Tag Archives: Meditation

Unguided Meditation Update #1

A few weeks ago, I blogged about experimenting with unguided meditation. Now that I’ve been doing it regularly for a few weeks, I thought it would be a good time to give an update on how it’s been going.

When I talk about unguided meditation, I’m not talking about meditating in perfect silence.

That is something I’d like to try at some point in the future, but for now I prefer having some sort of background noise that isn’t a human voice when I meditate.

Deep Breaths Aren’t Peaceful

A couple of weeks ago, I briefly tried a section of my meditation app that plays three different tones over and over again. The first tone prompts you to breath in, the second prompts you to hold your breath, and the third prompts you to exhale. There is otherwise no noise in it. Yes, this technically isn’t unguided meditation, but i thought it would be an interesting and possibly quite helpful transition from the fully guided routines I’ve been doing.

As much as I loved the idea of this, it turned out not to work for me at all. I was so focused on remembering which sounds signalled which action and anticipating what would happen next that those sessions didn’t go well at all.

On a slightly humorous note, they reminded me going to the doctor and being asked to breathe in deeply while your doctor listens to your lungs. There’s something about that experience that always unnerves me a little bit, possibly because I’ve had pneumonia in the past and know how miserable it is to have even the mildest form of that disease.

Deep breathing works for me if I’m timing my own breaths, but I ended up really not liking being told when to breathe in and out again.

Rain Is Peaceful

The meditation app I use has a setting that plays the sound of rain falling. While it isn’t as strong or heavy as a thunderstorm, it isn’t quiet rain either. You can hear the drops splashing as they hit the puddles on the ground. The sound is gentle, soothing, and beautifully repetitive.

It masks all of the unavoidable distractions that come with living in a urban environment and in a building where noises from one apartment can easily carry several floors away if the conditions are right. Someday I do plan to meditate through dogs barking, the elevator door pinging, people having loud discussions, and someone dropping something heavy on the floor a few floors up, but for now it’s nice to dampen these things.

Just as I suspected, I absolutely love this section of the app. Listening to rain fall is my favourite sound in the entire world, and I find it very easy to clear my mind and simply be when I have something so soothing playing in the background.

There have been multiple times when I was surprised by the quiet beep that alerts me when I’ve reached the end of my session. The time passed much more quickly than I thought it would, and I could have kept meditating without realizing how long I’d been doing it.

I will continue using this feature regularly. As you can probably tell, it’s working well for me. Honestly, I wish I’d tried it ages ago.


 Next Up: Trying New Positions

So far, I’ve been doing most of my meditating either while I’m walking or while I’m lying down. Yes, I know that these aren’t conventional positions for meditation, but sitting meditation failed terribly for me the first several times I tried it. I’ve also been dealing with some minor muscle twinges and aches that make certain positions uncomfortable for me to remain in for long periods of time.

The next goal I’ve set for myself is to slowly transition to sitting meditation if I can do so without aggravating my muscles.

I will update you all again in a few weeks!


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Experimenting with Unguided Meditation

Today’s post is going to be a pretty short one.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I don’t believe in padding out blog posts to reach a specific word count. Sometimes I need a few hundred words to make my point, and at other times I require 1200 or more of them.

Last month I talked about why mediation was difficult for me.

I’ve spent the past few weeks experimenting with my meditation practice in a few different ways.

Morning meditation sessions worked better for me as far as my concentration during them went, but I also found myself missing meditation as part of my bedtime routine.

There is something incredibly relaxing about meditating an hour or so before bedtime. Fitting more than one meditation session into my day isn’t something I wanted to do until I was doing better with one session a day.

Last week, the meditation app I use temporarily put the guided meditation sessions that I’ve been using for a long time behind a paywall. While I was deciding whether to sign up for a paid account there again to see if I liked it all of the special features more than I did when I’d previously paid for them, I began thinking about unguided meditation.

My first meditation attempts many years ago were with unguided meditation. They didn’t work well for me back then because of how unused to this practice I was, but maybe I’d get more out of them today? It took me a couple of tries to get into the habit of weightlifting, after all. It took me even longer to cut 90% of the added sugar out of my diet as well.

