How to Reap the Benefits of Meditation Without Meditating

Thought-clouds

 

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.

Those benefits can include:

  • reduction in the stress we feel
  • A deeper sense of calm and relaxation in our lives
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety
  • 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.

1. Walking

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.

5. Creating

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).

Reframing Meditation

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.

13 Life Rules to Keep You Motivated

liferulestokeepyoumotivated

We all have rules we live by. Some of them are inherent, such as smiling when walking past a stranger or shaking someone’s hand when introducing yourself. But others we have to develop over time until they become habit.

Good habits, practiced daily, can make all the difference in your life. We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council what rules and mantras they live by. Which would you add to your list?

Related: 17 Motivational Success Mantras

1. Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.

The life advice I go back to most often is, “Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” This quote has guided me in both my personal and professional lives. And it works because it’s true for all people: We all face challenges, but we all have the choice to respond in a positive or negative manner.

Ben Camerota, MVP Visuals

2. Give more than you take.

It’s really that simple. Give more in the world (of your time, money or talents) than you consume or take. It creates such an abundance of experience, connections and wealth, but never when those are the leading drivers.

Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40

3. Under-promise, then over-deliver.

My father grew up on a farm in a small, rural community where you build a reputation in either direction very quickly. He taught me that you are much better off under-promising and over-delivering than not meeting people’s expectations. Most of us do business in very small business communities and would also be best served by erring on the side of exceeding expectations rather than not meeting them.

Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

4. We aren’t rich enough to buy cheap things.

My mom used to say, “We aren’t rich enough to buy cheap things.” Cheap things don’t last, and replacing them ultimately costs more time and money than buying high-quality goods to start with. This also applies to behavior: It’s easier to do things right the first time, rather than to retroactively fix a shoddy job.

Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders, Inc

5. Keep it simple, stupid.

One of the most simple life lessons I learned from my father at a young age is to “Keep it simple, stupid.” The KISS principle has been a guiding light for me, as I often remind myself, when things seem overwhelming or overly complex, to step back and keep it simple. Usually you can break things into smaller parts or simplify a problem to achieve your desired outcome. Thanks, Dad!

Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

6. Keep business and personal separate.

As an entrepreneur, it’s so easy to mix up business and personal, but it just causes mistakes and headaches that can impact both aspects of your life in a bad way. It’s better to keep these completely separate in terms of communication, social presence, money and daily tasks.

Zach Binder, Ranklab

Related: 21 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 21

7. Obey the Golden Rule.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I never get tired of this positive way to look at every interaction I have. Whether it’s my family, co-workers or clients, I put their interests first. It’s not about what you can get from others, but what you give to them that makes you a pleasant person to deal with. The fact that the Golden Rule is still relevant is a measure of its power.

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

8. Keep moving, keep playing and keep dreaming.

I constantly refer to these words because they remind me of the importance and power of momentum. To achieve your full potential, you have to stay energized. This encompasses everything from caring about your health and visiting the gym, to staying innovative and ambitious by vigorously exercising the mind.

Stephen Gill, Tiller

9. Work to live; don’t live to work.

I can easily work just for the sake of working. But I sure hope that toward the end of my life, I don’t look back on years of time spent in an office in front of my laptop working. I want to look back on relationships and lives that I’ve been a part of. This contributes more to my overall happiness than checking off my never-ending to-do list.

Mark Daoust, Quiet Light Brokerage, Inc.

10. Do it right or don’t do it.

This approach guides every decision I make. If I don’t think we can do it better than anyone else and feel a strong passion for it, I decline the opportunity. Life’s just too short to spend time doing things that you aren’t proud of, don’t enjoy and aren’t going to put your full focus behind. During the years, this has saved us from many good opportunities, allowing the bandwidth for great ones.

Jeff Jahn, DynamiX

11. Favors are a stronger currency than money.

Favors are a stronger currency than money: Whether it’s in the personal or professional sphere, non-monetary help/gifts build much more meaningful long-term relationships and have a greater positive relationship impact than those that are clearly tied to a financial amount. It shows you truly care about someone and have taken the time to learn about them. It’s not easy or even always possible, but it’s something I try to keep in mind.

Kevin Yamazaki, Sidebench

12. Learn to enjoy the discomfort of change.

George Santayana said: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mindthan to be hopelessly in love with spring.” Far too many of our problems—whether in business, relationships or day-to-day life—come from clinging to the past. By enjoying the discomfort of change, we open ourselves up to see things from a new perspective, and to be happier while doing it.

Zach Obront, Scribe Writing

13. Think, What are you trying to accomplish?

My father told me to “Always ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish.” This is something I try to ask every time I start a design, get stuck on a project and even in my personal life. It is a way to pull yourself outside of a situation and make the best decision.

Peter Bonac, Bonac Innovation Corp.