When You Can’t Meditate: Methods That Don’t Involve Just Sitting Still

So many people tell me they just can’t meditate because they don’t believe they can sit still and do nothing. 

I know they believe they can’t sit still and that’s all that meditation is for – to stop all those thought trains from blowing through. Or to destress.

That’s always really bothered me because I know how powerfully life-changing meditation is. So, I set out to find methods that will work for them. If sitting still doesn’t feel possible right now, how can a person know the beauty of being okay in the moment no matter what the moment holds?

I’m not trying to convince anyone their reasons for not meditating aren’t valid. All I want to do is share techniques that work really well for people who feel like that.

So, in this series I’m going to share all the methods I’ve discovered over the years that work well when you feel meditation isn’t your thing or won’t work for you.

 #1 Key to this is getting rid of expectations of what successful meditation is. Sure, we can work on precision and method, but it is an experiment and we can be light and loose with it. Forget having a big ol’ trip about “Man, I had the best meditation!” “Look at me, I’m meditating.” “OM… yeah, man, I totally blissed out…that was a great meditation.”  Forget all that.

Instead, no matter what method you try, just get to know your mind.  Don’t expect a certain outcome and you won’t be disappointed. Sometimes it’s bliss, sometimes it’s monkeys running around mocking you. And it’s all good!

Sound as Meditation

I’ve used sound as a practice for about a year now in various ways. It arose out of the deep quiet I found on the cushion. Not as a distraction but as a serious inquiry. Could I be just as still with a practice based on sound? Me, who loves quiet more than most.

I was perusing my favorite bookstore looking for something on energy work when I found a book (that comes with a CD or a digital download) called Tibetan Sound Healing: Seven Guided Practices to Clear Obstacles, Cultivate Positive Qualities, and Uncover Your Inherent Wisdom  by  Tenzin Wangyal-Rinpoche

I worked with this technique for about three months on an almost daily basis and found it was really simple and really potent at clearing my mind and body of unhelpful energies and emotions. I just felt so much better once I got into it.

So, how does it work?

The book describes the seed syllables of Ah, Om, Hung, Dza, and Ram with their corresponding chakra points. There are visualizations that involve the sound, the chakra, and imagery and intention.

Now, I’d never been able to visualize very well. Part of me thought it was hokey but mostly I am not very good at seeing a thing in my mind. I’m working with that more now because I continue to hear how effective it is for a lot of things from manifesting magical qualities in your life including abundance and love to finding the remote control (and hey, that’s pretty darn magical!)

I didn’t figure that part of the practice would work for me. Then he explained how AH, the first syllable, is like a clear desert sky and I could see it, feel it, be in more fully than ever.

For the last three months of my long commute for work, I listened and practiced. Even just a minute or two helped. Wherever the CD started up I would practice along with it.

Then I started doing it at home on my meditation cushion after work for a few minutes. I would sit comfortably and hold my singing bowl in my hand (I went rogue with the method!), running the wooden striker around the brass. As the notes from the bowl sung out, I played with AH, OM, HUNG, RAM, and DZA in holding the images from the book in my mind, working them like playdough.

I was going through a huge transition in my life and there was total uncertainty around it. I know all things are uncertain, but this was bigger than all the other uncertainties I’d known. Leaving my job to pursue my passion and my true work (hopefully) as a writer and a meditation/mindfulness guide.

I had all the tools I needed to deal with any insurgent anxiousness and confusion, and yet I felt deep in my body a need for a practice that grounded me in open space. I figured restlessness was going to be my constant companion at least for the time being till I figured out what living the dream actually meant. (Six weeks into this dream-chasing experiment and I can confirm it is pretty groundless!)

Another practice I’m just beginning to explore is Kundalini Yoga. There is a component of it that is basically the same premise – just different sounds. I’ll report back on that once I’ve worked with it more.

If you’re looking for other kinds of meditations that don’t involve just sitting still, I’ll be writing about them here over the next while. So, be on the lookout.

And hey, if you want to try out one of the great ones – Writing Practice – then sign up in the box below.

Much love,