My phone was dead. Again.
I’d forgotten to bring my external charger which I’ve been lovingly and nostalgically referring to as my “land line.” My battery life is questionable at best, so that little charger usually goes with me everywhere, resulting in my cell always being plugged into something. (Side note: Are land lines still a thing?)
In any case, I had 1.5 mile walk ahead of me. Not a long walk, to be sure; at a comfortable pace it would only take 30 minutes or so. I was enjoying extremely pleasant weather, too—70 degrees in Los Angeles, at the end of January. I looked up; not a cloud in the sky.
I take 1-2 leisure walks per day, but normally I distract myself. I pay attention to my surroundings in the basic sense, sure. I notice the weather and the scenery and I do my best to be mindful. But I usually distract my senses with music, a podcast, or by watching the news. It’s one of the few times I encourage multitasking, because if you’re going to listen to a podcast anyway, why not do it while moving?
But what I realized yesterday was that I had become overly accustomed to obnoxiously singing along with the Hamilton cast or laughing/crying at the quips and queries on The Guilty Feminist; so accustomed, in fact, that the silence was at first unnerving. It seems silly as I write this, but I’m sure many of you can relate. We’ve become so acclimatized to constant digital connection and distraction, that being without it can feel peculiar.
So, without headphones to plug into my ears, I plugged into the present instead. I listened to the sounds of birds chirping, cars whizzing by, and the chatter and laughter of the Sunday afternoon brunch crowd. I deliberately took greater notice of landscaping—the plants, trees, and flora that lined the streets and adorned the front yards of my colorful Venice neighborhood.
I immersed myself fully in the act of walking, and wasn’t until I walked through my front door did I realize I hadn’t really thought about anything as I walked. Okay, that’s not entirely true: I had a godmother sandwich from Bay Cities Deli waiting for me at home, so I did think about that—but outside of anticipating the sheer joy of biting into one of the world’s greatest sandwiches, I just…walked.
Allow me to state the obvious here:
THIS IS MEDITATION.
Without the digital comforts of my phone to distract me, I was forced to meditate—and I loved every second of it. As someone who has long touted the myriad benefits of meditation, I’m not ignorant to the fact that most people are either intimidated by the idea (it’s too big), or think they suck at meditating so they give up (it’s too hard).
I get it.
I’m all for making things as accessible and sustainable as possible, which is why I almost never recommend my clients commit to straight up meditation right off the bat. The truth is that traditional meditation can be too big of a leap for most of us; the disparity between our tendency for constant connection, and sitting in stillness and silence is massive.
But what if everything was a form of meditation? Because the truth is, meditation is simply the act of presence. It means that we are aware of our bodily senses and our breath as we attempt to depart from the constant stream of consciousness that exists in our minds. Meditation isn’t necessarily the absence of thinking as much as it an awareness of thought.
Many forms of traditional meditation encourage a connection to the breath, and invite you to label any thoughts that come up as simply “thinking.” It’s the act of switching from doing-mode to being-mode, and it’s a powerful tool in the journey towards greater calm, clarity, and composure.
But let’s get real, how many of us are really taking the time to sit still and do this? Kudos to you if you are; personally I find that 3-5 minutes is the maximum amount of time I can meditate without starting to tip towards anxiety. And hey, 3-5 minutes is just fine by me—it does the job and helps me feel less cluttered in my brain space.
If you’re anything like me and the hundreds of women I’ve worked with, meditation in the traditional sense isn’t always easily accessible. It’s one of those things that we know we should be doing-at this point, few among us need to be convinced of it’s benefits-but we just can’t seem to commit to a meditation practice.
Again, what if everything was a form of meditation?
What if walking, gardening, yoga, dancing, and doing the dishes were all forms of meditation? Here’s my challenge to you: Fully engage in the task at hand, without distraction, and with the intention of presence. If you’re walking, immerse yourself in your environment, notice the sounds and sights, connect to the feeling of walking.
If you’re gardening, feel your hands in the earth, focus on the foliage, the colors and the smells. If you’re dancing, connect your body to the music, feel your body moving and reacting to the beat.
When you do the dishes, do so mindfully instead of begrudgingly; feel the temperature of the water, take in the smell of the dish soap. When you stretch or do yoga, connect to your inhale and exhale, engage with the feeling of your body bumping up against limitations.
The next time you go for a walk, a hike, or find yourself sitting in solitude with nature, do so without the distraction of your phone. I’m not saying do this every time, hell I like listening to my podcasts. But maybe 1 out of 10 times, leave your phone at home. If you can’t leave it at home for logistical reasons, put it on airplane mode, or at the very least make it less accessible.
If you can force yourself to disconnect, even for just 5-10 minutes, there is something magical that happens in that simple act of disconnection—you actually reconnect to yourself.