Why I thought meditation wasn’t for me

For the longest time I thought meditation wasn’t for me. I’m someone with an active brain (think squirrel-like) who often has a hard time to slow that brain down. Initially the idea of being able to “switch it off” with meditation appealed to me. It seemed like a healthy practice to create more balance in my mind. And ultimately I wanted to reduce the negative effects of stress.

So why did I think meditation wasn’t for me? I thought meditation meant to sit still in a calm environment and to try not engage with my thoughts. The only example of someone meditating in my close environment was my hubby Jelger, who at one point did daily meditation exercises with an app and who was very good at sitting still.

When I tried to do the same thing, it felt like torture. My mind kept wandering and I continuously judged myself for being bad at meditation. When sitting down and trying to focus, my mind went something like this: “I still have to buy vegetables tonight. Why are you thinking about buying vegetables, you’re supposed to not engage with your thoughts. Stop thinking. You’ve only been at it for 5 minutes, relax. I can’t relax. Stop thinking you can’t relax. I’m bad at meditating. Stop judging your thoughts. Now I’m judging my judgment.” Can you relate to this? Even with guided meditations, I ended up just tuning out the voice and getting back to my thought patterns.

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I do have meditation in my life and that I want more of it! My initial definition of ‘meditation’ was just too narrow.

Cambridge dictionary has a more interesting definition than my sit-still-and-don’t-move one: “Meditation is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.”

Now that makes more sense to me! Mindfulness and a meditative state don’t only occur when sitting still and trying to focus!

1. Meditation in walking

I can be in a meditative state when hiking. After a stressful time, when first entering nature, my brain keeps rehashing thoughts about “tasks I still have to do” or “things I should have done better” etc. But the longer I keep focused on simply putting one foot in front of the other, the more my mind quiets down. Until at some point the only thing that’s left, is me, being very present, seeing nature and having let go of all thoughts.

Since having this awareness, I create more space in my life for hikes. Especially longer hikes, because they allow time for all those thoughts to disappear. Maybe it’s different for you, but for me, a 30 minute walk won’t get me into the mindful state of relaxation.

It’s no secret that a lot of famous people had their great ideas while walking. I’m sure it’s because their mindful state created the space they needed for those ideas to bubble to the surface.

2. Meditation in working with your hands

If you’ve read our Primal Pioneers manifesto, you might remember this: “We believe in the simple joy of working with our hands”. For me, at first this meant connecting more with what I’m doing and what was surrounding me. F.e. making food from scratch, building something from scratch, etc. and then enjoying the benefits of my work.

But recently I acknowledged the meditative qualities in “working with your hands”. I specifically thought about it when doing pottery. Fortunately my teacher doesn’t judge the work her students produce as good or bad, so when creating something, it’s all about the process. And she even mentioned having an intention for your piece and being present in the moment.

Working on the pottery wheel, can be very meditative. The rhythmic circular motion is mesmerizing and the only thing you’re thinking of, is the feeling of clay between your fingers and how things are moving. Of course it’s possible to break that spell when becoming too focused on the results.

Taking the concept a step further, it could be meditative to chop vegetables or to work in your garden or … Anything where you’re fully present, focused on the task at hands, while touching things/working with your hands, can be a meditation.

Not my work, as I’m more a beginner. (I’ll get there 😉 )

3. Meditation in making music

Both Jelger and I started taking drum classes and are learning to play the djembe. Our teacher Alexandra taught us that drumming too can be a form meditation. And about the different meditative states while drumming. I never thought about drumming and meditation being the same, but now I fully understand! Your mind can get in a trance like state, fully immersed in the rhythm and vibrations.

When I’m playing a less challenging rhythm, I notice there’s a bit more time for my mind to wander, which creates the option to purposefully think about my body (f.e. how am I sitting, where do I feel sore/more stiff, how am I moving etc.) And when playing a difficult rhythm, the only thing I can do is dive fully into it, because as soon as I get distracted, I need to reset and start over. It’s incredible how present I can be in those moments.

I’m sure this meditation through music isn’t limited to drumming! Any musical instrument can bring you in that same state!

My biggest takeaway from all these realizations is that:

Meditation exists in motion

How about you? Have you had moments when you’re moving and you felt 100% in the moment? You’d probably only know afterwards, because when you’re in that moment, you’re not thinking about being in the moment. 😉 And how can you create more space in your life for this kind of mindfulness? Weather it’s yoga, dancing, exercise, making music, doing crafts, cooking… meditation is possible for everyone.