This could be another case of something that took a few attempts to turn into a habit. I am tentatively planning to write a follow-up to this post in a few weeks once I have something else to say about it. It’s too soon to say much more about it, but I’m enjoying the process of trying something new.


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An Update on My Difficulties with Meditation

Wow, it’s been six weeks since I last blogged about meditation. I knew it had been a while when I first began working on today’s post, but I had no idea that so much time has passed.

The last time I blogged about this topic, I talked about the possibility of taking a break from meditation. It turns out that I was far too stubborn for that option.

I didn’t want to make any drastic changes to my meditation habits until I’d figured out if I was going to continue meditating or give it up for a while. There are a lot of fantastic apps and other services out there, but I don’t want to pay for something I won’t use regularly.

If there was a way to begin feeling more relaxed after my sessions again, I was going to keep using my current app until I figured it out.

Now that I have the answer to that question, I have to decide how to change this part of my daily routine.

No, I’m still not back to my regular habits yet, but I am still meditating and I have noticed an improvement over the last two months. Today I’ll share the techniques that worked for me. I’ll also talk about some other ideas I’ll be trying in the near future.

Going Through the Motions

While I know that going through the motions is generally used to negatively describe how someone is performing a certain action, I don’t think of it that way for this particular situation. Sometimes going through the motions is a perfectly valid response when something isn’t working out the way you hoped it would.

There were days, especially back in early December right after What Should You Do When Meditation Isn’t Working? was first published,when I listened to my guided meditation app without consciously trying to clear my mind or participating in the process at all.

As odd as this might sound, listening without trying to participate in any way was helpful. I like the soothing voice of the woman who narrates the sessions on the app I use, so it was nice to hear her talking even if I wasn’t reacting to the routine the way I typically would.

The more I listened to her without expecting myself to join in, the more interested I became in trying again.

Comparing Meditation to Exercise

This section could almost be expanded into it’s own blog post, but I’ve noticed an interesting correlation between meditation and exercise.

Both of them require effort long before you see many results at all. It takes time and dedication to build muscle or lose weight. Even then, there have been times when my progress slowed or even temporarily halted in those areas for any number of reasons. Training your mind requires the same level of determination. There’s no quick fix for it.

The last few months seem like they were a plateau for me in this area of life. Yes, it was frustrating, but once I figured out what was going on I wasn’t nearly as annoyed with the process. I expect it to take a while to notice a difference in many of my fitness goals, after all.

Meditation should be held to the exact same standards.

Remembering What December Is Like for Me

December is my least favourite month of the year for a few different reasons.

One, I live far away from my family, and I miss them terribly over the holidays.

Two, my mood dampens a little bit every year between the end of Daylight Savings Time and the Winter Solstice. My body doesn’t like having that many hours of darkness in a day.

Three, I used to work in a field whose busiest time of the year was between October and the beginning of January with December being the peak of it all. While the actual number of hours I worked in December were only slightly higher than normal, there were multiple times when I stumbled into bed at 2 or 3 am only to go back into work at 11 am the next morning.

The shifts themselves were hectic, too. We dealt with many furious people over the course of the average day, and there was never enough time to do half of the things we were expected to do. I still associate those memories with that month, and it’s not a pleasant association.

Due to these factors, everything is a little tougher than normal for me in December. I should have thought of that when I was blogging about this at the end of last November, but for some reason it didn’t cross my mind until I began working on this post.

Now that I know more about why this plateau happened, I’m ready to start tweaking my meditation routine to see how it can be improved even more than it’s already improved for me since last November.

Other Adjustments I Want to Try

I’ve been doing guided meditation exercises since I first began meditating regularly. My very first attempts at meditation from years ago had been without any guidance at all, and they didn’t go well at all. I quickly became bored and gave up on them. Maybe it’s time to try self-guided meditation again now that I’m better at releasing stray thoughts when they appear?

Right now I’m meditating every evening. As much as I love winding down my day that way, a morning or afternoon session might work better. I’m even thinking about meditating for short periods of time more than once per day to see how they affect me.

If I do continue to use guided meditation, is it time to start exploring other meditation apps, Youtube channels, or other services? I’m using the free version of my current app, and it only offers the same few sessions to people who haven’t paid for a subscription. A few years ago, I signed up for a subscription to my current app, but I didn’t find their premium content worth the expense.

