Do You Have to Meditate?

The short answer is: you don’t have to meditate if you don’t want to, babe. “Meditation” has become almost a buzzword in its use, and frankly I think people are getting a bit tired of it. Or, if they haven’t, they’re at least curious to know what it is, why everyone talks about it, and whether it helps.

In addition to being tired of hearing about it, people can get weirded out when you start talking about meditation. In a way, it’s become the gateway drug to the other “hippie” things that you think about when you think about people who meditate. You know, like yoga. Drinking turmeric lattes instead of coffee. Acupuncture. I am in no way saying any of these things are bad; they’re just not for everyone.

Here’s the thing, though: Mindfulness doesn’t have to be crystals and sage smudging (though, if you’re into that, that’s cool). It’s about balance and little things that can make you focused. Meditation is a way to help you focus. It’s about finding ways to be present in your body. 

Why is that important? Well, it can help reduce stress, for one. For another, it takes your eyes away from a screen for a minute, which is beneficial in the long run. But do we have to meditate to do it?

Meditate . . . Or Not

The elephant in the room: meditation. What is it? Why does everyone do it? Do you have to? Well… no. Not if you don’t want to.

What is meditation? Meditation, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation“. It’s a cruel irony that people think of meditation as “clearing your mind” – you’re not exactly doing that.

When you meditate, you should acknowledge any thoughts that come up, but then file them away. They are not important to you at that moment. I’d like to redefine meditation as “increasing awareness of you and your body in the present“. This is why it ties into mindfulness so well; they’re both out to accomplish the same goal.

Why is it the hip new thing? People have been meditating for centuries, and for a long time, it was looked at as this exotic thing. As the world has become more globalized, more information is available to us. At the same time, people are becoming more stressed.

Rather than take more pills, there has been a movement to embrace the alternative and functional medicine branches. Meditation has been prescribed by doctors and practitioners. Does it do everything it’s supposed to? The jury’s still out. But it’s worth thinking about.

What are some other ways of getting the benefits of mindfulness, without meditating? Let’s explore those.

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Bullet Journals 

Bullet Journal - Do I Have to Meditate?

Bullet journals – another hip, cool-people thing (have you seen some of those Instagrams, though?) – can be a great way to cultivate mindfulness. 

For one, they force you to slow down. Remember, the first thing in shutting the weird voices out and potentially communicating more clearly is to slow the hell down. You’re the one deciding what’s important enough to go into your journal. Goals, to-do lists, events, classes, work schedule, workout schedule… there are nearly endless possibilities. 

Bullet journals are completely customizable because they’re written for and by you. You are the one putting in the effort to make it as pretty or not pretty as possible. And every one is Instagram-worthy. Even the coffee-stained one. (Just put it in black and white. Nobody will know.)

Putting Away Your Phone

Who has two thumbs and is guilty of staring at her phone alllll day? (Bob Kelso. Also me. Also also probably you.) Admittedly, putting your phone down is probably the hardest for everyone to do anymore. Technically, it’s also more of a methodology than a mindful tool, but I digress. 

“What about my Instagram feed?”

“My mom just posted on Facebook.”

“I get so bored on my commute home; Pinterest is my savior.” 

I feel you. But is it going to change in the 5 minutes since you last looked at it? The chances of that happening are not good.

Everyone uses technology differently and has a different comfort level, but if you find yourself starting to zombie out (yes, I’m making it a verb), then maybe put it away for a minute. Give your eyes a rest. Using tech mindfully means that we’re conscious of how we’re using it.

A few of us are guilty of engaging with our phones rather than our friends, especially on a night out. Here’s a thought – make an agreement when you’re having dinner or drinks. (An oldie, but a goodie.) Put all your phones in the center of the table, face down. Whoever picks theirs up before the end of the meal (or specified number of rounds of drinks) has to pay.

