Mindfulness, meditation and self-awareness: the buzz words of modern well-being.
Over the last few years, these traditionally Eastern methods of relaxation have taken root in Western society. In this stressful world that we plunge ourselves into daily, we are constantly struggling to find peace and quiet; we are unable to switch off and instead remain connected to social media throughout most of our day.
Mindfulness and meditation have become important habits that you can integrate into your life to restore the calm within. You can find books on how to ‘do’ mindfulness, apps that will guide you through mediation sessions, and there are even mindfulness groups you can attend where you learn how to integrate mindful practices into your life. Whatever your preferred way to learn and practice mindfulness and meditation, there is something for you.
Active Meditation: Colouring
For me, I find a calm ‘meditative’ state through mindful activities; this is something I have named ‘active meditation’. I have a colouring book called ‘The Mindfulness Companion’ and every so often I ignore all of my million to-do’s and life goals, and I just regress. I sit in bed, donning my favourite Bambi pyjama top and attentively colour in between the lines. I give my thoughts to finding the right colour tones and picking out all the same shapes that need the same colour. I become so relaxed and content when I colour, I end up wishing I had become an artist.
My mind is a very busy place. It is constantly filled with inspirational thoughts about what I want to do next. It darts between different scenarios that may happen, flashbacks of things that have already happened, and it recounts my exciting plans for next week. I have worked very hard over the last few months to remain actively aware of each thought I have. When negative thoughts swamp my mind, I acknowledge them and then replace them with a positive counterpart. I have done this so routinely (thanks to a regular reminder on my phone), that, the other day, I realised that I don’t have as many negative thoughts as I once did. This activity, known as opposition thinking (more about this next week), is one of many mindfulness techniques that you can use to remain aware of your thoughts, and actively prime your brain to think more positively.
A lot of mindfulness focuses upon remaining aware of each thought, and meditation encourages you to be present in your surroundings and mindful of the sensations within your body. However, for me, the beauty I find in ‘active meditation’ is that I become blissfully unaware of my surroundings and thoughts. In fact, I don’t even think very much at all. I just colour. All I focus upon is the space in which I am filling with bright pink and then which colour I should choose next.
Maybe this goes against the rules of focusing upon your breaths and being aware of each muscle fibre in your body, but I have found that ‘active meditation’ is something that really works for me. Through colouring, I do not have to play an active role in battling with my thoughts that dance across the stage of my mind, begging for attention – I simply don’t have them. My mind becomes peaceful and still, because the monkey brain that normally tries to tease me is distracted with the pretty colours.
If you haven’t tried colouring since you were made to leave your happy place in primary school – I would highly recommend it. Above you will see the book I use, but if you’d rather draw animals or scenery, there are so many to choose from in any local bookshop.
Active Meditation: Pottery Painting
If you want to get creative and feel calmer, while being productive – I would also recommend pottery painting. I discovered this last weekend and it is now one of my new favourite activities to do. I cannot wait to go back. I went to Mad Hatters Café in Reading last Saturday on a rainy and boring day and, after a gruelling decision process about what pottery item to paint, my partner and I sat down at a table, in a room filled with adults and children of all ages, and got our creative hats on.
Like a lot of people, I am not a fan of others noise – especially the noise of a swarm of little children. However, lost in my creative world of colour and painting, I found that my present surroundings dropped away from focus and I could no longer hear the children. Whenever I became aware of the noise, there was surprisingly not one inch of me that was irritated. I sat at the table choosing my colours, blending a mix of my favourite pinks and purples and carefully begun applying the layers. I listened to the couple on the table next to me excitedly interrogate each other and share stories on what seemed to be a well-chosen first date, and without even noticing the minutes, hours of my life went past.
The reason I loved this was: not only was I creating something, but I was so focused on the colours and perfecting each stroke, that not one external thought entered my mind. I had no concern for what I would eat for dinner, I didn’t think about work, family, or money – I thought about nothing other than exactly what I was doing. It was such a peaceful process, as well as something I was able to share with Paul.
I enjoy practicing mindful techniques before bed, opposition thinking throughout the day and I dabble with meditation upon waking – but a lot of my anxiety arises when I am not achieving something or contributing to my development in some way. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family as I am investing in relationships, I enjoy going to work because I am investing in my financial security and I enjoy writing, reading and researching as I am investing in my writing career. Everything I do is a form of investment. Therefore, active meditation through pottery painting covers multiple angles for me. Not only does painting bring me to a place of relaxation, but it also allows me to spend time with those I love, it encourages creativity and it gives me something tangible at the end. What more could I truly ask for?
There is a time for still meditation, there is a time for reflecting and mindfulness – but don’t forget you can combine the two. Try active meditation and really allow yourself to lose your thoughts in what you are creating, right in front of you.
Still your mind through active meditation.
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Heart & Brain image: https://www.mindful.org/is-mindfulness-safe/
The Mindfulness Companion by Dr Sarah Jane Arnold