These activities….

Gardening
Cleaning
Walking
Painting
Writing
Dancing
Working Out
Having a Bath
Naps
Dawdling

……..are not meditation.

Meditation is the practice of tuning out the outside world, all of your senses ideally, in order to access your inner consciousness, formless intelligence, the space between the thoughts, your true essence.

Sorry to burst your multi-tasking bubble, but I have heard this far too many times from my one on one transformation clients or from groups when I am speaking. 

I ask, “Do you meditate?” 

And I get a laundry list of things that aren’t quite meditation. They are awesome practices to do, and life habits to maintain, but are not the same as the practice of increasing your inner space so the outer world doesn’t crowd out who you really are.

Your Nervous System 101:

Most modern day people are jacked up on stress or caffeine or both with very little relaxation to moderate all the hyper go-go-go going on in their mind and lives. This state is when our sympathetic nervous system is overly active. When we are in this overly agitated state we have less creative problem-solving capacity, or ability to be present with others, very little patience, and the feeling like time is running out and we are always behind and missing out.

The thing is, we can be chill and efficient but simply haven’t been taught how.

The chill nervous system state is not sleep, but rather the parasympathetic system relaxation response that allows for more blood in the brain, and particularly more blood in the frontal cortex where we make decisions and think from our highest form of thinking capability as a human. We can be present AND be doing things.

So, it makes sense then that we would be more efficient if our brain worked from the frontal lobe then right?
YES.

In which case relaxation in general is always something I prioritize and suggest others to do the same. 

Here are a few ways we can compliment a meditation practice, but again, are not substitutions for meditation in it’s pure form. It would be like doing squats to build up your biceps, both are great and healthy, but they aren’t the right activity for the desired objective: which in the case of meditation is freedom from the noise of the world so you can hear your own truth and sense who you really are at your core.

Relaxation:

Relaxation in psychology, is the emotional state of a living being, of low tension, in which there is an absence of arousal that could come from sources such as anger, anxiety, or fear. According to the Oxford dictionary relaxation is when the body and mind are free from tension and anxiety.  – Wikipedia

I can hear your mind now, “that would be nice!” Right?

We can train our system to learn to relax more, but we have to actually train it. We can get so amped up about not wanting to get something wrong or arrogantly assume we can ‘get it right’ right-away without practice. These are silly. So, stop it. How would I know how to tie a sailor knot unless I was taught? Why would I have the expectation that if I can tie my shoe I can somehow magically know a skill-like tying a more complex knot- without being taught or practicing? We are so hard on ourselves.

Trying something new will take time, and you are allowed to fumble your way to mastery. Meditation will reveal your relationship to yourself and life. If you are a perfectionist, if you are impatient, if you are critical, if you hold grudges, if you have expectations for others, if you are scattered…all of that will be revealed. But, don’t judge yourself, just allow, honour, witness and love all that arises. It is a practice, and it takes time. 

Flow State:
(walking in nature, creative activity, repetitive activities, the athletic zone)

In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.  – Online Dictionary

Remember being a kid and playing for hours, or creating something without any thought about how good it was or how long it was taking or if your efforts would be rewarded?

We are still kids, we just bought into this insistent delusion that we should somehow shove those parts of ourselves down once we turn 18 or 21 or whatever the erroneous marker is. When we are in a flow state we are re-awakening our full self into full presence. In my opinion, flow state is pure presence in action. All you need to know is which activity do you “lose time” with, when are you so immersed in the thing, you don’t realize there is anything else in the world other than that thing. 

Then…
Do that thing.
Do it more.
The flow state is life talking to us, nudging us to what really matters to us, and how to use our time with the most intelligence.

Sleep:

a condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended. – Oxford English Dictionary

So many people find they fall asleep during meditation. This is because they haven’t learned the gears in between FULL ON and relaxation, in this case sleep. Meditation can train more states in between. When you can do that, you are more confident and have less of a tendency to go-go-go and suddenly find yourself exhausted. When you practice connecting to your mind, body, and heart regularly, your inner intelligence will be able to reveal itself to you in the form of intuition. You will listen to your body sensations more. Like when I am doing too much, my shoulders are not only tight, but when I do way too much, they have a burning sensation. That is my body telling me to pull back. This way, I avoid running on fumes and I can catch the signs before burning out. Our intelligence wants us to be healthy and happy, and wants to talk to us. Few people really take the time to develop that inner relationship so they can get beyond the awkward beginner phase and into life-mastery so they can hear their intuition regularly everyday.

You will know and be able to master all the states in between extreme doing and sleep when you spend more time with yourself. Meditation is a great way to do that.

The Space Between the Doing

Doing from your BEing.

Driving your kid to school, should not take the same amount of  energy or stress hormones as driving to the hospital because they are choking. Yet, many people do not know how to do from BEing; everything is urgent, and hyper, and impatient. I see this all the time with my clients, and catch myself doing it too! 

This brain state is called high-beta brain waves. We are reactive and in our least efficient state with these brain wave patterns.

Meditation is meant to train our ability to take back dominion over our own experience in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances or the moods/opinions of others.

We can train ourselves to grow presence muscles by actually meditating.

So, Here’s How to Meditate

Sit.
Breathe.
Allow thoughts to be there, don’t fight them, but don’t let them take over either if you can.
Allow the discomfort of doing something new to rise and fall.
Feel your breath. Feel it breathing without you doing it.
Feel your legs.
Breathe.
Feel your torso.
Breathe.
Feel the ground holding you up.
Feel your breath breathing for you.
Feel your heart breathing for you.

Let your arms and hands be, let them go and resist the need to hold them in a position you think you need to. How do your arms want to be in this moment? And then let them. Now, extend that same permission to your whole body.

Relax your forehead.
Let the ground hold you up.
Let your spine hold your body up.
Let your head be held up by your neck.

BE
Breathe
There’s is nothing to do, but BE.

Calm the pop up thoughts in your mind by simply feeling your body again.

Feel.
Breathe.
Be with everything that comes up and do not try to fix, analyze, judge, or control the process….and also love those aspects when they try to take over.

Let your face and jaw go.
Breathe.

Set a timer for 1 min.
Try it for a SMALL amount of time.
Create a game you can win at.
Be gentle, and be kind.

Just start.
It is really worth it.