I had always thought if I set myself up with the right accoutrements – the purple cushion, the deity infused altar, and the iPhone note timer sound-- that somehow I’d be able to achieve the elusive stillness of mind associated with sitting meditation. I even put aside 10 minutes each morning to give it a go.
Well, it never really worked --sitting in meditation continued to be a struggle. With an electric energy level, a chatter-filled mind, and a slight bout of restless leg syndrome, I needed to find another way to practice.
Try Movement Meditation On Retreat, Or At Home
It was in the jungle of Costa Rica, underneath a bamboo hut, where I had my first experience with movement meditation. The practice, known as Dynamic (or Active) meditation was completely foreign to my mind. And felt incredibly right in my body.
Finally, I could move as only I could – skipping enthusiastically around the room, or crouching protectively on the floor. As I explored this type of self expression, everything came to the surface – my emotions, my thoughts, a lot of sweat. It was an all-out purge that cleared space for the inner calm to settle within.
I was already practicing yoga when I went on retreat in Costa Rica, but something had shifted after that trip. I had seen the light pointing to the stillness of mind --I didn’t have to sit cross legged to get there! When I returned to my mat in NYC, I got into vinyasa. Though more structured than the Dynamic meditation, it was rooted in the same idea – focus on the movement of the body to encourage the mind to grow quiet.
Movement meditation (just as seated meditation) boils down to presence. The key is to hone into the moment with awareness, which you can practice anywhere and anytime. Here are some tips on how you can get started:
1. Use the breath to guide the movement.
If you’re practicing yoga – allow the inhale to take you into the pose, and on the exhale, let your body settle deeper. If you keep the breath slow and steady, the mind will follow.
2. Use the movement to bring your mind into the present.
If you’re running, let the sound of your foot hitting the ground call your attention back from wandering. Create awareness around your thoughts so you can begin to see them exactly as they are…just thoughts.
3. Choose activities that you know.
You can meditate in any activity, but there needs to be some level of competence. (The mind may have a tough time quieting when you’re trying to stand up on a surf board for the first time.) Stick with your tried and true movement practices so your mind can relax into the flow.
Sitting in meditation is a well-grounded way to achieve stillness of mind. But it’s not the only option. For those with an action oriented personality, or high energy nature you can move your way to stillness too!