Meditation is something that I come back to again and again ... I have not always been able to create a constant practice, but I know that it is always there when I need it.
In an effort to inspire others to give it I try, and to set myself down the right path with meditating regularly again, I decided to look at some less traditional meditations over a series of blog posts. And by less traditional I basically mean anything other than the image most have of sitting cross legged, eyes closed, just being there, with a quiet mind for a Long time.
I will let you in on a little secret ... it actually takes a LOT of practice to get to that point, realistically probably years of practice, so comparing your attempts to that is like expecting a grade 9 kid to write a forth year university level paper.
So lets set aside what we have always assumed qualifies as meditation and open our minds to the possibilities ...
Last year my Mom and I came across a painting meditation workshop. 8 weeks, 8 sessions, 8 different layers, all coming together to create a beautiful, unique piece of art (see below).
The process started me thinking ...
Is painting meditative for me?
Does it reduce stress?
Can it benefit general wellness?
Could it help others too?
The answer is .... YES! ... and there is research to back it up too.
In a systematic review of 37 studies, 81.1% reported a significant reduction of stress with creative art interventions.
Studies showed lower stress levels; a reduction in anxiety, increase in bleed flow to the reward centre of the brain (the medial prefrontal cortex); lower cortisol levels with 45 minutes spent creating art; and enhanced brain function - impacting brain wave patterns, emotions, the nervous system and art can even raise serotonin levels (the hormone that helps to stabilize mood and bring feelings of wellbeing and happiness).
There is something soothing about putting brush to canvas, creating nothing in particular, just choosing colours that you are drawn to in that moment and just going with it ... seeing what happens.
Just the simple act of creation, relaxation and pleasure.
Now I know for some of you out there, the thought of just going with it and painting nothing and everything actually causes stress rather than reducing it ... maybe even makes you a little twitchy.
But what if, just for a few minutes every week, you could set aside your expectations of what is a beautiful piece of art ... what is "good" or "bad"... what you are "supposed" to do ... and just simply focus on covering the canvas with colour?
What could it hurt to try?
Simple Meditation Painting
Want to add another layer to your painting?
Grab a paint pen & try your hand at drawing a mandala on top ... once the paint is dry of course ... taking a deep breath and expanding out from a centre circle one shape at a time ... one ring at a time.
How did you feel?
The most important parts of this type of exercise ... how you feel when you are done ... be proud of what you have created ... Love what you have created ... and if you are comfortable, share what you have created with others ... if you share on social make sure to tag @bacmassagetherapy, I would LOVE to see what you all create!
So what do you do now if you really hated the process of created art, it didn't relax you, or it made you feel a little twitchy to just go for it with no "right" way to do it?
Try meditating looking at others art ... pull some up online, grab a book from the library or a book store, hit up an art gallery (when they are open again) ... taking a deep breath, observe the colours, the brush strokes, the minute details, and the painting as a whole. What does it make you feel when you look at the art? Does it trigger an emotion, a memory, or a gut reaction? Marvel at what was created ... you may just find your new favourite artist in the process.
I challenge you now to head out, grab some supplies (if you don't already have some kicking around the house), take a deep breath and enjoy the benefits that can be had from creating and art meditation.
*Note that the colours on some shown here didn't quite photograph well in the lighting I had.
Set up for Meditation Success
Before we delve into all of the wonderful ways to meditate, I think we need to hit pause for a minute ... step back ... and look at how to set yourself up for meditation success right from the start.
Let's imagine, just for a second ... sitting down in the middle of Main St USA Disney World just after the evening fireworks have ended, the park is approaching close, and you are trying to meditate for the very first time ... no tools ... no recording ... no guidance ... just you sitting.
Now if you have been in Disney World after the fireworks, you know that it is full of people, literally shoulder to shoulder people. It's loud, overcrowded, and not at all peaceful ... not at all the place to try meditation.
So instead of setting yourself up for meditation not to work ...
let's set you up so that it can
Troubleshooting your meditation challenges
Ok ... so you have put some thought into planning for success, and you have some ideas for troubleshooting common meditation challenges ... what's next?
Try different forms until you find one you love ... or until you come up with a collection of ideas that all work for you and give you options.
In the coming weeks I will be sharing ideas for different ways to meditate, I hope you will follow along with me on a journey to embracing meditation.
Brien-anne RMT, CA
I am passionate not only about Massage Therapy & Aromatherapy, but also living a holistic lifestyle and empowering & inspiring others to do the same!