I don’t know how long it will take before I update you on this development in my life again, but I will let you know what I find as I continue to play around with my meditation habits.

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What Should You Do When Meditation Isn’t Working?

Lately, my meditation sessions haven’t been doing much good for me at all.

I sit for the usual amount of time and do my best to exist without entertaining any stray thoughts that might pop up, but at the end of it I don’t feel any different than I did before. My brain is still churning out images as regularly as ever, and I don’t feel any more relaxed than I did when I began.

It’s frustrating.

I remember what it felt like to open my eyes and feel refreshed and relaxed after previous sessions. It would be so nice to get back into that habit, especially as we move into the holiday season and I begin to need the peace that comes after some meditation sessions a little more than usual.

The good news is that this is completely normal.

There’s no such thing as constant progress in life. Everyone eventually reaches a point where they face a setback, appear to be plateauing in their skills, or need a break in general.

I can’t give you a sure-fire list of steps to get back into your meditation routine, but I can give you a purposefully contradictory list of ideas to try based on the research I’ve been doing on this problem.

  1. Focus on maintaining the habit of mediation, not on what you get out of it.
  2. Try another form of meditation.
  3. Stick with it and see if you can push past it.
  4. Remember that everything ends eventually. This, too, will pass.
  5. Take a break. It can be a long break or a short one, but sometimes it’s easier to find the motivation to meditate if you can reset your habits.
  6. If you’re following some form of guided meditation, listen to the session without trying to follow along with it.
  7. Choose a different position. I find it easier to mediate while lying down on days when I’m having more trouble with it than normal.
  8. Spend some time reading about meditation.
  9. Move to a new location. Last spring, I had a lot of luck with walking mediation in the park. It’s too chilly to do that most days now here in Toronto, but you might find renewed motivation if you’re in a less familiar environment in general.

I’ve been spending plenty of time on #1, #6, and #7 myself. There is something to be said for going through the motions if it keeps you in the habit until meditation becomes easier for you once again.

Today’s post is purposefully short because this is still something I’m trying to figure out. I hope I’ll be able to write a follow-up post soon that details how I began getting more out of meditating once again. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away at it. If you’re having trouble with your meditation, I hope you also figure out a solution for yourself soon.

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Now Is the Perfect Time to Start Practicing Mindfulness

The autumn and winter holiday season is right around the corner.

In the past, I’ve felt kind of like discombobulated like the glass of water in the picture on the left for several different reasons: I’ve felt pressured to participate in religious rituals I disagreed with; I do not enjoy the wasteful, commercialistic side of the holiday season; I miss the sun when sunset begins to happen before 5 pm in November and December.

Whether you love the extra hours of darkness and the festivities of this portion of the year or, like me, are not a big fan of them, they’ll be here before we know it.

This will the first holiday season I will have ever been through as someone who meditates and practices mindfulness regularly. I have already seen positive changes in my life as a result of these new habits. It’s going to be fascinating to see if they make the end of the year more enjoyable for me. My best guess is that they will be!

If you haven’t started practicing mindfulness yet, now is the perfect time to begin. Let’s talk about why this is so and what to expect if you decide to add this habit to your daily routine.

Mindfulness Isn’t a Quick Fix

No, this isn’t going to be one of those blog posts that promises to improve every part of your life in five easy steps. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of that writing style or of the idea that reading a single article is all someone needs to make big changes in their life. Few people are that simple or that easily swayed.

There is also the fact that learning how to stop and focus on the present moment takes time. While I am gradually getting better at brushing away unhelpful thoughts and keeping my mind focused on what is currently going on, I still have a long way to go.

This is by far the biggest reason why I strongly recommend getting started with this habit as soon as possible if it’s something you’re hoping to get benefits from over the next few months.

If you want to be able to live in the moment at the end of the year when you’re at an event that you find stressful or over-stimulating, practicing now will make that day easier than it might have otherwise been because you will have already gotten into the habit of quietly focusing on the moment instead of thinking about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.

Mindfulness Is a Lifestyle Change

Think about practicing mindfulness the same way you would if you wanted to learn a new language, strengthen your muscles, or play a new instrument.

All of these skills take time and effort to master. I’ve never heard of anyone becoming fluent in a new language in a day or a week. The same can be said for learning to play the piano or swing a kettlebell.

