I’ve always hated yoga, especially the meditation side of it. This feels blasphemous to admit as a native Angeleno in a world of health-foodies and wellness gurus who swear by meditation yoga to alleviate their anxiety, reset their body, and get in touch with themselves. I had given meditation multiple chances before: guided meditation podcasts, group classes, and repeating mantras in the dark, you name it. I would get so antsy trying to sit still and clear my mind of all of my fast, repetitive thoughts, or stretch gently in a child’s pose. Trying to quiet my overactive brain and lower my heart rate by tuning into my breath actually back-fired sometimes. “Mediation” just wasn’t for me, or at least the narrow meaning by which I, and many, had come to define it. I began to think of redefining meditation as a full-sensory activity.
If you crack open the thesaurus, you’ll see that “meditation” is synonymous with reflection, contemplation, and musing.
While yoga and guided meditation apps like Headspace are popular forms of mediation, the adjective meditative can actually describe anything that compels us to stay present and mindful. In fact, engaging in the five senses can make any activity meditative, as it compels us to deeply reflect on all aspects of the experience at hand and engage the mind in close observation. From this more expansive definition, I see that some of the activities I find most fulfilling and relaxing are indeed those that allow me to be meditative and sensual.
I love ballet because it compels me to meditate by engaging in the five senses, even though I’m a horrible dancer. I started dancing a decade after even the latest ballerinas and still take beginning classes with 8-year olds… But I don’t care. I lose any negative thoughts to the tempo of the music, and with each exhale, I drop another worry. Focusing keenly on just the movements of the step at hand, I enter a new world where my brain and body are in unison. I relish the taste of cool air as I breathe “through the back” as my dance teacher instructs us to, and I smell the sweet leather of ballet slippers that glide across the vinyl floor. If I were to drift off into the deep abyss of my mind, I would skip a beat, be late or early on the music, disengage my intuitive rhythm and muscle memory. I don’t care about being scolded for being “off” as much as I dread losing my beautifully intoxicating harmony with the dance.
Another activity I love is biking. Being outside with the wind blowing on my face, listening to music on full blast through my headphones, tasting the salty sweat that drips into my mouth…. make me feel alive. While biking in the wilderness is beautiful, I appreciate the eclectic sights and scents of biking through the suburbs. So many unique smells waft out of people’s houses: fresh laundry, roasted garlic, cookies baking. Simultaneously, I focus on the view of the road ahead of me: the houses, streetlights, and people I approach and avoid. I can’t disassociate from these ruminations or else… splat, I’d lie dead in the road (or even worse, yelled at by an elderly woman on a motorized scooter, which actually happened last week.)
My love for ballet and biking, two fully sensual experiences, encompass everything I used to think meditation was not.
Instead of being a way to “numb the mind” through stretching and lying down, meditation can be anything that urges us to stay present and engage in thoughtful reflection on the experience at hand.
I find this re-conceptualized definition and process of mediating relaxing, fulfilling, and anything but boring, and this is something we talk about a lot in our musical wine tastings. Being present does not mean being inactive, rather the opposite. We often say, “switch off to switch on.” In fact, I’ve found that seeking to be present in many activities by focusing on my senses has retrained my brain to find excitement and pleasure in the mundane.