Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Nov

15 Alternatives to Sitting Meditation

MeditationNo longer the sole province of the hemp-swathed sprouting enthusiast, meditation’s popularity has exploded across our collective faces. Tech companies have embraced mindfulness meditation as the ultimate productivity. Google has “mindful lunches,” complete with prayer bells and hour-long vows of silence. And as legitimate meditation researchers uncover more benefits to our brains, our bodies, and our psyches, diehard rationalists have been forced to accept the scientific merits of mindfulness.

My explanation for why interest in meditation has grown is that it’s a replacement for the nature in which we no longer reside. For hundreds of thousands of years, we spent our days in natural settings where much of the mind chatter stops and we exist in the present moment. The falling leaves sparkling overhead with sunlight. The herky-jerk scamper of a startled lizard just off the trail. The erratic brilliant butterfly fluttering through the scene that you can’t help but stop to watch. That was life for most of human history. It wasn’t special. It was home. It’s what we knew.

Meditation represents a return to that ancestral state of presence in the moment. And yet I get the sense that more people are talking about meditation than actually meditating on a regular basis. I’m one of them, quick to recommend meditation on MDA because of the irrefutable benefits but unable to actually sit for a productive session, let alone a regular meditation routine. It’s hard. It’s unnatural. And it’s an artifice, albeit one made necessary by our environment.

Meditation has been shown to provide remarkable benefits to those who manage to stick with it, including but not limited to:

If we simply don’t enjoy meditation or can’t make it work, what options do we have? How can we get some of those attractive effects of meditation without actually sitting in a room for 30 minutes a day, every day? Here are 15 alternatives:

1. Non-judgmental awareness

From the moment most of us wake up, we’re making split second judgments about everything and everyone we encounter. That guy across the street who didn’t pick up after his dog? What a jerk. All those cars lined up along the onramp? Great. Now I’m going to be late. Even—or especially—our thoughts and feelings demand a response from our brain, so that we end up stressing out about stress and lamenting the sadness we feel and thinking about thinking about thinking. Instead of all that, try this: when a thought arrives, or a situation occurs, or anything at all happens, hold back judgment. Even if it’s positive. These judgments are often subconscious, so the first step is to realize we’re making them. Observe and acknowledge the item. If it’s sadness, accept it. If it’s a rude driver cutting you off, move on. If a bird poops on your shoulder, get a paper towel.

As I see it, this is the ultimate goal of any formal mindfulness meditation practice: to do it in daily life.

2. Surfing

Have you ever seen a depressed, anxious surfer? Me neither. In 2011, researchers found that surfers are far less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety than the general population. Last year, scientists even rigged up top surfers with EEGs to quantify the physiological state of “stoke.” Although the results haven’t been released yet, I’d imagine stoke looks an awful lot like mindfulness.

Like mindfulness meditation, surfing has been used to improve quality of life in veterans with PTSD (makes me think of that scene in Apocalypse Now).

3. Standup paddling

This is my favorite and most dependable way to meditate. It’s not a workout (unless I intend it to be a workout, or I’m racing someone). The benefits to fitness and body composition are afterthoughts, albeit welcome ones. When I paddle, I’m immersed in what psychologists call the “oceanic feeling”—that sense of one’s self dissolving into the greater external world. That’s why I paddle.

4. Swimming

Many find meditative solace in swimming laps slowly, deliberately. Swimming is great exercise, sure, but those with crisp, clean technique and enough endurance can turn it into a legitimate meditation practice. As a child, Michael Phelps swam as an antidote to his ADHD because it quieted his mind. Though he didn’t call it meditation, it effectively was. Me? I hate long slow laps. They remind me of triathlons too much. If I’m swimming laps, it’s a sprint and I keep it very brief. But my favorite way to reach a meditative state in the pool is through underwater swimming. You dunk your head and enter another world where sound sounds different, gravity affects you differently, and you’re free to explore full-dimensionality. Nerves along every inch of your body come alive with water contact; the present moment becomes a sensory feast. You also can’t breathe, which means my underwater meditations are short bites. Another way is to simply float belly-up or belly-down.