While the basics can be figured out fairly quickly if you’re motivated, it will take sustained effort over much longer periods of time to really reap the rewards of your hard work.

Mindfulness requires that same attention to detail. When I first began meditating and doing my best to remain in the present moment when I wasn’t meditating, I didn’t notice any major changes in how I thought or felt.

It took a while for me to fall into the habit of doing it regularly, and even longer for me to learn how to use it to relax consistently.

Mindfulness Is Worth It

I wish I’d started practicing mindfulness regularly many years ago. There were several false starts over the years as I slowly figured out what did and didn’t work for me.

While I understand why it took me a while to where I am today, I sure wish I could have had a cheat sheet to both warn me about the techniques my brain would not find helpful well as to tantalize me with all of the positive effects of mindfulness if I kept plugging away at it.

If there were a way for me to give you a tour of my mind and show you all of the small but still wonderful improvements I’ve made as a result of this habit, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Since that isn’t currently possible, I’ll tell you that my mind wanders a little less now than it used to. It’s easier to return to the present moment when it does go scampering off into the furthest recesses of my brain.

I’ve also come to love my daily meditation sessions and mindful moments. They are such a nice way to pause and immerse myself in the moment before moving on with my regular routines. It’s going to be interesting to see what other benefits I discover over the next few months as I become even better at the skills i’m currently practicing.

In short, mindfulness is worth every ounce of effort you put into it.

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4 Things I’m Going to Miss About Summer

A few weeks ago I began meditating every day. I even went so far as to set an alarm on my phone to remind me to meditate at a specific time each day.

One of the most interesting side effects of this new routine has been how I approached summer. Between my seasonal allergies and my strong dislike of humidity, this is not my favourite time of the year. I’m normally counting down the days until autumn by the end of August. The mild temperatures of spring and fall are far more my cup of tea.

With that being said, there are still things about summer that I enjoy, and my meditation habits have helped me to uncover more of them than I would have originally thought possible.

1. Produce Is in Season

I have loved nearly every kind of fruit and vegetable I’ve ever tasted, from berries to green beans and everything in-between.

The wonderful thing about summer is that almost every kind of fruit and vegetable is in season between May and early September. There have been multiple times when I’ve made entire meals out of a big plate of fruit and vegetables because they were on sale or I wasn’t sure what else to eat.

While it’s possible to do the same thing in the winter thanks to all of the produce that’s grown in other countries and then shipped to Canada, locally-grown food is cheaper in-season and often tastes much better, too.

So every year I look forward to a summer filled with fresh, healthy dinners that generally don’t require me to turn on the stove or do much preparation at all other than to wash and maybe chop up what I want to eat.

2. Everything Gets a Festival or Parade

No, I’m not exaggerating here.

While this obviously depends on where you live, Toronto has multiple events going on every single day of the summer that celebrate everything from the LGBT community to food festivals for every kind of cuisine you can imagine and a few you might not have any idea exists at all.

When I first moved up here, I was overwhelmed by the possibilities. The small, midwestern town I spent most of my childhood in had less going on there in an entire year than Toronto has on even its quietest weekend.

I still get excited when I see a random parade marching down the street, but I also know there are far more festivities going on in this city than I can ever hope to keep up with. They’re everywhere, and it’s wonderful.

3. No Jackets, Hats, or Gloves Required

At the end of every spring, I turn to my spouse at some point and happily tell him that we don’t have to wear jackets anymore when we go outside.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have some very cool jackets, and I am looking forward to having extra pockets again in a month or two. There is also something to be said for being able to go on a spontaneous walk without needing to grab a jacket or make sure that I’m dressed warmly enough for the temperatures outside.

Since I’ve forgotten a jacket somewhere once or twice as well, it’s also nice not to have to go back to retrieve anything during this time of the year. Everything I need is already on my body or in my purse.

4. Extra Hours of Sunlight

By the time November hits, I really begin to miss the long, sunny days of June.

While it’s nice to have extra hours of darkness for sleeping purposes, it also feels good to go for a walk at 8 pm and still see plenty of light in the sky.

If only there were a way to bottle some of that sunshine up and sprinkle it throughout November and December.

Since there currently isn’t away to do that, I must enjoy it while it’s still here.

