Category Archives: Mindfulness and Meditation

4 Reasons Why You Should Try Walking Meditation

As anyone who has followed this blog for a while probably already knows, I’m always on the lookout for new meditation techniques. Recently, I discovered something called Walking Meditation that was so interesting I felt compelled to tell my readers about it.

 What Is Walking Meditation?

There are several different types of walking meditation out there: Theraveda, Zen (also known as Kinhin), Thich Nhat Hahn, Yoga, Daoist, and Mindfulness Walking Meditation. I’m going to focus on the last one  in today’s post because I found it the most helpful, but do feel free to click the link above if you want to explore other options.

Mindfulness Walking Meditation is quite similar to the types of meditation you’d do while sitting or lying down. You begin by doing something simple: taking a walk. Where that happens is entirely up to do. I didn’t always have a name for it, but it turns out I’ve been practicing Mindfulness Walking Meditation in many of the places I talk walks at: the mall, local parks, sidewalks, and even in front of washers and dryers on laundry day.

When you are walking, focus on nothing other than the sensations your body is feeling as you walk. Remain engaged with all of the things you can see, hear, feel, and touch as you walk. Do your best to call your attention back to the present moment every time your mind begins to wander.

Now that we’ve clarified what we’re talking about and how it’s done, let’s move onto the four reasons why I think you should give Mindfulness Walking Meditation a try as well.

Reason #1: You Can Do It Anywhere

You can walk and remain in the present moment in a noisy place or a quiet one. It can happen in a busy waiting room, a park, a corridor, or any other place where you can find a small area to pace or walk around in. You might be surrounded by thousands of other people or no one else at all.

Unlike some of the other forms of meditation, you don’t need to close your eyes or find a place to sit to do this one. I find that incredibly appealing.

Reason #2: It Gives Restless Meditators Something to Focus On

While I’ve grown more used to sedentary forms of meditation over the years, there is still a part of me that finds it challenging to stay seated for this practice.

The beautiful thing about walking meditation in general, including Mindfulness Walking Meditation specifically, is that it provides you with something to focus on that won’t distract from your goal. It’s so much easier for me to remain in the present moment if my legs are moving!

Reason #3: In Months That Don’t End in “uary,” It’s a Great Excuse to Spend Time in Nature

Yes, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here. Of course you could go on a long, meditative walk in January or February if you wanted to. Just because I stay indoors as much as possible during the coldest part of the winter doesn’t mean everyone must do that

There is something meditative about spending time out in nature even if you’re in a month that ends in -uary. One of the things that surprised me the most about Toronto when I first moved here was how many trees this city had, so I spend more time in nature than I thought I would when I became a city person.

There are small parkettes sprinkled throughout the general Toronto area, and we have quite a few large, well-maintained forests to explore as well. Walking through them is one of my favourite things to do in the entire world.

Reason #4: It Helps You Stay Connected to Your Body

Have you ever tried walking any distance when you have a pebble in your shoe? What is mildly annoying at first can quickly become  something that needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

One of the unexpected benefits of Mindfulness Walking Meditation that I’ve noticed has been how it encourages me to pay attention to what is going on with my body. For example, I recently figured out that I have a higher chance of developing a headache on days that I don’t practice good posture. This wasn’t something I was aware of before, but I’m now trying to correct it thanks to this practice. How cool is that?

If you’ve tried any form of walking meditation or are planning to in the near future, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this topic.

Intuition, Mindfulness, and the Alarm Bell In My Brain

This is the story of something that happened to me last year. It won’t take long to tell, but it’s important.

I met someone at a social event who was friendly, funny, and charming at first glance. They seemed like exactly the sort of person anyone would want to spend time with.

They’re hiding something, my intuition said quietly a few minutes after we’d met.

This was the first time I’d laid eyes on them, and I knew nothing about them other than the basic details they’d shared about their life and interests. They thought carefully before they spoke, and every word that came out of their mouth sparkled.

They’re sugarcoating the truth, my intuition said in a slightly louder tone.

I had no proof to back up these feelings. I’d literally just met this person. They were full of smiles and kind words for everyone around them. There was nothing about their words or actions that should have alarmed me. It was a perfectly ordinary get-together in every way you could imagine.

They’re lying about something. This wasn’t a question. It was a declarative statement I had no proof for but still kept circling back around to.

I felt uneasy around them for reasons that are hard to put into words. There was something about them that was slightly off-kilter no matter which way I looked at it, and that made me nervous. When I was younger, I might have brushed off this warning and decided to find out more about this person for myself.  These days, I listen and take heed.

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is how it can focus your attention on what really matters in situations such as these. Something wasn’t lining up in the things they said about their life.  I didn’t and still don’t know exactly what they were being evasive about, but my mind was still enough to listen to those thoughts when they popped up and take action quickly when they refused to go away.

No, I do not think I’m clairvoyant or have any other abilities that defy scientific explanation.  If anything, I believe that my mind picked up on subtle but important discrepancies between their verbal and non-verbal cues that might have shown they weren’t being totally honest about the things they shared about their life.

