Are you feeling kind of amped up or stressed? Sometimes when this happens, there is a hesitation to practice sitting meditation because we feel so distracted. Of course, this is usually the best time to sit down and be mindful of the breath for a bit. However, in order not to force ourselves, we might try something else: active mediation.
To be honest, I'm not really sure it that's a thing. I might have made up that name, but it is not a made-up concept. It's basically the key of mindfulness-- the idea that every single moment has the potential to become a meditation, just by bringing mindfulness to what we're doing. I see active meditation as a bridge between sitting mediation and daily activities.
Thích Nhất Hạnh talks about focusing fully on the most mundane of activities:
“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not "washing the dishes to wash the dishes." What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future, and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”
― The Miracle of Mindfulness
Whenever I read that passage I feel its truth, how I rush through one thing to get to the next, and then I make a renewed effort to live each moment with awareness.
For some easy practice in active mindfulness, or simply to sooth and refresh your mind, take a mindful walk, around 30 minutes or so. Try this: go outside, preferably to a beautiful natural space, and start walking somewhat more slowly than usual.
For a while, just walk and notice your breathing.
You can also try focusing on the senses in turn for a few minutes each. Focus on the feelings and sensations of your body: the movement of your feet, the wind on your face, the position of your back and shoulders, softening them. Then focus on the sounds you hear, the colors you see, and whatever you might smell, the quality of the air.
All the while...pay attention to your thoughts. What thoughts are passing through? What might you be feeling anxious or frustrated by?
After you're finished, consider jotting down some thoughts, realizations, or anything else that you were aware of during your walk.
Becoming more mindful does not have to be difficult. Tiny glimpses of mindfulness here and there can add up little by little, and we can be gentle with it, not stress out about messing it up.
So here's to your lovely walk in nature-- enjoy!