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It is difficult for some people to meditate. This is for various reasons having to do with our basic differences as individual humans. Sometimes it is purely a structural issue, as in back problems and disabilities that make formal meditation postures impractical or painful. For some it is just a matter of not being able to sit still and quiet the mind despite many attempts using various practices. A solution to these hurdles is to try a more active meditation.

There are several ways to more actively meditate, both mentally and physically. If you have problems with the mental challenges of meditation, it can help to have a point of focus that keeps your mind from wandering. This can be a flower that you watch, or a phrase that you repeat over and over. What works for others may not work for you, so try a few different mantras or visual focus points. Watching the flame of a candle is sometimes useful.

In addition to helping you focus your attention and keep your mind from wandering, an active form of meditation using ideas can help you mentally "program" yourself. There are meditations on forgiveness, for example, or ones that address body awareness. There is even a Buddhist practice called corpse meditation, in which you imagine a human corpse as it is placed in the ground and subsequently, over time, decays and returns to the earth. This is said to help you accept the transient nature of life and all things in it.

Here is a simple meditation that involves repetition of an idea, which in this case is about recognizing the way in which we identify with things and states as self. You just repeat the following (not the part in parenthesis) as you breathe deeply:

I am not feelings... (Though your body and mind feel cold and fear and hatred these are not your essence, but come and go.)

I am not thoughts... (Though you have opinions they are not who you are.)

I am not this body... (You still exist even if an arm or leg is lost.)

I am what I am... (You exist before and after any definitions or labels are applied.)

More Physically Active Meditations

Some people find that it is easier to do meditations that require a more physical activity. Sitting still is sometimes too difficult (mentally or for reasons of injury or illness). Falling asleep is also a problem that some have with the quieter meditative practices. Fortunately there are several ways to be more active while meditating.

For example, there are the traditional walking forms, in which you walk back along a defined path or a room. You pay attention to the movement of your muscles and breathing. We also cover another form of walking meditation on this site. That one allows for more movement, even along a sidewalk or a nature trail. It may not provide the same depth of experience as a deep meditation that slows the brainwaves, and you should be careful to do it in a safe environment, but it can be unique experience.

Standing meditations work for some who have problems primarily with the full-lotus and other sitting positions. There are different types of standing practices, and you can experiment to see which gives you the most peace of mind. Here's a pleasant one to try:

Stand in front of a lake, a valley, or any beautiful natural setting and close your eyes. Take several deep breaths through your nose and let the tension drain from your muscles. Tighten up and release any areas that do not seem to relax fully. Let your breathing fall into a comfortable pattern, continuing to breathe in and out only through your nose (unless this is not possible). Pay attention to the air coming into and going out of your body. When your mind wanders, just bring attention gently back to the process of breathing. After about ten minutes of this, open your eyes and look at the scene in front of you. You might find that it looks different, even more vibrant and colorful than when you first looked at it.

Another form of active meditation, and the last that we'll look at here, is what we typically call tai chi. Also known by the longer names of T'ai chi ch'uan or Taijiquan, this is a Chinese martial art which when practiced is essentially a meditation, at least those forms that require slow and graceful movements of the body. If you have not done this before you might find that besides clearing your mind and relaxing you, you experience other health benefits. The movements provide some aerobic exercise as well as stretching of the muscles.

And don't forget, since it is the focus of this website, that good brainwave entrainment CDs can make any meditative practices easier.

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