Meditation is currently “en vogue” for a very good reason. It facilitates the unity of mind and body. It helps us de-stress, quiet our mind, and find that point of stillness within ourselves. Most of us spend the day with one thought after another racing through our heads; encompassing everything from work–to family–to our “to do” list of chores and activities we need to accomplish by bedtime.
Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize we are being controlled by our incessant thoughts. What’s even more frustrating is realizing that much of the time we spent on those thoughts was unnecessary, especially time spent worrying. When you quiet your mind in meditation, you start to realize how many distractions compete for your attention. Distractions will never let up, but you can teach yourself to let them go.
Some people pray, some do yoga; others just spend time in quiet contemplation and solitude as a source of meditation. My favorite form of meditation is to walk outside. I call it muscle meditation in the outdoor “gym.” Exercise is as important for your head as it is for your heart. Regular exercise brings incredible changes to the mind and body. It is uniquely qualified to relax, to calm, and to dissipate stress. We know that both meditation and exercise are good for us. Why not combine the two?
Exercise provides opportunities to get away from it all and to enjoy some solitude. I find that outdoor movement reduces and minimizes life’s problems. If you are not currently an out-of-door exerciser, you may find that in the beginning you have to make yourself get up and go out. But as you get into shape, you’ll begin to tolerate exercise–segue into enjoying it–and finally get to the point where you depend on it every day for your sanity.
Almost any type of exercise helps, but many people find that using large muscle groups in a rhythmic, repetitive fashion works best. That’s what makes it “muscle meditation.” Walking and jogging are two primary examples; a simple 20-minute stroll can clear the mind and reduce stress. People who prefer running enjoy a more vigorous workout, but the end result is the same.
There are many different meditation traditions and techniques. Americans, accustomed to fast-paced living, may be more inclined to choose active meditation techniques. I know that walking works best for me. It helps me find balance in my life. To start your own muscle meditation:
• Choose a pleasant location, such as a park or pretty neighborhood.
• As you walk, try to avoid thinking too much. Set your conscious thoughts aside and focus instead on the joy of your legs working, and fresh, pure oxygen flowing in and out of your lungs.
• Tune into your surroundings, focusing on the perfection of landscape and sky.
• Get into the habit of stepping outside the flow of your conscious thoughts and allow yourself to settle into a state of calm, steady movement.
Guess what? You’re meditating!
Written by:Donna Green, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liz Smith, M.S., RDN, L.D.
Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension