savings, and planning your next Italian excursion.
1) Acquafredda di Maratea Beach, Basilicata
Six miles outside of the hamlet of Maratea, this rugged stretch of shoreline has the same blue water and dark gray sand of the Amalfi Coast, but it’s further north with none of the accompanying throngs of tourists. It’s a prime place for beachgoers in search of rustic beauty: In spite of neatly arranged sun loungers and beach umbrellas placed by local hotels, the rocky shoreline and cliffs jutting up on either side of the cove preserve the untamed feel of the area
2) Marina Grande Beach, Positano
As if the views of deep greenish-blue seas weren’t enough, the stacks of pastel houses hugging the cliffs make Positano’s main beach feel like something plucked from a midcentury postcard. With over 300 yards of dark sand—large swathes of it dedicated to tidily arranged rows of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs in Technicolor shades of orange and blue—this spot always feels open and roomy in spite of summer crowds. Start in town with a leisurely outdoor lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, then sleep off the limoncello buzz with a snooze on the sand.
3) Camogli Beach, Liguria
Northwest Italy’s coastal towns tend to live in the shadow of the neighboring French Riviera, but that means beaches like Camogli’s have all the Mediterranean beauty with a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in Nice or St. Tropez.
The beach in this little fishing village is pebbly but picturesque—the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is perched on a promontory at the harbor’s northern end, with mountains rising up behind it. This spot has something for every traveler: swimming lessons to keep the kids busy, beachside drink service for the laid-back crowd, and rowboats, canoe rentals, and diving lessons for the adventure-seekers.
4) Scalo Maestro, Marettimo
Just off the western tip of Sicily, the island of Marettimo (population: 700) has the kind of wild beauty that gives every moment here a dreamlike quality. The tiny beach of Scalo Maestro is one of the few you can access from the shore, and its gentle slope and clear, calm waters are particularly swimmer- and snorkeler-friendly. Once you’ve had your fill of beach time, charter a boat for a tour of the island: it’s the only way to access Marettimo’s hidden sea caves. You can’t truly appreciate the magic of the Aegadian Islands until you’ve gone swimming in a sun-dappled Mediterranean grotto.
5) Porto Campana, Sardinia
Three miles of golden sand make up the Campana beachfront, and within that expanse you’ll find something to suit every type of beachgoer. Look for rental kiosks to try your hand at surfing, kiteboarding, or paddleboarding; kick back on a rented lounger with a cocktail; sign up for a scuba session with a local outfitter; or admire Campana’s dunes—some as high as 65 feet.
6) Otranto Beach, Otranto
This bay in the center of Italy’s easternmost town is all soft white sand and shallow turquoise water—a tiny sliver of the Caribbean perched on the Adriatic. And while the beach itself is as all-purpose as they come (great for swimming, sunning, snorkeling…), the best way to enjoy this place also happens to be the easiest: Stop in town to pick up a crisp white wine, a hunk of fresh bread, and a ball of Puglia’s creamy, buttery burrata, then while away a few hours sipping and snacking on this little seaside slice of heaven.
7) Poglinano a Mare Beach, Puglia
Nestled in an inlet bound by steep limestone cliffs, this spot is off the beaten path for most tourists, but it’s well worth the detour. Bring a beach chair for comfort—there’s no sand here, only smooth, salt-worn pebbles—and a pack a pair of water shoes if you’re the adventurous type. Then follow the lead of the locals: Climb a few feet up the cliffs, shimmy out until you’re over deep water, and take the leap. Toast your courage in a cliffside cove above the Adriatic at nearby Grotta Palazzese, possibly the most romantic restaurant in the world.
8) Spiaggia di Tuerredda, Sardinia
Even in the off-season, this island idyll is a must-see: The sea here is such a perfect shade of pale blue it doesn’t seem real, and since it’s sheltered from the bracing Mistral winds, the water is warm enough for swimming well into fall. There’s a scattering of casual beachfront restaurants and amenities if you’re interested in paddleboarding or kayaking, but be sure to find time for a languid stroll along the shore. Between the pristine setting, the sound of the waves, and the occasional whiff of Sardinia’s juniper trees on the breeze, your blood pressure will be dropping in no time.
9) Marina del Cantone Beach, Massa Lubrense
This beach is the place to go if you want authenticity: Despite its proximity to the Amalfi Coast’s tourist hotspots, Marina del Cantone is free of the overdevelopment (and accompanying sky-high prices) you’ll find in neighboring coastal towns, and you’re likely to be surrounded by locals. Be sure to wear sturdy sandals to shield your soles from the rocky beach, and if you’re feeling ambitious, hike the nearby footpaths for unbeatable views of the bay and the town from neighboring cliffs. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head into town for lunch with a view at Lo Scoglio. Their spaghetti con ricci di mare—pasta tossed with a sauce of sea urchin, olive oil, and garlic—is creamy, salty-sweet, and the perfect capstone to an Amalfi afternoon.
10) Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa
It takes a bit of determination to make your way to this secluded spot—the tiny island of Lampedusa is just over 100 miles off the coast of mainland Italy, closer to Tunisia than Europe—but the effort pays off. The water is shallow and perfectly clear even at the edges of the bay, and cliffs flanking the beach keep it sheltered from strong winds and waves. The visibility and abundant sea life (turtles includes) make snorkeling a must, but the remote location means you won’t find much in the way of facilities and amenities, so pack gear and provisions before you go.
11) Spiaggia di Chiaia di Luna, Ponza
This is Italy’s answer to the white cliffs of Dover. Sheer golden bluffs plummet over 300 feet down to sea level, where they’re bordered by a thin crescent of sand. It’s a must-see destination year round: If it’s too chilly for swimming, Instagram-worthy tableaux abound if you take a stroll along the beach or atop the coastal cliffs. And though the beach is the main draw, be sure to carve out enough time for inland exploring. Ponza has been settled since the Neolithic era, so the island is scattered with Roman and Etruscan ruins that archaeology buffs will love. For bonus points, pack The Odyssey for beach reading: Ponza is rumored to be Homer’s inspiration for the isle of Aeaea, where Odysseus meets the enchantress Circe.
12) La Cattedrale, Palmarola
From Ponza, charter a boat to the neighboring island of Palmarola for even more jaw-dropping scenery. The harbor beach on this uninhabited isle is beautiful enough, but for the real showstopper, head to La Cattedrale, a series of rocky arches jutting into the sea, so named for their resemblance to the vaulted naves of medieval churches. An afternoon spent swimming in the grottos, dozing in the shade of the cliffs, and spotting the dolphins that play offshore is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience you don’t want to miss.
13) Lido Beach, Lido di Venezia
14) Lago di Braies, South Tyrol
It may not be on the ocean, but this gem nestled in the Dolomites is guaranteed to satisfy beachgoers in search of beautiful scenery and a refreshing dip. The lake boasts clear, blue-green waters and white sand—a striking visual contrast to the dense pine forest and snow-dusted peaks that surround it. A day hike is the best way to see everything Lago di Braies has to offer: Pack your swimsuit, a towel, and a lunch, then venture out on the beginner-friendly footpath that circles the perimeter, pausing to picnic and swim at the first beach that suits your fancy. Be sure to stop at the Braies bungalow—built on stilts over the lake, it’s a cross between an alpine ski lodge and a Tahitian overwater cabana—for photo ops and rowboat rentals.
15) Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
One of the most visually striking beaches in the world, Sicily’s Turkish Steps are a must-visit for aesthetic reasons alone. The bright white marlstone has been slowly eroded, creating a sloping staircase that leads right into the sea. Go at low tide for the best views, and wear sturdy shoes for the journey—the climb is not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, pack a flashlight and stay until the sun sets. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better visual than that of the cliffs awash in gold and silhouetted against a fiery sky.
Mihran Kalaydjian on Piano – The Music Played – Piano & Guitar
“Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.”
Artist: Matt Monro Genre: Adult Contemporary Location: Coronado Island
An angry silence stayed where love had been
And in your eyes a look I’ve never seen
If I had found the words you might have stayed
But as I turned to speak the music played
As lovers danced their way around the floor
I suddenly watched you walk towards the door
I heard a friend of yours suggest you stay
And as you took his hand the music played
Across the darkened room the fatal signs I saw
We’d been something more than friends before
Well, I was hurting you by clinging to my pride
He had been waiting and I drove him to your side
I couldn’t say the things I should have said
Refused to let my heart control my head
But I was made to see the price I paid
And as he held you close the music played
And as I lost your love the music played
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use
Melody: Tango in Ebony Classic
Music Arrangements: Allen San & Edward Khoury
Pianist: Mihran Kalaydjian ” Mino”
Record Labels: Paramount Studios
In white Spanish lace,
ebony black hair tumbling
down her back to her tiny waist.
Across the hardwoods,
we danced the Spanish
Into the night,
we danced check to
check and toe to toe.
The moment was ours,
on that warm summer night.
Toasts of red Spanish wine
to a night so divine.
But it was a love,
we both knew could never be.
Then time took me back across the sea.
The years have quickly passed
and our lives sailed by so fast.
But those moments, cheek to cheek
and toe to toe forever will be
ours, so sublime.
And here in my heart, I often
contemplate that far off place
I can still see your picturesque silhouette
dancing gracefully under that Spanish moon.
And I will forever remember that magic night,
we met and that fast beat tango tune.
You will always possess a part of my heart,
as long as we are so very far apart.