Spiritual Meditation Tips for Busy Brains
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The benefits of adopting a consistent spiritual meditation practice
There are so many benefits to adopting a consistent spiritual meditation practice, and literally no downsides. Meditation cannot hurt you. The only time I notice people having a negative reaction to meditation is actually at its root a reaction to their own feelings and frustrations about trying to meditate “the right way” in the past. The traditional approach just doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s totally okay!
The traditional view on spiritual meditation
Whenever we mention spiritual meditation there are a lot of standard images that immediately associate with the thought – yogis in complex poses on a cliff, serene gurus on mountaintops, crystals, feathers, sage, all of the things. It can be … a lot. And in my mindset coaching practice my very busy clients will usually flinch at the suggestion of a spiritual meditation practice – did I mention they’re really busy?
Not only are clients busy, they often don’t know where to start with a spiritual meditation experiment. But that’s the first step – treating it as an experiment. Everyone says it’s good for you, so let’s experiment with seeing how and what works well in your life. There are a couple different things we can try.
Guided visualizations as a gateway to spiritual meditation
My first entry to spiritual meditation years ago was through guided visualizations. My brain (like many other brains!) loves to try to think about everything and solve all the problems all the time on a loop and it feels really hard to just sit still and be silent – it needed something specific to focus on. I can say now after years of semi-consistent practice, it does get easier to get to that aspirational still and silent vibe. But there’s no shame in starting where we’re at.
Guided visualizations give your brain something specific to focus on, to cultivate an experience or feeling you’re looking for. We created one a few years ago that specifically leads participants through a visualization of reconnecting with a loved one who has passed away. If you’d like to access it, just sign up for emails below and send us a note requesting it – it’s free!
Spiritual meditation using a mantra
Rather than a guided visualization exercise, many will do well with a spiritual meditation that incorporates a mantra. In Transcendental Meditation, you would focus on repeating basically a nonsensical sound (or a sound that has no meaning). This gives your brain something to do besides think about how to solve world hunger while you sit on your cushion.
The “Om” on a lot of yoga and meditation classes serves the same purpose. But in a way, it has lost some of its impact because we’re all familiar with the sound “Om”. Our brains start to think about yoga class, and who had the nerve to take our spot in the studio when we arrived late. And if we should buy some new workout clothes. Also why the teacher complimented Kelly’s pose and not yours, and on and on. So pick another sound if you’re noticing the sound you’re “supposed” to focus on actually triggers a lot of thoughts for you. The goal is to get our brains to quiet down.
Using a mantra that has words is also great if that works for you. I’m all about taking what works and leaving what doesn’t. You won’t get a trophy for meditating Most Perfectly. It’s such a personal thing, all that matters is your own experience with your own spiritual meditation practice. Let everything else go.
Meditative experiences without the cushions and crystals
You can still get a lot of the same brain benefits as meditation without actually meditating. Seriously! Studies have shown that coloring benefits the brain similar to the way that meditation does, by calming down the amygdala and thereby reducing anxiety and stress. It’s hard to angry color if you know what I mean. Light exercise like intentional nature walks can also be great for this. Just as long as you’re not spinning down a rabbit hole of chaotic thoughts in the process. If you’re hiking and your mind is quiet and clear, perfect. If you’re hiking and you’re criticizing yourself for being out of shape and cursing not wearing different shoes, that’s not what we’re after.
Notice when you do certain activities do you “zone out” and feel like time flies? That’s what we’re looking for – it can be different for different people.
Below are a few of my favorite ideas for meditative non-meditation activities! You can get even more ideas by just exploring the children’s section of a craft store – we are looking for something interesting, low-stakes and tactile.
1. This beginners pottery wheel starter set
This would be so out of my usual scope of activities that it would be a perfect way to get the brain to totally focus on one thing for a while – this pottery starter kit has everything you need to get started with the basics – and it’s geared towards kids, so it’s not exactly a high-pressure situation
2. These rainbow art scratch-off papers
My obsession with these rainbow scratch art papers is on another level honestly. I brought two (!!) boxes of these with me to our winter house and have been doodling oceanview scenes with dolphins, sunsets, the whole thing. They’re so fun, and it’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you’re drawing with sticks in rainbow colors.
3. Adult coloring books
We all know that I’m a big fan of adult coloring books, and some studies have indicated that coloring mandalas in particular yield better stress/anxiety reduction results vs. coloring other types of pictures. Not sure why that’s the case, but could have something to do with our brains associating clear thoughts with other types of familiar words and images. So, mandalas it is! And don’t forget pens!
4. Painting small canvases
Painting is one of those things that feels inaccessible if you didn’t grow up painting. And it seems so permanent with all the supplies, and the canvas, and then what if it’s not very good but you worked very hard on it? Do you hang it? Maybe you can hide it in the closet under the basement stairs? Should you donate it? Maybe it’s okay to actually just paint for the sake of painting. There doesn’t necessarily have to be an achievement on the other side, just the enjoyment of the process of creation. That’s why I love letting myself do it – and realizing that it doesn’t have to be a dramatic process or a perfect output.
Don’t let perfectionism keep you from a spiritual meditation practice
If you don’t already have a consistent spiritual meditation practice, but also balk at the idea of doing something other than meditating to achieve the same benefits, ask yourself why that might be the case. What is the resistance? Often, we find it’s a desire to perform spiritual meditation perfectly, in an Instagram-worthy way, or otherwise what’s the point. But the benefits extend far beyond all the likes on your beachside zen photos. So what matters is what actually works for you, not what looks good on a screen.
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