Meditation can sound intimidating. A perception of needing to sit in silence for an hour or more – who has time for that? Take heart! While sitting for an hour in silence can be one form of meditation, there are many other types. Even picking just one activity each day (say showering or brushing your teeth) to do as mindfully as possible can be a form of meditation. So can taking three deep breaths when you first wake up. Ultimately the idea is to make life our meditation, to go through life with a mindful awareness, to live in the present moment. A present moment that includes the season of winter. Winter can represent patience, introspection, slowness, sadness, and compassion and can be a great time to go within.
Here are three meditation activities to try this winter.
1) Self-Compassion and Loving Kindness Practice. If winter with its coldness and darkness can represent sadness, there is not a better time to practice loving kindness. Both for ourselves and others. A nice little breathing exercise I really love to cultivate that compassion for self and others is with each in breath to imagine you are sending yourself whatever compassion you might need in that moment. And with each out breath to image you are sending out compassion to whoever may need it. Perhaps start with a dear loved one, then moving to acquaintances and finally to strangers – human beings you’ve never met who are just like you in need of a little love and compassion. Breathing in for yourself. Breathing out for others. Always in harmony.
You might also like to offer yourself some words of loving-kindness as you breathe in such as “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May I live with ease.” And then as you breathe out you might want to in turn offer others the same loving kindness words, “May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe. May you live with ease.” And perhaps you might notice the in breaths and out breaths flowing together and the words of loving-kindness melting both the self and others together as one. “May we be happy. May we be peaceful. May we be safe. May we live with ease.”
Your loving kindness words or phrases can be anything that feels true to yourself – go within and let the words that come to mind be the words you truly long to hear in that moment. The words you maybe wish a dear friend would whisper in your ear.
Speaking of dear friends brings us to the second winter meditation activity.
2) Compassionate Friend Meditation. This is one of my all-time favorite meditations and helps to cultivate our inner compassionate voice and bring kind and loving awareness to the present moment.
To start, find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Gently close your eyes if that feels comfortable, otherwise take a soft, unfocused gaze in front of you. Take a few deep, gentle breaths to settle into your body. Put one or two hands over your heart or another soothing place if you like to remind yourself to give yourself loving attention. Feel the sensation of your body breathing here and now. Notice how the breath is always with you … comforting and soothing … always there to return to.
Now take a moment to imagine yourself in a place that is safe and comfortable—it might be a cozy room with the fireplace burning, a peaceful beach with warm sun and a cool breeze, or a forest glade. It could also be an imaginary place, like floating on clouds … anywhere you might feel peaceful and safe. Let yourself linger and enjoy the feeling of comfort in this place.
Soon you’ll receive a visitor, a warm and compassionate presence—a compassionate friend—an ideal figure who embodies the qualities of wisdom, strength, and unconditional love. This being may be a spiritual figure; a wise, compassionate teacher; someone from your past who fully embodies the qualities of love and wisdom (perhaps a loving grandparent); or this being might arise for the first time, right now, in your imagination. Furthermore, your compassionate friend might not have any particular form, but be more like a warm presence, or radiant light. Your compassionate friend cares deeply about you and would like you to be happy and live with ease. Allow such a being to arise in your mind, imagining this being—this presence—in as much detail as you like.
You have a choice to go out from your safe place and meet your compassionate friend or to invite him or her in. Please take that opportunity now, if you like. Place yourself in just the right way in relation to your compassionate friend—whatever feels right— perhaps close, or perhaps at a respectful distance. Then allow yourself to feel what it’s like to be in the company of this being. There is nothing you need to do except to experience the moment. Allow yourself to fully receive the unconditional love and compassion that this being has for you, to soak it in. If you can’t fully let it in, that’s okay too.
Now perhaps this dear friend wants to whisper something into your ear – words of love and kindness and compassion. Words you long to hear. Simply open your heart and allow those words to be whispered into your ear. As you hear these gentle whispers, you may start to realize that your compassionate friend is within you all along – your own inner compassionate voice, always there to support and love you just for who you are.
Now gently return to the breath. Pause. Perhaps gently bringing awareness to the feeling of your body sitting or lying on the ground. And now perhaps gently stretching and wiggling fingers and toes and when you’re ready gently opening your eyes if they were closed.
3) Attend or do your own silent retreat. With winter already having attributes of silence and stillness, it is a perfect opportunity to experience a silent retreat. You can of course attend a silent retreat in your area or travel to one or you could make your own. The rules are simple. No phones. No technology. No talking. You could practice different meditations, journal or take a mindful walk. You also don’t have to do a full day and could do a half day. Even just a couple hours of silence and a technology break can be a wonderful experience.
Share your favorite meditation activity in the comments below 🙂