I Hate Sitting Still, So Active Meditation Has Changed My Life

Victoria Hoff
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Girlfriend Collective

The toughest part of learning to meditate is that initial period of establishing the habit. Meditation is supposed to teach us how to evade distraction, observe our thoughts without attachment, and enjoy stillness, among other things—and yet the irony is that when you're just getting started, sitting still for five minutes is, well, distracting.

For the longest time, I thought I needed to get over myself and just do it. But this strategy swiftly backfired: When I sat still and my mind wandered, rather than simply acknowledging it and letting it go, as we're supposed to, I would get frustrated with myself until my mental chatter escalated into a tirade of self-criticism, and I'd open my eyes in defeat, more stressed out than I had been when I sat down.

Why was it that I felt so blissed out at the end of a yoga class, but this wasn't working for me? Why was it so easy to relax and reflect during a quiet walk around my neighborhood, but sitting down for just five minutes was such a struggle? Then I realized the real question at hand: If these actions calmed me down and made me mindful, then why was I pressuring myself to fit inside this very narrow definition of what meditation can be?

In reality, there are countless ways to meditate that don't require complete stillness—many of which have been in practice for thousands of years, and others still that are backed by science. But the ultimate lesson here is that "meditation" can mean whatever you'd like it to. If running seven miles gives you a better perspective on something going on in your life, do it. If having a good cry feels cathartic to you and clears your mind, do it.

And if the ability to sit still for several minutes at a time is still your ultimate goal, that's fine too; consider this your gateway. Once I began elevating my mindfulness on my own terms—by turning the activities I knew already worked into even more of a habit—suddenly, sitting still wasn't so difficult anymore.

Keep reading to see some of our favorite alternative meditation methods.

This post was originally published on March 23, 2016. 

Have you started meditating? What are some of your favorite methods? Sound off below.

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