I’m still looking forward to the cool, crisp days of autumn, but I’ll be enjoying the last few weeks of summer in the meantime. How do you feel about this time of the year? How has meditation or mindfulness in general changed the way you thought about something you’re not a big fan of in general? I’ll be around on Twitter all day to talk about this.

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Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Mindfulness and Meditation

A few weeks ago I started a new series of posts on this blog about Twitter accounts that share the same theme. This week I’m going to be recommending accounts that are about mindfulness and meditation.

There aren’t as many mindfulness and meditation suggestions as there were for the science fiction and fantasy version of this series, but I’m tentatively hoping to eventually write a part two for this once I’ve found more high-quality accounts that talk about it.

If you have suggestions for specific accounts to recommend or topics for a future post in this series, I’d be quite interested in hearing about them.


The cute rabbit pictures were what first drew me into following this account, of course, but one of the reasons why I enjoy the tweets from the woman who runs it so much is how insightful she is about topics like grief, death, and truly living in the moment.


This is the official account for a Buddhist website by the same name. They tweet a lot, but their articles are well-written and full of helpful advice for people from many different walks of life.


Ntathu teaches yoga and meditation. I love the positivity of her tweets, especially when it comes to the short quotes she shares regularly.


Satya is a Buddhist priest I’ve known online for years. She has a lot of interesting things to say about mindfulness and her belief system in general.


This is a meditation app I’ve used off and on for years. The guided body scans in the app itself are fantastic, and their Twitter account is full of good information as well.

Previous posts in this series:

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Science Fiction and Fantasy 

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Meditating During a Heatwave

August in Toronto is a hot and humid affair. While this month did start out chiller than usual, we’re currently in the middle of a heatwave that’s been going on for a few days now.

I’m lucky enough to have fairly decent air conditioning in my apartment, but I’m still counting down the days until the heat of August fades away and the beauty of autumn begins because of how easy it is for the heat to sneak into my place on unusually hot days and how many places in this city don’t have good air conditioning.

One of the things I enjoy the most about meditating during a heatwave is what a fantastic tool it is for dealing with the weather as I step outside of my home and feel that first puff of hot, stale air.

There are several different lessons I’ve taken from my meditation sessions and applied to experiences like those at this time of the year. I hope all of you are feeling milder temperatures than I am, but I thought this would make a good idea for a blog post for anyone else who feels like they’re walking through an oven right now.


Now that I’m meditating again more regularly after my break from it last spring, I’m sometimes surprised by how calming it is to breathe deeply and focus on nothing in particular at all.

My brain is slowly being trained to focus on my breathing when I step outside and inhale steamy August air. I do my best not to think about the temperature, the future, or anything else at all. All I need to do in that moment is breathe in and out again.

It is such a simple yet helpful reminded to stay in the present and focus on those things you actually do have control over.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Live in the Moment

Autumn is still seven weeks away, and even the fall solstice isn’t a guarantee of cooler weather immediately. Last year we had hot, summery weather all the way through until the beginning of October.

It’s tempting to wish away the end of a season. I know I often give into this temptation at the end of winter when it feels like warmer weather will never arrive, but this summer I’ve been making a genuine effort to live in the moment instead of fantasizing about what the weather will be like a month or two from now.

There are positive and negative sides to any season – literal or metaphorical –  we find ourselves in, and I’m telling you this as someone who doesn’t always grok this right away. It’s easy for me to imagine the worst or to spend so much time thinking about what could or might happen in the future that I forget to live in the now.

Notice Sensations Without Judging Them

Confession: I am not always very patient when dealing with months of humidity. There comes a time nearly every summer when the humidity has been so high for so many weeks that I honestly want to go jump into Lake Ontario, grow some gills, and spend the last month of summer swimming around with the fish to stay cool.

Noticing and acknowledging sensations without immediately deciding what I think about them is definitely something I’ve had to work to do during my sessions.

To give you an example that isn’t weather-related,  I had a sore muscle in my neck and shoulder last week. It was the first thing my mind jumped to every time I sat down to meditate because of how it was affecting the way I moved and the kinds of things I wanted to do. (No worries, though – it is all better now).

