I’ve never been good at mindful meditation. You know, the kind where you focus on your breath and develop awareness of your personal news ticker. The kind where you notice and name that voice inside your head that reviews your day, questions your every action, worries about everything, and can be your worst critic. And then you focus again on your breath.
You’d think I’d be a pro. My mother was a yoga teacher in the 70s. She taught me breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation and visualization in my tweens. She introduced me to mindfulness and meditation and mindful meditation with the hopes that it would help lift me out of my depression. It didn’t. But I kept trying.
I knew that mindful meditation had been shown to alleviate depression and anxiety in research studies. I knew that my inner critic and the thoughts of self-harm and suicide that came along for the ride were my biggest challenge. I vowed to do anything I could to turn down the volume or preferably, to turn off the speakers completely.
I realized, while grieving over the end of my ballet career (that’s a story for another day), that dance and movement had been the only effective strategy. I’d been using it as a distraction and mindfulness technique for years but only recognized its importance in my life when it wasn’t there anymore. I couldn’t dance anymore, but I could move.
It took a few more years to really figure it out but I came to realize that my most mindful moments were not likely to come when I was sitting still but rather when I was moving around. I was calmest and most peaceful and most grateful when I was randomly but rhythmically walking or doing something repetitive, like knitting or pulling weeds out of the garden.
At different times in my life, I’ve taken up different mindfulness in movement exercises. Sometimes, I crochet little stuffed figures. Sometimes, I make metal or beaded jewelry. Sometimes, I make herbal ointments. Sometimes, I weed.
Last week, I walked to my local park and collected pine needles from the ground. Then I went home and sewed my first ever pine needle basket and introduced myself to the moving meditation of basket making.
Bonus – it smells amazing!