You likely already know meditation is good for you. It heals your mind, calms your anxiety, improves your overall health and helps you connect with the stillness already inside you. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to shift from a go-go-go, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle into hours of sitting in silence without feeling some level of discomfort, or having an outright panic attack.
For these practices you do not need to sit down on a special cushion in a dedicated corner or set a specific time. These practices help to bring the present moment awareness achieved through meditation into every moment of your day—at work, on the bus or train, in the store, on the playground, during your lunch break, at the dinner table…
How To Easily Practice Informal Meditation For Present Moment Awareness
Sitting with yourself – all those thoughts, feelings, emotions and long-held beliefs – after years of stuffing, avoiding and editing who you are, can be terrifying, overwhelming and triggering to your tender heart. This is often the reason many people try meditation once or twice and quickly decide they’re not good at it, or it’s just not their thing. If this is you, I’d like to suggest there’s more to meditation than you might realize.
Meditation is about Being who you are, where you are, finding presence in everyday life, and knowing all is well no matter where you are or what’s happening around you. With that in mind, here are seven ways to practice informal meditation and bring your practice outside the box into your daily life.
7 Informal Meditation Practices
Take a moment. Right now. Stop what you are doing, or just slow down your thoughts by bringing awareness to your breath.
Take a deep breath in through your nose. Breathe deep into your tummy, allowing it to expand with air. Exhale slowly, feeling your tummy soften and relax. Do this several times. Deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.
With each exhale relax your neck and shoulders, pulling them down and back. Relax your forehead, jaw and eyes. Relax your hips and legs. You can do this in a meeting, talking to someone, while driving, in line at the store—anytime, anywhere.
Bringing awareness to your breath and using it to calm and relax your brain and body is instant meditation. It brings awareness and presence to whatever you are doing.
2. Name 10 Things You Are Grateful For
Even if you aren’t feeling grateful about anything, go through the motions and name ten things you are grateful for at this very moment.
You can even be sarcastic about it: “Thank you for this stupid traffic I have to sit in that’s making me late.” You can be grateful for something small: “Thank you for this breath that’s giving oxygen to my body and keeping me alive.” You can express gratitude to others: “I am grateful for my kids, family, friends, co-workers…” You can appreciate the sky, trees, water, sun… anything in nature, really.
Don’t overthink it. Just let the gratitude flow out of you… Thank you for this coffee, this mug, this heat, this taste, this smell, this sound, this feeling… Bringing awareness into the present moment through gratitude helps you connect with was IS.
Again, you don’t have to feel grateful to express gratitude, and you don’t have to be grateful for anything big and important. The practice of shifting your focus toward gratitude is enough.
Want more? Try this guided Gratitude Meditation.
3. Observe Your Surroundings
Take a moment to slow down and become an observer. Allow your brain to stop ruminating on the past and worrying about the future.
Be aware of where you are right now. What do you see? What draws your attention? Notice sights, sounds, smells, colors, light, vibrations, far and near. Is there anything that amuses you or draws your focus more than anything else?
For me, people-watching is one of my all-time favorite things to do. It brings me into the present moment, helps me see others more clearly, and gives me permission to not be on output all the time. Nature has the same effect.
Even if you are alone, with no people around, you can look at the cover of a book, or out the window or down at your hands. The point is to be present and aware of exactly where you are in this moment. Allow yourself to observe and be curious. You are now meditating!
Before looking at the other four ways of practicing informal meditation in your daily life, you might want to pause and listen to one (or two) of these guided meditation to help you connect with and ground yourself in the present moment.
4. Feel Your Body
Your body can be nowhere but in the present moment. Feel the edges of your body now. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, here you are.
How does the air feel against the skin on the back of your neck and hands? Feel where your clothes are loose and where they are snug on your body. Feel how contained you are in this form. Stretch your arms out to the side, in front of you, above you.
Allow yourself to move and take up space with your body. Feel where you are holding tension in your neck, shoulders, back, jaw, eyes, forehead, hips, legs and feet. Consciously relax your body and stretch where you feel the need.
Be aware of your breath and heartbeat. Your heart beats for you and only you. It cannot beat for you yesterday or tomorrow. It can only beat for you right now, in the present moment. The same goes for breath. You can only breathe, right now, in this moment.
Your body is your number one vehicle for connecting with the present moment. When you are present in your body – allowing yourself to be in the here and now, exactly where you are – you are meditating. You can bring awareness into your body with little movements and breath anytime, anywhere.
5. Get Lost In The Flow
Think of something you love doing that causes you to lose track of time. Whether it be running, painting, cooking, cleaning, gardening, making music, or talking with a good friend—feel how just thinking about it creates a sense of calm and presence.
Find small ways to bring this activity into your daily life. If you love to draw, carve out five minutes a day to doodle at your desk between answering emails. That’s meditation. The simple act of putting cream and sugar in your coffee with total joy and presence counts as meditation.
Really, there are so many small ways we experience presence in everyday life but don’t think it counts because we’re not sitting in lotus position or chanting “om”. You meditate every time you’re in a state of flow and presence. Keep doing that!
6. Listen Without Responding
Most of us don’t listen to understand, we listen to respond. When you listen to respond you miss what is happening in the present moment and instead jump ahead in your mind to what’s next.
Start doing this practice on your own by saying to yourself, “Speak. I am listening.” Notice how this creates an automatic standstill in your mind because the mind cannot speak and listen at the same time.
Next, practice this “Speak. I am listening” mindset in your interactions with others. Be fully present with what they are expressing and listen deeply without the need to interject or respond.
You will be amazed by how much calmer and more connected you feel when you listen to understand. That’s meditation!
7. Say Nothing Negative
Yoko Ono once said,
“Try to say nothing negative about anybody for three days, four forty-five days, for three months. See what happens to your life.”
Consciously choosing your actions, words and attitudes is a deeply powerful form of meditation. Rerouting your ingrained negative habits and doing something different requires dedicated present-moment awareness, which is meditation.
Take time to consider how your life would change if you said nothing negative about anybody for an extended number of days. Try it for a day and see what happens. I’m positive you will feel lighter, happier and more at peace within yourself. This is a truly life-changing form of meditation that can only be practiced through the act of conscious and intentional living.
Make Meditation Your Own Practice
Remember, there is no right way to meditate. Which means there’s no wrong way to meditate either. Each moment is a new opportunity to practice presence and BEing who you are, where you are. May you stay with yourself, today and always.
My course “Bringing Presence Into Everyday Life” on Insight Timer deepens your sense of peace, clarity and joy. You will learn to experience the present moment as a safe place.