Figuring out how to acknowledge that part of my body without immediately jumping to thoughts about why it was sore or when it would heal wasn’t easy. Relaxing helped, and so did focusing my attention on it for a brief moment before returning my mind to a state of rest.

It’s been interesting to transfer this mindset to something like standing on an overcrowded subway car or walking down a street that doesn’t have much shade at all.

Unless someone suddenly gives me the power to control the weather, there isn’t a single thing I can do to change the temperature or the humidity outside. It is what it is.

There is definitely something to be said for noticing perspiration forming on your skin or a hot breeze skimming your hair without immediately judging those sensations.

How does summer affect your meditation? How has meditating affected how you handle uncomfortable weather?

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3 Reasons Why You Should Meditate Outdoors

I’ve slowly been trying to incorporate more meditation into my routine after the long break I took from it earlier this spring.

This spring has been a chilly, wet one so far here in Toronto. We’re only now beginning to have a few days in a row where it hasn’t rained and the temperature has been above 10 degrees Celsius (or 50 Fahrenheit for those of you who live in the United States).

Along with continuing to meditate in noisy places, one of my goals for this summer is to sit and meditate outside once the weather warms up a few more degrees and it’s no longer quite so uncomfortable to sit still on a cold bench on a cloudy day.

I’ve been meditating during long walks in the meantime. It’s actually the first technique I used when I began meditating years ago, and it’s still something I find soothing when I’m having trouble staying focused while sitting down.

There are three basic reasons why I love outdoor meditation so much, and today we’re going to explore them.

Reason #1: Natural Background Noises Aren’t as Distracting

When I’m meditating at home, I might hear thumping music from the apartment next to mine, a distant argument from the other side of the hall, the thud of something heavy being dropped on an uncarpeted floor, the ding of an elevator door, or any other number of other miscellaneous noises. The building I l live in is wonderful in many other ways, but preventing sound from travelling is not one of them.

Can I filter these things out when necessary? Absolutely, but I find the rustle of leaves or a bird singing to be much less distracting than the sound of other humans living their lives. If I’m already struggling to focus on clearing my mind of all thoughts, it’s nice to remove that extra layer of stuff that is competing for my attention.

I don’t know about you, but I also find it easier to tune out the sounds of nature in general. My brain might register that birds are tweeting, but I don’t consciously think about them the same way I would if I heard a conversation happening in the background that I could almost – but not quite – make out.

Reason #2: Nature Is Soothing

Few things lift my mood faster than going somewhere where there aren’t any buildings, roads, shops, or billboards to be seen. I love taking a brisk walk on a shady path or watching squirrels run around looking for food.

There is something incredibly relaxing about being surrounded by so many different species of plants even if they have been planted, manicured, or kept up by humans in some way. Visiting a large national park where everything there looks more or less the same as it did a thousand years ago is exciting, but I also find joy in visiting parks that have sidewalks, benches, and large fields of recently-mowed grass.

This is one of the many reasons why I love trees. Other than trimming off the occasional dead branch, there aren’t a lot of things you can do to a tree to make it less wild. A mature oak is going to look roughly the same no matter where it’s growing or what has happened around it. There is something beautiful and soothing about that.

(I’ve joked about being a friend of the Ents in the past. Maybe there is a kernel of truth to that in the sense that i have a strong affinity for trees.)

Reason #3: It’s a Smart Idea to Practice Meditating Under Many Different Circumstances

The biggest reason why I began occasionally meditating in noisy places last winter is that I wanted to expand the number of places where I could meditate.

You will not always be able to meditate in a cool, clean, quiet room that is free from every distraction.

While no one in my family is currently ill, I want to be able to meditate in a hospital waiting room if necessary while we wait to hear word from the doctor.  I also want to be able to meditate in cramped airplane seats, hard park benches on warm summer days, dusty rooms, and anywhere else I could possibly need to slow down my thoughts and live in the moment.

Meditation isn’t something that’s only supposed to work when you’re having a good day. The benefits of it extend to every part of the human experience if you do it regularly.

Hopefully I won’t have to meditate when I’m feeling physical or emotional discomfort anytime soon, but I’d like to be well-accustomed to breathing through all kinds of different circumstances when that does happen again in the future. Think of it like practicing a speech over and over again before you present it to your audience. You’ll probably still feel nervous when the big day comes, but at least you’ll know the material inside and out.