5. Tai chi

Practitioners often call it “movement meditation,” and that’s exactly what it is; research has confirmed many similarities between meditation and Tai chi. In one study, elderly Chinese adults living in group homes were placed in tai chi, walking, social interaction, or no intervention groups. The tai chi group saw increases in brain volume, verbal learning, and verbal fluency, as well as improvements in dementia scores. It also lowers cardiovascular risk in women, just like meditation.

6. Yoga

Many yoga practitioners will say that yoga isn’t really about the poses or the stretching. It’s about the meditation. And when you think about what happens in your typical yoga pose, it’s the perfect opportunity to practice acceptance of discomfort. Those who practice mindfulness are also practicing non-judgmental awareness of both positive and negative emotions, thoughts, and situations. You can observe that you’re feeling sad, or happy, but it’s only by identifying with those emotional states that we grant them power over us (“I am sad and that is a bad thing”). Yoga poses are often painful and uncomfortable. If we can observe the physical discomfort of a particular pose from a detached position, neither running from it or dissolving into it, we are practicing true mindfulness.

Like meditation, yoga may have beneficial effects on telomere length (and longevity).

7. Music practice

Researchers have begun to reconceptualize musical practice as a form of mindfulness meditation. I wouldn’t recommend a total beginner grabbing a violin and expecting to reach a state of mindful bliss; you’ll just fiddle around and produce a cacophony so jarring that not even the Buddha himself could avoid passing judgment. Instead, use an instrument you can actually use. Grab a hand drum and keep a simple beat. Use a Tibetan singing bowl, strike the side, and observe the resonance. Something simple (or not so simple if you’re experienced).

8. VitaMoves

I’ve discussed Angelo dela Cruz’s VitaMoves before. It’s a movement practice predicated on moving one’s tissues and joints through their full ranges of motion in a deliberate manner. Rather than momentum, you move with presence and intent. Rather than speed through it while thinking about the bills you have to pay, you focus on your body as it moves through space. You feel and focus on the stretch in your lats, the pull of your left hamstring when you move one way, the contraction of the quads when you rise from a full squat.

9. Walking

Tara Brach, a Buddhist teacher who publishes guided meditations and lectures on her fantastic podcast, is a proponent of walking meditation (PDF). Rather than sit in stillness, she suggests walking along a short predetermined path of 20-30 paces somewhere quiet and familiar. This creates boundaries and reduces distractions. More seasoned or confident people can go on unstructured, longer walks. The important thing is to pay attention to the shifting weight of your body as you walk, the feel of your footfalls, and the sensation of gliding through the air. As with sitting meditation, allow thoughts and other distractions to come and go; acknowledge but do not dwell on or judge them.

Compared to a regular walking routine, a walking Buddhist meditation practice reduced depression, improved fitness and vascular function, and lowered stress hormones in depressed elderly patients. This may be even better in some respects than sitting meditation, which can also lower stress hormones and combat depression but generally doesn’t improve physical fitness.

10. Sex

The whole point of sex is to get out of your head and be present. Because why wouldn’t you want to be experiencing the present moment? It’s incredible! So rather than worry if you’re pleasing the other person or if you’re gonna mess up somehow, just lose yourself in the act. Worrying makes things you’re worrying about more likely to occur. It’s worse than pointless. Then it’s over, and you spent the whole time in your head and not in your body. A body which, by the way, was doing some really awesome things that you totally missed out on.

11. Breathing

Many meditative practices use the breath as the focal point, the rock to which you return when the mind slips away from immediate presence. “Return to the breath.” If the word “meditation” trips you up or intimidates you, just breathe. Inhale and exhale through your nose, ideally. Observe how your diaphragm contracts and expands with each breath. Feel the weight of your body settle into gravity’s pull as you exhale. Oftentimes, those intent on following a breathing pattern will find themselves in the meditative space without really trying.

Like meditation, deep breathing exercises can reduce sympathetic activity, induce relaxation, and counter anxiety.

12. Hiking

Combine being in immersive natural settings with the walking meditation mentioned above and you get hiking, my favorite land-based form of meditation. Maybe it’s my Type A personality I just can’t turn off, but being motionless is oddly stifling. I have to move to get a handle on my mind, to quiet the chatter. If I move through natural settings, the chatter stops even quicker.