But I do think that my mindfulness habits helped me to realize there was something off about this person sooner than I might have in a different timeline. The beautiful thing about learning how to quiet your mind is that it makes the rare feelings that refuse to be ignored much more noticeable than they might have otherwise been.

 

7 Free Online Meditation Resources

I’ve been slowly accumulating a list of the most helpful resources for my daily meditations. When I first began meditating, I was overwhelmed by all of the options I had online and had no idea where to begin.

It is my hope that this list will make it a little easier for readers who are new to meditation to stick with the practice over the longterm.

All of the links I’m about to share in today’s post have free content that I’ve found useful. Some of them do also offer certain courses or other types of material for a fee, but you are by no means required to buy them. I made sure that I selected sites that have plenty to offer for visitors who aren’t ready for that kind of commitment yet (or ever).

I should also note that I am not affiliated with these sites, and I am not being compensated for mentioning them in any way. I simply find their content useful.

Breathworks

Breathworks is a website that teaches people who are experiencing pain how to reduce suffering through Mindfulness-Based Pain Management. I have no experience with the chronic and/or severe pain many of its users are dealing with, but i do find this site helpful for headaches and other minor issues I occasionally have.

Calm

Calm is a guided meditation app that I’ve mentioned on this site before. While many of their routines do require you to be a paying member, they are currently offering a free trial for anyone who wants to experience the full app. Although, to be honest,  I’ve gotten a lot of use out of their free content and do not have a membership at this site.

F*ck That: An Honest Meditation

F*ck That: An Honest Meditation is the perfect thing to watch if you’re not easily offended by curse words or sarcasm. (If you are, skip this entry).

Not every meditation session goes smoothly for me, so I appreciate videos like this one that acknowledge that.

Mindfulness in Action

Mindfulness in Action focuses on managing stress in places like schools, prisons, and the workplace. I don’t know as much about them as I do some of the other resources on this list, but I love the idea of finding such practical applications for meditation and mindfulness.

Rain Sounds

Rain Sounds is quickly becoming one of my favourite resources for non-guided meditation. I’ve loved the sound of rain since I was a small child. Few things relax me as quickly as that does, so it works perfectly when I need to take twenty minutes and quiet down my mind.

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The Scientific Power of Meditation

The Scientific Power of Meditation is a fast introduction to how meditation can change your brain waves, amount of grey matter,  and mental state. I like the fact that there is scientific evidence that meditation is good for the human body. It’s not all the placebo affect!

Tiny Buddha

Finally, Tiny Buddha is a site that shares meditation and mindfulness articles, tips, quotes, and so much more. They have multiple people contributing new material to this site, so the audience gets a very wide range of perspectives. Some of the contributors approach meditation from a spiritual perspective while others are more interested in practical or scientific applications of it. I love the diversity of thought in this community.

What meditation resources do you find most helpful?

5 Books About Mindfulness I’d Like to Read

While I still don’t maintain an active TBR list, the books listed below have caught my attention. I’ve requested almost all of them from my local library, and I’m looking forward to reading them this autumn as they become available. Look below the images of the various titles for my brief explanations on why each title appeals to me so much.

In general, I prefer books about mindfulness to approach this topic from a scientific point of view. I also appreciate it when they talk about how mindfulness can improve someone’s life in practical ways that are easy to apply to one’s everyday routines. For example, one of the titles in this list talks about living with chronic pain or illnesses. Another title focuses on how something as simple as paying attention to what you’re eating at mealtimes can be an excellent way to remain in the moment.

I can’t and won’t officially recommend any of these books until I’ve read them, but I thought my readers might like a peek at what I’ll hopefully be checking out in the near future.

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book by Dan Harris

As a fidgety skeptic myself, I’m looking forward to seeing what on Earth this author is going to recommend to those of us who fit these two categories. The title made me smile, and I’m hoping the content will as well.

Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön

I’m a peaceful person, but there are occasionally times when the actions of others get under my skin.  I’m very good at walking away when someone is trying to get a rise out of me, but I’d like to become better at de-escalating those interactions as soon as they begin.

Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection by Haemin Sunim. Translated by Deborah Smith

This is a little further down the New Age scale than I usually read, but I’m curious to se what the author has to say about perfectionism, self-care, and accepting love. I also think it’s a good idea to occasionally read stuff that’s out of your comfort zone.

Living Well with Pain and Illness: The Mindful Way to Free Yourself from Suffering by Vidyamala Burch.

As an able-bodied person who has never been seriously ill or in chronic pain, my main purpose for reading this book is to get a small glimpse of what mindfulness looks like for people who are living with these sorts of health problems.

I appreciate it when monosexual people and and men take the time to listen to my experiences as a bisexual woman. There’s something to be said for seeking out the perspectives of folks whose experiences of the world could be very different from your own when they’re willing to share their stories.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Wai-Yin Cheung

The authors’ exploration of the emotional side of eating is what I’m most curious to read about in this book. I’m not currently trying to change my weight, but I would like to hear what they have to say about food that’s eaten because someone is feeling strong emotions. This is something that most of the health and fitness bloggers I follow don’t talk about very much or even at all.

