Could I ever learn to meditate if I haven’t by now?

“Could I ever learn to meditate if I haven’t by now?”

I overheard a friend, recently, ask the question above.

At the age of 76, this woman has accomplished more than many could achieve in several incarnations. Through it all, she remains a very conscious, conscientious mind; an individual who considers her place in the world and how her role can impact and affect those around her. She also has an uncanny knack for articulating stunningly profound questions, like this one.

As a practicing Hindu and a classically trained yogi (20+ years), I frequently get asked, “How do I…?” questions when it comes to meditation and introspection.

Hinduism, among other things, focuses on one’s self-awareness and interconnectedness; it helps develop stillness of the mind. And it uses meditation as a tool to facilitate that stillness.

So often, when someone says the word, ‘meditate,’ people automatically conjure images of shaven-headed monks in saffron robes, chanting Om Shanti in resounding unison.

Aum or Om is considered the  sound of cosmic manifestation

The chant, Om Shanti, roughly translates into peace for all humankind, peace for all living and non-living beings, peace for the universe.

But what you may not realize is that meditation can take just about any form of activity – or inactivity – that helps calm the mind. Take walking meditation, for example. Zen Buddhist monks often practice walking meditation as a part of their daily practice. The slow, purposeful walking combines with a concentration on each muscle used to take a single step and the breath required to complete that simple movement.

It all comes down to your breath; breath is life

When you begin to look at meditation that way, you might find you already have something that fits the bill. Do you cross-stitch? Knit? That focused attention stills the mind. Do you run? The discipline of running possesses many of meditative characteristics shared with walking meditation. What about acting? An actress or actor preparing for their role will often go through a meditative process to create their character. Even washing dishes can help to focus the mind and calm the spirit. In fact, it’s often our simplest actions – those little everyday occurrences – that we can use to help calm our senses and still our mind.

The next time you’re in a lineup or find yourself stuck in a waiting room, try this on for size:

with practice, you can meditate anywhere

Start with your toes. Slowly, intentionally, tense, and release your toe and foot muscles one by one. (You might be surprised to find this more of a challenge than originally expected.) Do this gently, remember, this isn’t a workout. You want to use the slightest amount of tension, just enough to help become aware of each muscle group in your foot. And remember to breathe. Slow, steady inhalations and exhalations will help you concentrate.

Begin with the toes on your right foot, wiggle them a little; rotate your ankle. Next, tighten your calf. Then flex your thigh muscles. So far, so good? Great. Now give your right bum cheek a little squeeze and continue on working your way up through tummy, right shoulder, arm, and fingers on your right hand. Slowly stretch your neck to the right and begin the descent on the flip side. Stretch your neck to the left and work your way slowly down to the toes on your left foot. When you’ve gone full circle, take one final deep, cleansing breath.

Hindu deity Ganapati

Congratulations – you’ve just completed your first meditation practice – no chanting, incense, or mala beads required.

Try carrying the new calm feeling you’ve cultivated with you throughout the remainder of your day or evening.

Meditation is, in its purest form, is listening to your body, mind, and spirit. Some people say it’s listening to God.

Whatever you call it, meditation is the time you take with yourself to improve your self-awareness; about where you are right now on this magnificent journey.

When you start meditating, you may be surprised by what you hear; by what wise advice you have for yourself.

And what about the woman who wondered, “Could I ever learn to meditate, if I haven’t now?”

To her, I say, “You already are.”

Stay in Shape (& Save Money) With 5 Activities That Double as a Winter Workout

With all of those tasty cookies and treats that seem to be everywhere, almost everyone indulges more than they planned during the holiday season. But if you enjoy being outside, you can stay in shape this winter – without spending extra money – with these five activities that double as a workout. 

Snowmobiling

Enjoy winter sunsets after a day of snowmobiling

Sounds easy right? Well, going for a winter snowmobile ride is more of a winter workout that you may realize! To remain correctly positioned when travelling over rugged terrain, you use lower back muscles along with front and side abdominals. On average a person can burn up to 175 calories per hour just for sitting on a moving snowmobile. You really can’t get an easier workout!

Sledding

Pulling your kids can burn more than an extra hundred calories per hour!

Nothing conjures up Christmas memories more than trudging up and down a snow-covered hill with your sled flung over your shoulder. It’s fun and one heck of a workout! Did you know that you can burn up to 400 calories every hour you spend sledding? To get that type of calorie-burn in the gym you’d have to use the Stairmaster machine! Sledding has a strong cardio component. I guarantee you’ll feel the burn in your legs at the end of the day. And if you tug and.

Snowshoeing

Image by Gianni Crestani

If you’re a wildlife watcher, snowshoeing in the perfect winter workout for you. Slip on a pair of comfy vegan boots from your favorite retailer, and you’re on your way to burning up to one thousand calories per hour! That’s more than running or even cross-country skiing! Snowshoeing is also great cross-conditioning. So whether you’re a runner, a body-builder, climber, or avid yogi your training will get a boost from putting on snowshoes. And be sure to bring your camera and snap amazing winter pictures.

Snowboarding

Getting outside during the winter months can have a big impact on your overall health

Love to surf? You’ll love snowboarding. And slicing through the snow on your board will put your abdominal, thigh, and calf muscles to the test. You’ll flex and burn up to 500 calories per hour depending on your speed and how much effort you put into your ride.

Ice Skating

Have fun while keeping in shape this winter with outdoor ice-skating

You don’t need to be Tessa Virtue or Scott Moir to get a winter workout on the ice. Core muscles help with your stability, and leg muscles help you build momentum. You can burn between 350 and 550 calories per hour this winter activity that delivers an all-over full-body workout. And since you’ll burn more calories the faster your skate, consider challenging your friends to race. It’s great fun and an even greater workout.  Check local municipal websites to find out public skating times and fees.

Staying in shape during the winter doesn’t have to be a drag. With a few outdoor activities, you can get your winter workout while creating fun-filled memories that last a lifetime that don’t cost a fortune.