13. Coloring

First popularized by Jung, who had his patients draw and color intricate mandala patterns, adult coloring books are enjoying an explosion in popularity. The top book on Amazon.com at the time of this writing is an adult coloring book. Curiously, this coincides. Coloring within the lines requires presence. Your mind wanders, you spill over the line. Most importantly, coloring is an immersive, intrinsically rewarding practice. To see the patterns pop alive in full color is its own reward.

14. Dancing

Dance like no body’s watching, they say. That’s exactly what meditative dancing looks like. The body and the music merge. The self, the all-powerful “I,” disappears, if only for a few minutes. But that’s enough. Best part of all? You don’t really even have to be “good” at dancing to get the benefits. Second best part of all? Dancing like nobody’s watching always looks better than dancing like everybody’s watching.

15. Guided meditations

Some purists might scoff at a person’s reliance on guided meditations to achieve mindfulness, but forget them. Shortcuts that get you to the place you’re headed are awesome. Guided journeys are still journeys. And hey, once you’ve been taken safely along the route a few times you can probably find your own way to the destination.

From truly impressive physiological effects like the beneficial alterations to brain function and morphology, the extension of telomere length, the activation of genes critical to health and longevity, and more intuitive benefits to general well-being, stress and anxiety levels, the established benefits of meditation on dozens of physiological and psychological systems far outpace those of the alternatives presented in this post. But self-motivation to practice meditation is tough when you’re not enrolled in a clinical study with a team of meditation experts supporting and encouraging you. For some people, saying “just meditate every day” is advice akin to “just eat less”; it “works” but not really. These alternatives are may not fully replicate the effects of mindfulness meditation, but they’ll get you far—and they’re certainly better than doing nothing.

Either way, you’re losing one’s self. The self as a psychological construct, a surveyor sitting behind your eyes observing and guiding your actions, is gone. What remains is only the direct experience of the present moment: the hand against the drum, the swelling of a budding wave off toward the horizon, the paddle slipping smoothly into the water, the breath entering and leaving your body. And that’s what truly matters most.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’m incredibly curious: what’s your meditation?

Until next time.

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Walking, Hiking, enjoying my best friends company (my dog) while walking or hiking and swimming are my favorites.

    You could add Photography to the list, but I guess it isn’t free since it requires a Camera.
    Taking a day to look for beautiful things to take unique pictures of is quite meditating :)

    Arty wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • You can look for images that you can use for free..Image embed releases good photographs every week to be used in blogs and websites.

      I agree that beautiful photos especially the beauty of nature calms the mind

      Andrei Beauregard wrote on November 22nd, 2015
  2. Prayer. Chanting Morning and Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as the Rosary.

    Deacon Patrick wrote on November 10th, 2015
  3. On those days when my commute is particularly bad, cranking up the music, singing along and drumming on the steering wheel as I chair dance lets me arrive at my destination totally relaxed.

    paleo4life wrote on November 10th, 2015
  4. I have been using the various guided mindfulness meditation modules offered by Andy Puddicombe’s Headspace for the past 9 months. I started out grudgingly doing 5 minutes a day and now I make time to meditate every day, twice a day for 20 minutes a session. I am off anti-anxiety meds, blood pressure meds and I sleep better, do not lose my temper more than once a month (and when I do, I recover quickly) and my dyslexia and adult ADD (I don’t tolerate the meds, so I stopped them) are much more manageable since starting meditation. It works.

    Chris wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • I so relate to the “grudgingly doing 5 minutes a day” … except in my case it’s “grudgingly thinking about doing 5 minutes a day” lol.

      But seriously, thanks for the encouragement.

      Paleo Lady wrote on November 10th, 2015
      • It took me 2 weeks to get into the meditation habit and a month to get past 5 grudging minutes. You can do it. 😀

        Chris wrote on November 10th, 2015
        • Keep going, a yoga teacher chatted to me about meditation and committing to the daily practice until it becomes something you don’t want to miss. I was a little sceptical, but once through 21 days (often recognised as the habit forming period) she’s right, I do itch to meditate and if for some reason I just can’t I really miss it. For me learning Effortless Mind, Ajayan Borys really made the difference. It’s quite complicated, and the effortless title makes me chuckle, but for this type A always in the head type it’s brilliant because there is a lot of focus on – that keeps the monkey brain happy meanwhile myself can just be.

