Sitting still in silence and paying attention to the breath doesn’t seem very exotic and life changing to most people. When I began meditating it seemed like the most boring and uneventful activity that I could imagine. What could possibly be gained from sitting with my breath? Not only was I uncertain about it, but it wasn’t easy or natural. I had a difficult time sitting still for even five minutes and really had no idea what I was doing. This is a common experience for people and is often why they give up and assume meditation isn’t for them. First and foremost know that meditation can be for anyone, but it requires a passive open-minded attitude. Meditation is just like everything else in life, it has its ups and downs. There are days when meditation seems laborious and uncomfortable, and other times where it is profound and invigorating. It is important to have a routine in order to develop a consistent practice, but if you’re like me it isn’t always easy to find time to meditate, even after experiencing the mental and emotional benefits. (Here is a post to help get you started with meditating if you are looking for more information before proceeding.) If you’re willing to accept that meditation won’t always be easy and enlightening it allows you to be more compassionate toward your practice and will lessen any resistance that may emerge. Here are a few suggestions to shake up and refresh your perspective on how to meditate to make it more enjoyable.
1. Use music
Meditating with music can really set the tone of your session. Meditation music can add an emotional element to help you get absorbed in the experience. It offers a backdrop to keep you focused and engaged in the moment. You can listen to podcasts of guided meditations that offer music, download tracks based on your personal preference, or listen to online radio meditation stations.
2. Meditate outdoors
Some of my favorite experiences meditating are when I have been outdoors and surrounded by nature. Meditating in nature is a great way to be more mindful and expansive. You can listen to sounds of nature, look at the clouds floating by, and feel the breeze against your skin. For instance, I went to the lake this past weekend and went kayaking. This offered a wonderful opportunity to mediate while floating along the calm water surrounded by nature.
3. Be mindful of everyday activities
Meditation can be applied anytime, anywhere. You don’t have to schedule some specific time frame but can instead take a contemplative and mindful approach to basic daily activities, such as washing dishes, driving a car, or other chores and responsibilities. Applying a meditative mind frame to mundane daily activities is a great way to make meditation more practical.
4. Start a group or partner meditation
Meditating with other people can be another way to shake things up and add some variety. Meditating with another person can help you be more accountable and focused to your practice. It adds to the energy and allows for exercises that wouldn’t be feasible otherwise. For instance, you can mindfully meditate with your romantic partner by incorporating mindful eye gazing or mindful touching.
5. Use creative visualization
There are many ways to spice up meditation beyond focusing on the breath. Once you have developed the overall concentration to meditate you can get creative and use visualization to expand on the experience. You can visualize the breath with colors, imagine pleasant scenery, or contemplate using symbols and other spiritual imagery.
6. Use a favorite quote or passage from a book
One of my favorite meditations is a passage meditation using the Prayer of Saint Francis. I recite the first half of the prayer slowly and contemplate on the message as I recite it. Next time you meditate pick a favorite quote or passage to read before the meditation to set the tone. You can also use this selection as a focus for concentration just as you would with a mantra.
7. Get moving
There are wide variety of movement meditations. The most popular and common form of movement meditation is Yoga, and includes many different types such as Vinyasa or Hatha Yoga. There are also other options that require some instruction including Qigong and T’ai chi. Or, you can simply engage in mindful walking where you meditate on each step you take, staying present and being aware step by step.
8. Use a diary or journal
Lastly, a great way to get the most out of meditation is to keep a journal by your side and write about your experience. Writing is a wonderful way to express yourself in general and can enhance the value of meditation by helping you process the experience and gain greater insight about your thoughts and feelings. So whether you’re just beginning or have been meditating for years, remember that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Be flexible and don’t expect perfection with your practice. Meditation doesn’t have to be a strict or stringent concept. Cut yourself some slack and be willing to have fun as you grow and learn. As you continue meditating the difficult moments will become easier to deal with and start to become important moments for learning and self-awareness. Use the ideas in this post to supplement your current practice, figure out what works best for you, and go with it.