If you haven’t tried outdoor meditation yet, I hope this post has encouraged you to give it a try. It is a wonderful addition to all of the other forms of meditation out there. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I’ve only just begun to explore its possibilities!


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Confessions of a Meditation Dropout

I have a confession to make: I haven’t meditated in weeks.

It took me a while to figure out why I’d stopped. The slowdown in my routine was so gradual that I didn’t realize it was happening at first, but there have been some changes in my life recently that have lead to me feeling less of a need to meditate regularly.

Change #1: No Caffeine

I never drink coffee or caffeinated tea, but for a while there I wasn’t eating or drinking anything caffeinated at all. Even small amount of caffeine have been known to make me feel anxious, so I’ll often go several weeks or even longer without having any chocolate at all.

When my mind is calm, I don’t think about meditation as often as I do when I need to consciously clear out my thoughts.

Now that I’ve started to occasionally eat chocolate again as a delicious result of post-holiday sales and my local grocery store suddenly carrying a whole bunch of new chocolate bars that I’ve only begun to start tasting, I’m expecting to mediate again more regularly in the near future.

Change #2: Nice Weather

Spring has arrived in Toronto, so there have been some beautiful days here over the last few weeks. Meditation is a tool I’m more likely to use during times of the year when it’s too hot or cold to spend much time outdoors at all. When the weather is warm and dry, I tend to take a long walk outside instead of sitting at home.

Nothing clears my mind more quickly than being outdoors. There are many quiet, shady streets in Toronto to explore, and I love walking up and down them with no particular destination in mind. Not only do you meet the most interesting people and places  this way, it’ll show you a side of the city that is rarely seen elsewhere. Some of the buildings here have been around since the city was in its infancy, and they have stories to share about that time period in history if you know how to listen and who to speak to about them.

The peacefulness of these walks is wonderful as well. When you don’t have to think about crossing busy streets or dodging folks who stand on the street corner and try to talk you into something, it’s easy to let your legs carry you down the street and soak in all of the beauty around you.

This leads me to a question that has been rolling around in my mind for a long time. Can walking be thought of as a non-traditional form of mediation? I’ve read articles that agree that it can, and others that don’t think this habit is disciplined enough to count as a meditation session. What I can say is that both meditation and walking give me similar benefits.

  • They clear my mind.
  • If my mind can’t be cleared, they help me to accept the thoughts that stubbornly stick around.
  • They help me to live in the present instead of the past or the future.

I’ll leave it up to the experts to decide if long walks can be a form of mediation. For now, I’ll accept the peace that I find in these activities and leave it at that.

Change #3: Boredom

There’s a fine line between falling into a comfortable routine and beginning to feel bored when you do the same things over and over again.

As much as I enjoy the benefits of meditation, sometimes I honestly do need a break from it. Doing it daily would be like doing the same exercise routine every single day. Some people may be perfectly capable of doing that without ever growing bored or wanting a chance to rest, but I need to switch up my routines sometimes.

Taking a break from something – even if it’s something I deeply love that I know is good for me – makes me feel more committed to going back to it after I’ve had a chance to try other forms of relaxation.

Try, Try Again

Now that I’ve had the chance to mull over it, I don’t think of my breaks from meditation as a failure. I’ve had an on-and-off again relationship with this practice for years, and I’ve more or less come to accept the fact that I will occasionally stop doing it for a while.

My meditation breaks are gradually growing shorter and less frequent, though, and that makes me happy. I’d like to imagine that this means my meditation practices are changing my brain for the better.

Think of it like training yourself to eat a healthy diet or exercise regularly. There will be times when you fall off the wagon, so to speak, for any number of reasons. You might become sick or injured and be physically unable to exercise for days, weeks, or months.  Other things going on in your life might demand so much attention that you don’t have the energy to juggle it all for a while. You might be travelling and have trouble finding healthy food while you’re out of your element.

All of that is perfectly normal. Such a routine might not work for everyone, but it does work for some of us. Rather than focusing on what happened yesterday, think about what you’re going to do today.  The nice thing about meditation is that no one is keeping track of how often you do it, and there’s no reward or punishment for doing it a specific number of times a week.

There is always another chance to try again. This is why I’ve returned to this practice so many times after taking a break.

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