Over the years I have been guided towards making habits. Like making a habit out of exercise, or healthy eating, or drinking water. But when you look making a habit out of something like meditation, it doesn't quite feel right.
And let's be brutally honest, attempting to make a habit out of exercise has never worked for me in the past beyond the 20 something days it supposedly takes to make a habit. It never became something I automatically did ... but is that what I really wanted???
More recently I came across the idea of making a ritual out of your self care, and I started to wonder if maybe that wasn't a better way to go about life as a whole.
Even the word ritual sounded more sacred to me and purposeful than habit.
So I decided it was time to delve a little deeper and look at what the differences are between the 2 words and explore how they both feel when put into practice.
What is a habit?
Last year I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the first ever Wild Collective hosted by Dr Brenda Tapp here in Peterborough.
The Wild Collective not only helped to re-enforce some of my previous education and knowledge, but it also enlightened me, and inspired me, and empowered me to ask more questions ... It also introduced me to a group of amazing women.
So when I heard that a second session was running and there is a third in the calendar, I knew that I needed more people to know about the program ...
... more women needed to feel inspired and empowered ...
... more women need to come over to the Wild!
For our last less traditional meditation we are going to look at a wandering meditation. Make sure that you also check out the art and tea meditation posts while you are here.
Some of you might be familiar with the concept of forest bathing, if you are this will feel similar to you ... but a little bit different as well.
For a simple wandering meditation you can go anywhere ... a forest, meadow, garden, park, your neighbourhood, anywhere you have space to move around and maybe a little quiet as well.
The key to this type of meditation is moving slowly ... this is not a race ... this is a slow meander ... an aimless wander.
Continuing my series of blogs highlighting non-traditional meditations, let's look at a tea meditation.
Tea is a drink that has been enjoyed in various forms since as early as 3rd century AD in China, however most of us mindlessly make and drink it.
We have lost the ritual and the sacredness of enjoying a perfect cup of tea from start to finish.
I know that I am bad for making a cup and then walking away, relying on my family to jump when the timer goes off ... yes I set a timer when I brew a cup of tea lol ... or reheating a cup over and over because I have gotten distracted with another task and waked away from a cup completely.
All is not lost though ... what if we brought back the ritual, the mindfulness, the sacredness of a beautiful cup of tea ... what if we tried a tea meditation, even if it is only with one cup a day? What if we slowed down and enjoyed the process from start to finish, from a meditative sense?
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.
Brien-anne RMT, CA
I am passionate not only about Massage Therapy & Aromatherapy, but also living a holistic lifestyle and empowering others to do the same!