I remember the first time we chanted “Om” in yoga teacher training. Really, I shouldn’t say “we,” because I didn’t participate. There isn’t a spiritual bone in my body.
I don’t believe in God. I think horoscopes are a fabrication. Skeptical is my natural state of being. I know “Om” is meant to symbolize oneness and harmony. That’s beautiful, but it just makes me feel awkward.
Oh, well. It takes different strokes to move the world.
I have a love and hate relationship with meditation.
A couple years ago, I attended a “Mindfulness and Meditation” workshop at a yoga studio. It was lovely. We slowly peeled an orange and checked in with all of our senses: sight, smell – not sound, since oranges can’t talk – and so on, before we ate it.
As a guy who can devour a taco in ten seconds, I appreciated the reminder that it’s good to savor food. But then we got to the hard part…seated meditation.
I quickly regretted my decision to wear jeans. Even with support from a blanket, my body was strongly opposed to the idea of sitting in a cross-legged position. It was hard to clear my thoughts, because I was so uncomfortable.
It isn’t so bad anymore. Heck, I’m sitting on a couch with my legs crossed right now! My hips used to be really tight. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time in Pigeon pose. Spoiler Alert: it made a big difference! Still, I’m not crazy about meditation… at least not in a traditional sense.
I’m a ghost-writer. That means I write books, blogs, articles, and other types of content for my clients (and then they pay me enough “hush money” to not care about getting credit).
This is NOT an active job. I sit in front of a computer for most of my workday. If you work in an office, you might know the feeling.
Movement is my meditation.
I’m not complaining. My career situation sounds more appealing (to me) than construction, lawn care, or anything that involves being outside in the blistering summer heat.
That said, meditation is the last thing I want to do after sitting still for several hours. My workday is sedentary enough. Why add to it? Movement is my meditation.
For the last year, I’ve been playing around with a concept called mindful multitasking. Multitasking is often problematic, because people try to do too many things at the same time. It’s hard to make a pizza, write an essay, and trim your nose hair simultaneously.
Why? None of those activities are related at all! Mindful multitasking is different.
The goal is to combine two or more activities that don’t interrupt each other. For example: I have made omelets so many times that I can do it on autopilot. Thus, I like to listen to a podcast or stand-up special while I cook breakfast.
I know this goes against the teachings of Thích Nhất Hạnh, but I don’t really care. I’m not a fan of dogma. Write your own rulebook.
Practicing Mindful Multitasking
I applied mindful multitasking to my cardio workouts. At the gym, I like to follow-up my strength training with a ride on the stationary bike. It’s a low impact exercise that allows me to burn fat without having a negative effect on my muscle gains.
Most people don’t concentrate when they use these machines. They get caught up in the news, football game, or whatever is on TV.
This is how I focus: I watch the countdown timer like a hawk. For ten seconds, I take a deep “in” breath. For ten seconds, I retain that breath. For ten seconds, I release a slow “out” breath. For ten seconds, I retain that breath. It’s a combination of cardio and conscious breathing. Mindful multitasking in action!
Here are two cautionary notes for anyone who tries this at home. If retaining your breath makes you feel light-headed or dizzy, please stop immediately. It’s okay to just switch between inhales and exhales. Start with three seconds and move up from there.
Remember: everyone’s breathing capacity is different.
Anything that calms your mind may be considered “meditation.” If the traditional method doesn’t work for you, try something different. Find your own way to meditate. Dance (badly). Draw a picture. Walk in the woods. Pet your dog or cat.
Find an activity that puts you at ease and do more of that thing. You’ll thank me later.