Over the weekend I came across an article on MindBodyGreen about art being a great alternative to meditation. I haven’t been very open about it on here, but meditation is actually very difficult for me. Now that I know I have OCD and anxiety, I think that might be a contributing factor. I have tried visualization, mantras, pranayama, and more. No matter how hard I try, I still go down thought spirals. Sometimes I do find myself more relaxed after a 10, 15, 20 minute session, but the effects only last maybe another 10 minutes before the thoughts rush back in and take control.
And truthfully, some of the techniques just don’t work at all. Visualization is extremely frustrating for me as I get caught up thinking about all the details of the river or the waterfall or the cars driving by that I’m asked to imagine. Some pranayama techniques are great, but some leave me feeling panicked or stressed, especially any ones that ask you to pause on empty after your exhale. I feel my body tense up and it revolts and takes a couple quick breaths before the next instructed inhale. Also, let’s face it, I can sit still only for so long. Even when I sleep, I’m constantly tossing and turning despite sleeping deeply.
Over the past few years I have tested the waters of alternative methods of meditation. Many of them have worked wonderfully for me. The biggest success has been yoga, of course. It’s partially why I decided to teach. When I’m on my mat, that is one of the few times of day my brain will actually shut up. Yoga for me is a moving meditation. But I can’t escape to my mat all the time, because let’s face it, overexercising is not healthy. However, I have found a few other alternatives that have helped me, and maybe can help you too.
Knitting. The MindBodyGreen article mentions knitting, and I have to agree. Especially when you are a beginner, knitting requires deep focus. Once you learn the basic techniques, it is really not that hard but the repeated action is very soothing. Knitting is also very hyggelig (I have written about hygge in the past), meaning it’s calming and cozy. Stay tuned for a video about knitting coming to my channel on Sunday!
Movement Meditation. As I mentioned, movement can be meditation. Yoga, dance, or even a walking meditation. Turn on some music, feel the beat, and dance like no one’s watching, or take it outside and just start walking without a plan. Follow your intuition and see where it takes you.
Art. Again, the MindBodyGreen article is all about art as meditation. Once you start and get into a groove, you can slip into a meditative state. I can personally vouch for this during my entire college years. I would lose myself printing in the darkroom for hours on end. I also remember a painting I was working on that required many small, repetitive brushstrokes in various colors. I sat down in my studio space one Saturday afternoon and before I knew it, I had been there for over 4 hours working on it. I can still remember how happy, relaxed, and accomplished I felt. This is something I personally want to dive deeper into. I go through phases of creating art and I think it’s time to give it another go. If you want to try it too, chose any medium that speaks to you. Painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, sculpture, anything goes!
Zentangles. Zentangles fall under art, but they are a bit more specific. You can check out the Zentangles website for more information, but it’s basically about drawing repetitive patterns within a designated space without a plan. Like in most of these practices, following your intuition is key. One of my favorite “rules” of Zentangles is that there are no mistakes. You use a pen so you can’t erase anything. If you do make what you consider a mistake, you either have to accept it or turn it into something else.
Stream of Consciousness Writing. I will admit to not having read that this technique is an alternative to meditation, but for me, it works. I usually journal about my day, how I felt, etc. But every once in a while, I pull out a special notebook, start with a topic, and tell myself I can’t stop until I fill up 3 pages. Sometimes I’ll use all 3 pages on the topic, or it will have veered off in another direction. It doesn’t matter what you write about, but write and don’t stop. Let the words and your thoughts take you where they want to go. Instead of a page boundary, you could give yourself a time limit instead.
As with traditional meditation, you just have to keep trying things until you find what works for you. I’m learning to acknowledge and accept that meditation looks different for everyone. If you try any of these methods, please let me know how it goes! And if you have any of your own suggestions, I would love to hear them.