You don’t need to “quiet your mind” in order to achieve inner peace.
My mind is constantly chirping—and closing my eyes and breathing deeply doesn’t lead to tranquility, let alone anything nearing bliss. Rather, this is when all the bad thoughts start bubbling up to the surface, inducing what I can only imagine is the sheer opposite of nirvana.
I’m definitely not alone in this: Many people who try to meditate fail at it. Still, subduing the mental merry-go-round is important, and there other ways to do that, all of which fall outside the box of what we normally associate with “meditation.”
Try “unmeditation” or active meditation
Earlier this year, I sat down with Becca Williams to experience her practice, which she calls “unmeditation.” Williams is a dietician and nutritionist who tailored her program to meet her own needs. She tried to overcome the racing thoughts in her mind through traditional mindfulness meditation, but found cutting through the static too onerous a challenge.
Instead, she developed her own program, which she recommends be paired with cannabis (though we didn’t go that route, since this was for work, after all). Sitting down on a Zoom call with Williams, she instructed me to breath quickly and heavily with my eyes closed, with my hands placed on my lap. It was the most vigorous form of meditation I’ve ever experienced. Quite frankly, it felt like exercise, which is kind of the point.
“My work offers a form of very active meditation that includes powerful breathing patterns, deep resonant sounds, and expressive movements of the upper body, arms, hands and fingers,” Williams says. In effect, this method intends to “respect the fact that the mind is often furiously spinning and challenging to slow down.”
It’s a riff on active meditation, which isn’t exactly a new concept. But Williams has tinkered with her regimen to perform the opposite of the traditional mindfulness milieu, allowing negative emotions to come to the forefront of the mind and be directly confronted.
She tells Lifehacker:
By using this very active meditation approach, the meditator is able to expend a lot of pent-up energy, which helps him/her slow down and ground themselves. In addition, contrary to the quiet silent sitting meditation, they’re invited to actually bring up and focus on whatever is knocking loudest on their head—stress and overwhelm, anxiety, self-doubt, anger, despair, and the like.
Ultimately, Williams thinks her approach allows practitioners to “meet, greet, and release the mental noise that keeps our lives unsettled.”
Other meditation alternatives that might work for you
All of these meditation alternatives offer different ways to achieve the same goal, which is the attainment of calm and contentedness. The beauty is, if one doesn’t work for you, it’s possible that another one does.
- Journaling: Putting your thoughts to paper can be a cathartic exercise, especially when you’ve been suppressing certain emotions. There are a variety of different kinds of journals you can choose from, and it’s so much more than merely keeping a diary.
- Martial arts: Training in a martial arts discipline might accomplish the same thing as meditating in at least one sense: It firmly grounds you in the present. You’ll be testing your body, as well as your mind, and perhaps learning a few things about yourself in the process.
- Cleaning: Yes, cleaning can be meditative. Those who abide by this wisdom urge others to really lean into the tactile elements of cleaning. Feel the suds, listen to the squeaks, and maybe notice some of the tension release from your body.
- Yoga: The meditative qualities of yoga are well-known, and it’s a great way to build strength. Similarly to martial arts, it’s pretty hard to master certain poses without quieting the mind. Easing yoga into your daily, or bi-daily, routine can do a lot to make your mind a generally more quiet place.
- Music: Listening to soothing music can do a lot to quiet the mind, considering you can let a song take you on a journey away from your thoughts. Draw a bath, light some candles and put on a mix that makes the vibe tranquil.
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