What books about mindfulness do you find helpful? Have you read any of the books on my list? If so, what did you think of them?

5 Reasons Why You Should Try ASMR

Picture credit: Emma L. Barratt, Nick J. Davis. CC-BY 4.0.

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a calm tingling sensation that some people feel at the back of their their scalp and down on other parts of their body after being exposed to certain types of auditory stimuli.

ASMR is used for relaxation purposes. There are many videos about it floating around on Youtube and other places. I’ll share one at the end of this post for anyone who would like to try it for themselves.

It’s similar to many forms of meditation in that you remain with your eyes closed still during it. One of the side effects of this phenomenon that I find particularly helpful is how much it encourages listeners to focus on everything that’s happening in this particular moment without thinking about the past, the future, or anything else that might make your mind wander.

A friend of mine introduced me to ASMR a few years ago. I was a little confused and skeptical about what it was and how it worked at first, but once I found the right type of stimulus this quickly became one of my favourite things to do on days when I need some extra help relaxing or clearing my mind.

Honestly, I wish I’d known about it decades ago. It’s not every day I discover something quite this useful even though there’s still so many things we don’t know yet about how it works or why some people are so much more sensitive to ASMR than others are.

My goal for this post is to spark the curiosity of anyone who would wants to learn more. If nothing else, I’d like everyone to know that ASMR exists and that it can be an excellent relaxation tool.

It’s Not Yet Well Understood

This is normally the part of a post like this one where I’d talk about the science behind ASMR. I always enjoy figuring out why specific practices do or don’t work well on the human body. Right now there are far more questions about ASMR than there are answers. Like Synesthesia was in the 1990s, this is something that is very poorly studied or understood by the scientific community as of now.

It could be that it will be turn out to be something akin to the placebo effect. Maybe everyone who thinks they feels pleasurable tingles at the back of their head when they hear specific sounds will someday learn that it was their own mind accidentally tricking them.

I think it’s more likely that we’ll discover some sort of slight brain difference in those of us who can feel these things, but there’s always the possibility that the studies currently being conducted on this phenomena will turn up nothing of note at all about it. Only time will tell. If or when I hear more about this, I’ll write an update post.

It Can Be a Helpful Mindfulness Tool

I take a pragmatic approach to matters such as these. While we’re waiting for studies to be done on ASMR in an attempt to study it in detail, I believe that there can be merit to using things without understanding how they work. This is even more true for free, non-drug home remedies that don’t appear to have any negative side effects.

I’m not a doctor, and I’ll never give anyone medical advice. What I can say is that ASMR is one of the tools I use on days when mindfulness doesn’t come easily to me. There is something about concentrating on the gentle sounds of a Youtube video rather than on whatever  it is that’s bothering me that makes it easier to live in the moment than it would if I attempted to live in the moment in pure silence.

It’s Relaxing

Honestly, who doesn’t love relaxing experiences? (Now that I’ve typed that, I’m half-expecting someone to pop up in the comment section to explain why they actually find relaxation stressful for some reason I haven’t thought of yet).

The beautiful thing about listening to these types of videos is that they don’t require any special equipment or training from their audience. Anyone who has somewhere quiet to sit or lie down can participate in them and hopefully feel the same sorts of pleasant and relaxing sensations that I and many other folks have experienced.

There’s nothing quite like reaching the end of an ASMR video, opening my eyes, and realizing just how relaxed I am from it. When I’m listening to one of these role-playing exercises, the only thing on my mind is concentrating on the voice of the person narrating it or on the other sounds they’re making into the microphone.

It Feels Nice

When I listen to the right kinds of ASMR videos, I eventually feel a tingling sensation at the back of my head that gently travels down my face and neck to my body.

No, in case you were wondering, this isn’t a sexual sensation. I’d compare it more to the feeling that can come from getting your favourite kind of massage from a massage therapist who knows exactly when to work out a knot in a sore muscle versus when to gently rub your shoulders or back instead.

It’s simultaneously soothing and invigorating. I end every ASMR session feeling like a million bucks.

It Doesn’t Work for Everyone (but It Might for You!)

The only way to know is to try.

If or when you do give ASMR videos a shot, be sure to look at a variety of different types. Some of them – the food ones, for example –  don’t do anything for me at all.

It may take some trial and error, but I think of that as a positive thing. Like many other things in life, you might succeed the second or five or tenth time you try instead of the first one.

An ASMR Sample

Hair brushing and cutting ASMR videos happen to be my all-time favourite. I adore getting my hair cut and gently rubbed in real life. Apparently, that spilled over to my online preferences as well.

If the video below doesn’t do anything for you, keep trying. There are ASMR videos out there that featuring whispering, eating, slow movements, crisp sounds, and many other types of stimuli that might be right up your alley.