          Kelda wrote on November 13th, 2015
    • congrats! impressive results!
      I’ve been doing Headspace for, well, just checked, 152 sessions, so about 5 months, and really look forward to that quiet feeling. What a difference I’ve noticed on my reaction to stress, but even more, I began to notice the ugly things i was doing to people around me. that first point about non-judgmental awareness in Mark’s post is right on.

      Tom B-D wrote on November 10th, 2015
      • I noticed the ugly things I was thinking about myself and others as well as the doings. A real eye opener! I have a major crush on Andy. I look forward to hearing his gentle voice every day.

        Chris wrote on November 10th, 2015
      • Headspace +1
        Simple, easy to use, it takes you by the hand
        Been doing it for several months

        wildgrok wrote on November 10th, 2015
        • Interesting, I’ll have to check it out.

          Mark Sisson wrote on November 10th, 2015
        • another +1 for headspace. very approachable, affordable, and you can see your progress from day to day so you feel like you’re ‘getting somewhere’ for those of us who are impatient. :)

          starmice wrote on November 11th, 2015
        • Another +1 for headspace.

          Doug W wrote on November 12th, 2015
        • Another +1 for Headspace. I’m similar to Mark in that I find long sitting meditation very counter-intuitive and stifling, but I can manage the 10-15 mins most days, and it makes me feel a lot better. The techniques are especially useful for helping to cope with insomnia, long train/ plane journeys etc.

          But, on the other hand, my wife thinks I’ve been sucked into a weird cult, and that Andy is going to tell me to kill myself in a ritual manner any time.

          Jack S wrote on November 14th, 2015
  5. Scuba diving – takes away much of the regular world noise – replaces it with a new world of sound. You can relax and just float along, if so inclined.

    Don wrote on November 10th, 2015
  6. You forgot hunting, bro.

    Marty Rheaume wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • For me it’s fishing 😉

      Alex wrote on November 10th, 2015
      • For me it’s spearfishing. There is no better head change than hunting underwater.

        Jack Lea Mason wrote on November 10th, 2015
        • Sweet, man! That’s really taking it to the next level.

          Marty Rheaume wrote on November 11th, 2015
  7. I meditate for an hour every morning. Trust me, you don’t want to see me on the days I don’t.
    I use Centerpointe Research’s Holosync meditation. The tones move your brainwaves from consciousness down into delta and theta. Been using the system for over 12 years.
    I’ll have to noodle with getting back into tai chi again.

    Beth wrote on November 10th, 2015
  8. Knitting! The repetitive motion can be very meditative. There’s even a book exploring this idea called “The Knitting Sutra”.

    Janknitz wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • I can see that. Another great idea!

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • I have meditated in the past, but didn’t really get on with it. Now I crochet instead and find it has much the same effect, but I don’t have to force myself to do it. Plus I get the satisfaction of having made something too. It only seems to work if I am following a simple repetitive pattern though. If I am doing anything too complex then stress starts to creep in.

      Faye wrote on November 11th, 2015
  9. I’ve found recently that my acupuncture sessions are super meditative. You really just focus on all the sensations that are going on in your body!

    Emily wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • Two of my Worker Bees have said the same about their regular treatments. I imagine there’s not a lot else to do when on the table, so it’s a solid opportunity.

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 10th, 2015
  10. Walking, walking, walking…..

    Bells wrote on November 10th, 2015
  11. I practice traditional meditation but also hoopdance, gardening, cooking… really almost anything can be meditative with a mindful focus.

    Paleo-curious wrote on November 10th, 2015
  12. The rosary. :)

    Jessica wrote on November 10th, 2015
  13. I’ve been practicing TV since the late 60’s. Decades and decades of daily meditation, twice a day – and I’m still an idiot!

    Jed wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • TV, Ha. I meant TM. Transcendental Meditation.

      Jed wrote on November 10th, 2015
      • Hahahaha! Great slip-up, I thought you were being ironic in the first comment!