(Obviously, this is case-by-case. Not everyone can afford to do this, and it can be unfair. For those who are uncomfortable, let me set an alternative: if you pick up your phone before the aforementioned time, then you take a friend with you to the gym and they get to choose your workout. Or they can choose the wine you bring to the next girls’ night. Do what works for you.)

For those flying solo and not wanting to eat brains: Pick up a paper book. Go outside and touch a tree. Pet all of the dogs at the dog park. Put your phone in a drawer and engage with your roommate or bed partner. Write some bad poetry. Write some good poetry. Turn on that guilty pleasure playlist and dance your heart out in your living room. 

You get the idea.

Think About What You’re Putting Online

You’re in the middle of a hefty argument with your Uncle John on Facebook about Trump’s latest speech or tweet, when you stop. You look at the screen for a minute. You like Uncle John. What are you doing? 

Getting into a meaningless argument, that’s what you’re doing.

We often forget that there’s another person behind the screen. When there’s not a person, it’s a bot. Those are not even worth arguing with. And the world really doesn’t need more anger and frustration right now.

Cultivate carefully what you’re putting online and what you’re sharing. (Snopes is your friend.) And when you get so riled up over what someone else says on the Internet, pause for a second. We are a culture that thrives on venting and complaining about everything. But is what someone said on Facebook three days ago really worth it? 

Instead of firing back in a thoughtless fury of auto-corrected statements, take a step back. Get off whatever website is making you angry. Take a deep breath. And another one. Aaaand another one.

Feel better? Good.

Taking that pause, those deep breaths, getting off of that social media site before you say something you regret? Those are exercises in mindfulness, my friend. And you did it all without meditating first.

So, while you don’t have to meditate to get the benefits of mindfulness, why not take a couple of minutes and sit with yourself? You don’t have to do Pilates breathing, but stay off of your phone or computer for a minute and just have a think.

What comes up?

You can do this in the morning before rushing off to get ready (especially in the wintertime, when you don’t want to get out of bed anyway), on the train during your commute, or during that much-needed break between classes or meetings. You may even feel like you can handle the day as a result.

Do you meditate? How has it worked out for you? Let me know in the comments, and share this using the buttons below! Xx

 

Photos found on Unsplash

4 Comments

  1. Well written and I love the content. I’m more of a journal-er (if that’s a word) myself and I love the “Pick up a paper book. Go outside and touch a tree.” I can totally relate to that!

  2. I love me a good bullet journal (although mine is more chicken scratch thought processing crazy lists than those beauties you see on #bujoinspiration on the ‘gram)! It guts me to see how much screen time so many people use (especially the kiddies!), but I find I can usually get it under wraps if I practice something mindful (like meditation or yoga) because I’m definitely guilty of detouring through too much social media (actually now I just make myself set a timer for fb/instagram like I’m mom-ing myself). Ha.

  3. I turned to meditation at a time in my life when I felt angry, confused and out of control, and it did me a world of good, finding peace (even just for a while) within myself, a chance to slow down and allow thoughts to come and go without obsessing about them. Over time I stopped sitting meditation, but use what I learned from meditation to be more mindful in whatever I do (washing dishes, walking, weeding in the garden), putting my focus only on what I am doing in that moment and avoiding multitasking (something I was once proud I was able to do but have realised is actually counter productive). These days I make intuitive art as a mindfulness and self-discovery practice, but also still try to bring mindfulness to all tasks, conversations and activities.

    Thanks for this post, it’s a great reminder to bring mindfulness back to everything we do, and I agree with you, you don’t have to meditate to practice mindfulness.

  4. I loved this piece >> “It’s a cruel irony that people think of meditation as “clearing your mind””
    It’s so true!! I’m a mindset coach and one of the the things I hear a lot from online business owners is that they tried meditating when they were anxious about something and it didn’t help. I think a lot of people treat meditation like Tylenol – use it to get rid of something you don’t want, instead of as a regular, consistent practice that requires you to be MORE aware of yourself rather than less. Thank you for this post. I appreciate your differentiation between meditation and mindfulness as well.

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