Although still meditation can be very helpful, I also urge my patients to add active meditation to their routines. Active meditation means meditating while engaging in some type of physical movement. Done in conjunction with the right kind of activity in the right environment, active meditation can do much to quiet a hyper-aroused, stressed-out nervous system
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A classic example of active meditation is walking. Focusing on the act of walking, just like focusing on your breath, will help you clear away the distractions of daily living, reduce negative thinking, and calm your mind. Many of my patients like to walk outside in their neighborhoods, at a park, or at the beach; anywhere they can feel safe and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Walking meditation is simple. You begin by standing tall and taking stock of your body. Be aware of the weight of your body pressing through your feet to the ground, and all the tiny movements and adjustments your body must make to stay in an upright position. Then start walking at a slow to normal pace. Don’t try to take larger strides than you usually do, or do anything different, just walk and focus on your body. Start with your feet, noticing the way each foot meets the ground, heel first, transferring your weight to the ball of the foot, then lifting off the ground and striding forward. What sensations can you feel in your feet? How do your socks and shoes feel? Are your foot muscles tense? If so, do they need to be, or can you relax them?
Next, shift your awareness to your ankles: Are they relaxed? Move to your lower legs and be aware of how they feel, how the muscles tense and relax with each step, and how your two legs work rhythmically to propel you forward. Slowly bring your awareness up through your body, all the way to the top of your head. Be mindful of how each body part feels, and how all parts contribute to the movement.
Then, tune into your emotions. How are you feeling at this exact moment? Are you happy?
Content? Bored? Angry? Depressed? Is your mind full of unnecessary chatter? If so, can you gently push that chatter to the side and focus solely on the way you feel at the moment?
Even without the meditation part, simply getting out of the house and walking outdoors can help improve your psychological and physical states. Consider your outdoor time as therapeutic, especially if you spend most of your time indoors.
Walking, of course, is not the only form of active meditation. Often overwhelmed by the stresses of his job and home life, one of my patients finds it super relaxing just to get into the pool. Simply treading water or moving gently in a pool provides a calm, safe place for him to focus his thoughts and ease anxious feelings.
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