        Angie wrote on November 11th, 2015
  14. It’s not an alternative to sitting meditation, but I just want to share. These guys do encourage walking contemplation mazes.

    http://www.centeringprayer.com

    Pittzer wrote on November 10th, 2015
  15. Balancing on one leg. It not only helps me physically with my disability but also requires complete focus of my mind. I usually pick out an object to look at whether it be a tree, a rock or a flower and concentrate on it. If I allow my mind to wander off to other distractions, I usually lose my balance, touch the ground and have start over.

    David wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • Great idea, David. Creative and simple.

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • “If I allow my mind to wander off to other distractions, I usually lose my balance, touch the ground and have start over.”
      ^ think this is brilliant!

      If anyone wants to take this principle to the next level, I recommend something like slacklining (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacklining).

      Star wrote on November 11th, 2015
    • at the end of our Long Fist class. if there’s time, there is usually a “stance training”
      total of 8 stances to train “rooting”
      #1 stance is horse stance
      then there’s also single leg is one of them
      ea stance is typically held for 10 – 30 seconds
      that can become quite meditative.

      there’re even “horse stance club” that train up to 15 min – 2 hours. Orz

      pam wrote on November 11th, 2015
  16. The rosary! Going to church. What a feeling of peace. I imagine most traditional religious practices include meditation.

    Leslie wrote on November 10th, 2015
  17. Wow, Mark, completely agree that stand-up paddling is meditative! I don’t get to do it often enough though. I take so e quiet time every morning, before everyone else in the house is up, to breathe, pray, and write in a gratitude journal. This time really sets the tone for my day. But I also find walking to be very meditative, especially early in the morning.

    Elizabeth wrote on November 10th, 2015
  18. I got hooked with the Headspace meditation
    And the other one is Zumba!

    wildgrok wrote on November 10th, 2015
  19. Such a wonderful message for folks–that meditation doesn’t have to take place seated cross-legged on a cushion.

    I practice yoga asanas twice daily…and listen to audio dharma talks while doing a conscious breathing practice many evenings.

    But when working with clients, most of the meditative practices I teach have to do with food and eating. Mindful eating…and practicing non-reactive awareness around eating and cravings (before, during, after) can be really simple–but surprisingly powerful. Done consistently and with attentiveness, guided practices around eating and food can create such amazing shifts over time.

    Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons wrote on November 10th, 2015
  20. Horse riding. An hour or more out with my horse in the vineyards, paddocks or bush. Nothing better in the world. I feel calm for the next 24 hrs.

    Emma wrote on November 10th, 2015
  21. For me, running. Because I’m not very good at it, I have to concentrate. When I’m walking I can solve all kinds of problems that may or may not need solving so I’m rarely present :-)

    Sandra wrote on November 10th, 2015
  22. I second knitting….or String Therapy as I like to call it

    Dawn from the Frozen North wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • I agree! I visit my my local yarn shop on Saturday afternoons to help destress for a couple of hours each week.

      Colleen wrote on November 10th, 2015
  23. I really like Headspace, a series of guided meditations by Andy Puddicombe. It’s a really easy way to learn meditation. I tried to meditate for years before I found Headspace and was never really successful before. But now I can.

    shannon wrote on November 10th, 2015
    • I agree, nothing worked for me until I discovered Headspace. The short 10 minute sessions are the perfect gateway drug into more serious meditation.

      Johnathan Cranford wrote on November 11th, 2015
      • Another thing I love about Headspace is the “gifting.” Sure, it’s marketing, but for every milestone you complete (30 days, 90 days and so on) you get a certificate from Headspace for a free 10, 30 or 90 days to pass on to others. I have turned 3 staff members and 2 new friends onto meditation this way.

        Not sure if it is still in effect, but they used to offer the first 10 days of Headspace free. Just enough time to get you hooked on feeling how good mindfulness can be!

        Chris wrote on November 11th, 2015
  24. Thanks so much for writing this. I honestly have trouble staying patient enough to even do yoga lately. I used to dance around my apartment all the time and I never thought of it as therapeutic but I guess it was and I should start doing that again!

    It’s interesting. I used to work as a therapist and I was supposed to teach meditation to clients. They always complained that they just couldn’t do it and I was supposed to tell them to keep trying. This would have come in useful because relaxation is definitely not a one-size-fits-all deal.

