When we hear about meditation most of us think of a person sitting down in a traditional meditative posture such as the half lotus position with a straight back, closed eyes and a very still body.
Of course the above picture is a very common one and it is a correct one too. This is one of the best ways to meditate and still the mind – with a still body and a quiet mind in a tranquil ambience. But this is not the only way to meditate either. In fact the concept of meditation can be practically stretched to include other forms which do not involve a sitting still posture.
Some meditations are done when the body is active such as when walking or doing some physical activity. In Zen Buddhism, walking meditation is a well known and established form of meditation.
Is it possible to meditate while walking, running or being active?
Yes it is. Meditation is not about switching off your mind but about switching it on. It is about opening up your awareness to your surroundings and inner body. It is about tuning in to the present moment and living the freshness of it instead of blurring in to hazy thoughts and daydreaming.
So it is possible to be more mindful and aware while walking, cycling or running because your mind becomes engaged in the awareness of the surroundings. The body would be moving but the mind would be defragmenting and settling into stillness.
How to do meditation while active?
There are many different ways to do active meditation but all methods depends on directing your awareness into the activity you are doing irrespective of what that activity is. It is about opening up your perceptual awareness and letting your mind flow in sync with your activity.
Here are a few tips to practice mindfulness meditation while in activity:
1. Before engaging the activity stop for a few minutes to prepare your mind on the objectives you want to reach. This is like affirming to your self what you want to achieve. This is an important step for it directs your mind to stay on that track instead of wandering about distractively. I call it the warming up of the mind. Before we start a physical activity or sport we stretch our muscles and warm up our bodies. Same thing with the mind.
2. When you start the activity take some time to direct you awareness to your body. How does your body feel in general? Are your energy levels high or low? How do your muscles feel? Is your breathing deep or shallow? How do your feet feel? What is your general mood? Are you feeling any subtle energies changing in yourself as you do the activity?
3. Now turn your attention to your surroundings. If for example you are walking, enlarge your observation window to include those details that usually go by unnoticed. Patterns in buildings and stone, colors, shapes, sights, smells and sounds. This is mindfulness meditation in action. Your perceptual awareness expands until your mind opens up to a new dimension and everything becomes alive.
4. When your activity is over, take some time to observe how your mind feels different now. Are you more relaxed and focused? Are your thoughts more coherent? Is your general state of being more peaceful and calm? This exercise is important to extend your awareness also into the benefits of the meditation itself so that it becomes reinforced into our mind.