How to Meditate Without Actually Meditating

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

I’ve been working with a coaching client who is going through a period of transition. One thing we kept coming back to is that she wanted to be more present, more in the moment, and that doing so would make it easier for her to manage all the change and uncertainty in her life.

As soon as we uncovered that she needed mindfulness, I brought up meditation.

“The problem is I hate meditating,” she said, “and I’m no good at it.”

“What happens when you try to meditate?” I asked.

“Well, I try using those guided meditations and they work the first few times, but then it seems like they stop working and I’m back to my mind wandering all over the place.”

This made perfect sense to me. I love guided meditations, but I’ve learned that I can only listen to the same one a couple times in a row before the effects seem to wear off. I think it’s because after a few times I begin to anticipate what’s going to happen.

That doesn’t mean anticipation is always a bad thing, but it was definitely getting in the way of my client’s mission to be mindful. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to pull your attention back to what’s happening right now.

how to meditate without meditation

3 Ways to Be Mindful Without Meditating

1. Make the kitchen a distraction-free zone.

Cooking and eating offer great opportunities for mindfulness because there is so much your senses can absorb – if you’re paying attention. You can get lost in the scents, the colors, the tastes, the rhythm of chopping, and the sound of foods sizzling. Or you can miss all that because you’re checking your email while the hamburger browns or watching a movie while you throw together a salad.

Multi-tasking in the kitchen doesn’t just diminish the experience of preparing food. Diet and fitness experts often recommend people trying to lose weight avoid doing anything else when they eat so that their brains can actually register “hey, putting food into your mouth right now, taste it and get ready to feel satisfied!”

Declare your kitchen a tech-free zone and see if you can’t cook up a side of mindfulness.

2. Go for a walk and leave your phone at home.

No, you won’t be able to Instagram the pretty flowers you see or jot down the brilliant ideas you come up with. This is a good way to get used to the idea that not every thought you have needs to be memorialized or shared.

I say that knowing full well how terrifying that can be. As a writer, I’m constantly afraid that my best ideas or a perfect turn of phrase is going to be forgotten if I don’t record it the moment it comes into my head. But, I’ve discovered that it’s most often the mediocre thoughts that are lost.

Besides, the world could probably use fewer words and more listening and watching.

3. Limit yourself to one screen at a time.

I’ve noticed recently that the time it takes for an app to open or a program to load on my computer is often too long for me to go without stimulation. So, I pick up my phone and sort of glance at my Twitter feed while I wait.

That? Is insane.

It’s also increasingly more common, at least if the people in my house or any indication. How often do you use a tablet while watching TV? Do you keep your smartphone by your computer to entertain you during browser loading?

Stop it. Stop it right now. Give your brain a 30 second break from stimulation.

Is Technology the Enemy of Mindfulness?

I don’t hate the Internet or television or any other kind of digital entertainment. In fact, I’m grateful for all the ways our gadgets help us to connect.

But for many of us, our brains have gotten so used to constant consumption that all we need to do to jolt ourselves back into the moment is to stop consuming for a second.

Don’t worry about being still and going into your mind. You don’t need to sit cross-legged on a pillow or whisper a single Ohm..

Just unplug from the matrix.

Come back into the world, the tangible one you can see, touch, feel, hear, and smell.

Come back to the place where you aren’t being spoon fed stimulation, thoughts, and entertainment.

Come back to the world that isn’t begging to engage with you but is simply waiting for you to notice.

There are no breadcrumbs to follow or rabbit holes to fall down. You’ll have to choose your steps, be purposeful with your attention.

And that right there is mindfulness.

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  1. Wonderful post, Britt! Something else that may be helpful is the “Tree of Contemplative Practices,” something I created a number of years ago to help people understand that there are many ways to practice mindfulness… some of them quite creative! It can be found here: http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree
    Maia Duerr/Liberated Life Project’s most recent post: 4 Ways to Transform Despair…. And The Patron Saint of Lost Causes

    • Britt Reints says:

      Maia – you always have the best resources and thoughts on meditation. One thing you said a while ago has always stuck with me: the point is not to be calm, serene, blank-minded. The point is not to BE anything but present and aware. That’s always been helpful for me.

  2. I agree that going on a walk with my dog without my phone or ipod can really help you to focus on the present. I like to meditate by just sitting and watching my thoughts and feelings go by. The key is to be aware of them and not try to control them or stop them.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels’s most recent post: 18 Bible Quotes that Atheists can Appreciate

    • Britt Reints says:

      I like that kind of meditation, too – but I know it can be really intimidating for some people!

  3. Tony says:

    These are great ideas. I like to clear my mind when I am riding the bus to work. I don’t have to focus on anything and it’s a half hour of just thinking about whatever I need to think about.

    • Britt Reints says:

      When I was driving more often, one thing I would do is turn off the radio and commit to JUST driving in the quiet. It’s amazing how unsettling silence is at first.

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