    Danielle wrote on November 10th, 2015
  25. Mark, you said:
    “My explanation for why interest in meditation has grown is that it’s a replacement for the nature in which we no longer reside. For hundreds of thousands of years, we spent our days in natural settings where much of the mind chatter stops and we exist in the present moment. ”

    Dr Ainslie Meares in 1962 in the Lancet said
    “In ordinary health there are continual variations in the level of our mental alertness. For a while we function in a completely rational fashion with our criticism alert to every step in our thinking. Then the intensity of our critical functioning wanes, and our awareness of reasoned logic becomes less acute. The process may go a step further and we find ourselves quite off guard, in a momentary state of reverie…

    These normal variations in the level of mental functioning can be explained more easily as a temporary slipping back to a more primitive mode of functioning. For the present discussion the important point is that persons suffering from chronic anxiety do not experience the same fluctuations in the level of mental functioning. They are continually alert and on guard, with their critical faculties constantly working at high pressure. this idea is epxressed in the phrase we hear so often Ï simply cant relax..”

    What is the significance of this strange loss of the normal variations in the level of mental functioning? Could it be that these periods of atavistic regression are somehow necessary for the homeostatic mechanisms of the mind to function effectively? In this respect we have a clear analogy to our recurrent need for sleep.”

    Dr Meares wrote about 30 books and many publications around this theory of mental homeostasis. He developed a method that allows people to let themselves experience this state. This came out of his studies in hypnosis, psychiatry and travels to many parts of the world to study the mental health practices of various cultures in the far east and asia and other parts of the world. A bit like Weston Price did some 20-30 years earlier.
    Today his method which is taught in Australia and some other parts of the world is called stillness meditation – summarising the effortless state of calm arising from the mind becoming still and being permitted to rest.
    Dr Meares also developed the concept of the onflow of meditation where the effects of meditation spill over into daily life as it becomes permeated with ease.

    The Meares method is literally learning what primitive peoples do naturally without cultural or religious concepts. Removed is all the floss and dross. All that remains is a simple method of accessing our natural state of calm. His method dovetails perfectly with the primal blueprint. I think it is the missing link for mental side of things
    OB

    ob wrote on November 10th, 2015
  26. Ha. I’ve always been one of those ‘diehard rationalists’, but when it came to the point of either going back on SSRI’s or trying every possible thing available, I chose to just try every ****** thing, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I know now that my daily meditation, along with some light running (running could be on the list!) does wonders for my anxiety, and even though I still have short spells of depression (that I can manage), I’ve been off the meds 2 years and counting now. Wouldn’t have it any other way :)
    PS: All this talk of surfing makes me wish we had an ocean that had proper waves that weren’t stifled by stupid England being in the way 😉

    trillie wrote on November 11th, 2015
  27. I’ve been practicing various styles of Buddhist Meditation for about 3 years, they most definitely work, in ways that are hard to explain! Just try it and see for yourselves!

    Appana Samadhi wrote on November 11th, 2015
  28. Great post Mark. One thing you could add, although not available to everyone is gliding. I’m a Captain at a big Canadian Airline. I love flying big jet airplanes but for me nothing beats the freedom of gliding. So simple and so peaceful. Some may say this sounds terrifying – being thousands of feet up in the air without an engine. It’s actually quite magical. Nothing but you and the wind…..literally leaving all your troubles below.

    Keep the blue side up
    Joe

    Joe wrote on November 11th, 2015
  29. 20-30 minutes of listening to binaural beats in the alpha and theta wave frequencies is a good form of meditation. Alpha works best for me. Theta takes me too deeply and into sleep.

    Binaural beat listening requires dual left/right headphones. There are other beat technologies that can be listened to without headphones but I’ve had no experience with them. I frequently listen to my alpha binaural beats, especially while flying. (In planes)

    Multiple wave frequencies are available for both free or paid downloads from multiple web sources. Just search for “binaural beats”.

    John Caton wrote on November 11th, 2015
    • Oh, i’ve heard about this. Thanks for the reminder!

      Angie wrote on November 11th, 2015
  30. Great stuff! I’m so glad you included paddleboarding on the list, certainly a new found passion of mine!

    I try to head out into the sun for at least an hour per day. After lying there with no distractions and absorbing all that Vitamin D, I feel revitalized!

    Mark wrote on November 11th, 2015
  31. As a practitioner and teacher of yoga and meditation, I have to say: sitting meditation is different from anything else – including walking meditation and yoga where the movement is totally slow and mindful.

    The whole thing about the sitting meditation is that there is no distraction. Movement is very distracting, and even the movement of the breath through the body – which will often be the anchor for the wandering mind – can be felt as a distraction. The beauty of meditation is absolute stillness. Movement is the nature of the mind. All of it’s anxieties are a result of it continually jumping between past and future, desire and revolt, the stress of holding onto, the force of pushing away. Yes, you can be absolutely present and involved in whatever you are doing – any act can become mindfulness meditation. But sitting meditation is different because of the quality of the stillness. The mind cannot imitate stillness, so when you feel that quality, you know you are connecting with something beyond the mind.

    It’s not for everybody. I think most people need to be involved in some sort of mindfulness practice for a long time before they feel ready to sit. I practiced yoga for about 4 years before I felt drawn to sitting meditation. Now, if I haven’t made time to sit for a few days – even though I’m spending time out in nature, contemplating, drawing or colouring – I miss it, and I’ll make time for it.

    I’m planning on putting Guided Meditations onto the blog soon. I think it is such an important part of the Paleo Lifestyle.

    Angie wrote on November 11th, 2015
    • In an earlier post you mentioned the importance of discomfort. There is definitely an optimum amount. Pain has warning properties and too much can mean injury – either short or longer term. Overwhelming discomfort does not permit the mind to become calm and at ease. Enduring discomfort does not permit this to occur. To little discomfort ie comfort means that the calm must be of the body rather than the mind. In fact, in some traditions practitioners routinely fall asleep for that reason… .

      There is meditation in a simple posture with slight but not overwhelming discomfort. Necessary so that the mind transcends it. Then the relaxation that comes to us comes from the mind. In the Meares method, there is also the onflow of meditation. Where practitioners let the sense of ease from the stillness meditation permeate through the rest of the day. This may be encouraged by cultivating this sense of ease when doing simple activities whether that be exercises, walking, vacuuming the carpet etc. I believe that yoga exercises are similar, although, and advanced yogi who has practiced for a long time and whose ability to do the poses is automatic may be able to achieve stillness…. or something very close to it. This may also be one of the reasons why asana tend to be held for a significant duration as this then is a static posture, which changes from time to time. Many of the vinyasa seem to be practiced.

      ob wrote on November 11th, 2015
      • Sorry meant to add that often the vinyasa are practiced as fixed routines over and over again which means the advanced practitioner be achieving something similar. The kata or forms in some martial arts inadvertently may serve a similar function. Although very, very clearly, yoga is extremely upfront regarding its peaceful intent!

        ob wrote on November 11th, 2015
    • I can’t agree more!
      Many of those activities may put you on a flow state. I used to swim a lot and my mind was either day dreaming or just relaxing with minor thoughts. I reason that all those alternatives that Mark suggested will provide relaxation, mindfulness and awareness, which is very good but it’s not the point of sitting meditation. Practicing mindfulness while hiking is good but it’s completely different than a empty mind you should practice on a sitting meditation!

      Frank wrote on November 13th, 2015
  32. When I think of meditation I think of a formal practice that changes who you are and how you think, so you can view life as a cancer. Attachment and craving are considered forms of suffering due to a religious belief in impermanence, which is a belief that all things come to an end, so why enjoy or derive pain from anything. Life is considered an illusion. Meditators believe in observing things ‘as they are’, but the non-judgemental and acceptance attitude is taken to far, since you can effectively give up control of your mind. Anything of the mind is considered an illusion and you must view this as a cancer, so you end up internalizing very unhealthy behaviours, thoughts, and attitudes towards life.

    We might be experiencing Asian fever here in the West, but this is a religious belief system that is completely different to our own. I practiced sitting meditation every morning and evening for an hour every day for one year, and near the end of my tenure I realize meditation is unnatural and suppresses natural human emotion. It is a religion, and hopefully this fad passes sooner rather than later, since we already have ingrained cultural values which help us define who we are and our place in the cosmos. Not only that, from the Primal Blueprint perspective, did Grok really need meditation to find happiness and joy?

