Active meditation is meditation in motion. It’s about focusing on the task at hand and bringing mindful meditation into your daily routine.
The practice of active meditation can benefit those who have a hard time sitting still in a traditional meditation setting. Essentially, it’s about connecting to the here and now while engaging in daily activities.
By paying attention to what is happening in your body while performing a task, you become more present and self-aware. This type of meditation helps you appreciate the simple moments of your everyday life and find inner peace by simply choosing to be more mindful.
As the name suggests, active meditation is finding meditative moments during your day-to-day life. Here are some examples of ways to practice active meditation:
While chopping vegetables for dinner, you can bring the focus to your five senses, one sense at a time.
“Observe the sensations without judgment,” says Neena Lall, LCSW, MPH and Grouport Therapist. “Maybe the knife feels cold and smooth and heavy in your hand, you hear the sound of the knife rocking against the cutting board rhythmically as you chop, the bell pepper is a bright green, and the scent of the onions already sizzling in the pan pricks your nostrils.”
Also, be sure to pay attention to the emotions you’re feeling in the moment.
“Maybe you feel warmth toward your family as you think about preparing this meal to nourish them. Maybe you also feel stress as your to-do list re-enters your head. Your mind will wander, and that’s okay — you can always bring your focus back to your senses and let yourself be absorbed in them,” Lall explains.
With practice, you will simply observe your feelings rather than become consumed by them.
The simple act of washing a dish can be mindful. Notice the water coming out of the faucet and feel the warm temperature of the water against your skin.
When you sweep the floor, focus on the way your body moves and if you’re feeling brave, find a rhythm and start dancing as you do this household chore. Have fun with it!
Similarly, while taking a walk, you can notice the sensations.
“Bring your focus to the way the pavement presses against your feet with each step, the stretching sensation in each calf as you lift it, the coolness of the breeze against your face, the softness of the scarf that wraps your neck,” says Lall.
Remember, the fastest way to get out of your head is to get into your body.
Close your eyes and feel the water caressing your skin. Smell the shampoo and soap. Listen to the soothing sound of the water. If you want to take it one step further, imagine your worries being washed away.
Active meditation can benefit those who have had difficulty sticking to a regular meditation practice, whether due to busy schedules or due to mental or physical factors that make stillness uncomfortable as it integrates meditation with your daily activities.
“Active meditation can be a more accessible form of meditation for people with a history of trauma who may find that meditation practices built around stillness bring up feelings of anxiety,” Lall explains. “It can also be an important tool for building self-soothing skills for those who struggle with emotion regulation or distress tolerance.”
Additionally, this type of meditation is more practical for people with types of chronic pain that make sitting for long periods difficult. And for those who deal with insomnia, the combined benefits of movement and meditation can boost mood.
Tune into your senses
What do you see, smell, hear, taste and touch?
“As you’re walking from the parking lot into the office building, notice the colors, shapes, and areas of shadow and light around you,” says Heather Yassick, MS, LMHC, a Grouport Therapist.
“Open the ears up to sounds from near and far. Feel each stride, and notice your natural gait as you walk. If there are smells or tastes present, take them in.”
The best part is you don’t need to block out an hour on your schedule to begin cultivating the qualities of presence that active meditation gives you. Try it for 5 or 10 minutes next time you’re reaching for that afternoon latte, and see how you feel!
Forget about specific movements
Active meditation is less about the movement and more about the energy behind the movement.
“When we exercise, we tend to focus on how we are moving, the position of the body, and so on. Active meditation is not about this. It is about focusing on the energy behind movement,” says Paul Harrison, meditation teacher and creator of TheDailyMeditation.com.
“Focus on the energy creating your movements, the place where the mind meets the body. Connect with the intention to move.”
You can do this with remarkably simple movements. For instance, try slowly turning your hand in circles. Now focus on the energy behind the movement, investigate how the mind creates this movement. This will heighten your mind-body connection, and you only need to do it for around 5 to 10 minutes a day, Harrison adds.
As you begin your active meditation practice, start by tying this new habit to an existing habit. This will increase your chances of success.
“Do you brush your teeth each morning? Walk the dog each evening? You can make your routine activity your time for active meditation,” Lall explains. “It’s not only okay but preferable to start small.”
Maybe for the first week, you want to try using active meditation for 2 minutes at a time and then engage in your activity as normal. Maybe the next week you want to try 5 minutes a day, Hall recommends.
Setting small, achievable goals will give you the momentum you need to keep moving forward.
- Harrison P. (2022). Personal interview.
- Lall N. (2022). Personal interview.
- Yassick H. (2022). Personal interview.