    Josh wrote on November 11th, 2015
    • Some meditation is religious as it was derived from yoga or zen or other religious systems. Westerners can have difficulty grasping eastern concepts.

      If a person feels what they are doing is unnatural and is interfering with emotions that is not a practice to be encouraged.

      The mind does need to rest and some people are able to do that in spontaneous periods of mental quiet and stillness like reverie or a daydream (with no dream- just random thoughts that slow and stop). For those of us that get wrapped up in things have a regime of 2-3×10 minutes per day where the mind is permitted to rest can be of benefit. Also letting the sense of calm and ease from that rest permeate the rest of the day is good too.

      This is the “meditation”.that I practice. It is not really meditation in a way as it is re-learning a natural mechanism. However, one has to call it something.

      I think your point about what did Grok do – Marks favorite saying is very relevant. We need to have Grok’s mind but to do so we need to relearn something of his way of life. In the case of physical matters, we need to relearn a system of physical exercise and we may need restorative or corrective exercises as part of rehabilitation as zoo humans. In the case of diet – primal blueprint and education are needed and learning new habbits like its OK to miss a meal now and again. We need something similar for the mind and the meditation (or the mental knack or skill of letting calm through us is that).

      ob wrote on November 11th, 2015
  33. I do yoga, but I have to take slight issue with what you said about the poses sometimes being painful. I … don’t think that’s supposed to happen. They may be uncomfortable, yes, and may feel awkward but pain is a sign that you’re going deeper into the pose than you should. For me the meditation of yoga is about tying the breath to movement as you flow through the asanas, or breathing as you hold an asana that might feel uncomfortable (but not painful). I also love coloring mandalas. I love sitting meditation too, but for some people it’s so hard to just sit — moving meditation is a friendly intro to the practice. Love all the suggestions in this post and the comments!

    Kathy McKelley Statham wrote on November 11th, 2015
  34. This explains both my obsession with hiking and my husband’s obsession with World of Tanks.

    Monikat wrote on November 11th, 2015
  35. Wow, great post! Coincidence – I plugged into a guided meditation track on my phone and went for a walk while feeling stressed yesterday. Find this much easier than sitting.

    I used to be a musician and found playing my double bass alone (sometimes in the dark or with my eyes closed) very transcendent.

    Sometimes when I feel stressed I imagine swimming. Very relaxing.

    Having a facial massage or head massage or having my back stroked by my partner really helps.

    Or having a car or dog to stroke or horse to groom is also therapeutic.

    Singing too, and dancing! So many ways to reconnect with yourself.

    An anthropologist called Robert Dunbar theorised that humans substituted physical grooming (as a means of bonding) with music, laughter and (I think) religion.

    Alice Sowerby wrote on November 11th, 2015
    • Sorry, Robin Dunbar!

      Alice Sowerby wrote on November 11th, 2015
  36. For me it’s whittling.

    Sam Culp wrote on November 11th, 2015
  37. Great article! I’ve long believed in meditative alternatives to the traditional idea of what mediation looks like so it’s interesting to read these comments and see what works for everyone. With that said, I didn’t see any mention of a long time favorite of mine: puzzles! :)

    Steve A wrote on November 11th, 2015
  38. you forgot to mention also chi-kung (qi gong)
    i recommend 8 pieces of brocade
    (easier than Tai-Chi)

    seems any mindful movements can become meditative tho

    pam wrote on November 11th, 2015
  39. I’m gonna check out Headspace. Another great app for meditation that I have found is Buddhify. My favorite place to do meditation is in the sauna after my workout.

    Todd wrote on November 11th, 2015
  40. I am so happy to see at least one comment referencing massage! I’ve certainly experienced the “half-awake”, drifting state that my clients tell me about when you can be quiet and focus on the sensations and relaxation your body feels during massage therapy. I do not find sitting meditation helpful as of yet.

    I love trail-running–the more rocks the better. I have experienced moments of what seems complete mental quiet as i let my body take over the intricate task of keeping my footing!

    Ashley Dupont wrote on November 15th, 2015

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