Ultimately, meditation has only one rule: you must turn communication within yourself. For most people, this means not communicating with others during meditative time. Even if you can only cut off the world for fifteen seconds, do it— outside input is NOT meditation. While the meditation may come in stolen moments, it is a cumulative skill, and even those tiny meditations make you better at it.
There are, ultimately, many reasons why traditional deep meditation might not work. People with jobs and families just don’t have much time to meditate. Others suffer from ADHD or other neurological dysfunctions, and between corporate life and traditional schooling, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of the “more, better, faster” mentality.
For people in these situations who want to use meditation to break out of them, small present-moment techniques work best. You may not be able to step entirely out of the flow of life, but you can take a single moment and make it yours. A moment as tiny as pushing the off button on your computer monitor to savor a sip of coffee can count as an act of meditation.
The following thirteen techniques are indeed meditation methods; each one can, with practice, train your brain to reach a meditative state. For beginners, it’s more important that you know how to get to that state than it is that you stay in it for any particular amount of time.
Count to two, and repeat. Seriously, that’s it. You don’t need to count slowly. Count at the natural speed of your own mind. Do so without timing it to your breath for as long as you can stand it. It’s about directing your attention and giving your mind something to do at a time when it might fight you with excessive boredom or stress signals. You may also try counting to 100 at any natural speed. This is a popular and effective technique in anger management, too.
Find your achy body parts and breathe into them. Identify an area that has tension and picture every breath you inhale entering through your pores where the ache is, and each exhalation as the pain leaving. If your attention shifts, move on to a different spot on your body, or stop— you’ve worked your attention as far as it can go for the time being.
Pick an image and see how long you can hold it in your mind. For example, you could choose a tarot card and continue to picture it as you go about other business. At the end of the day, you can stop to evaluate what you learned. You may receive insights into the card, object, or person that you can write about.
Walk. The simple act of walking alone is a type of meditation. You are not communicating with others, but you are paying attention to the world around you. To advance the walking meditation, walk and count. You can count the steps to a tree ahead of you on the path. Count how many steps to your car from your doorway. Count how many steps to the coffee maker from your desk. It keeps you focused entirely on what you are doing— and that is in itself a meditative state.
Stack or line up some items, and then deliberately scatter them. The act of clearing space and positioning items like pencils, paperclips, or shoes, is actually a meditative practice. You can find yourself engaged with making things line up just right, and just as Buddhist monks scatter their sand mandalas when finished, you scatter your tidy stacks in an exercise of nonattachment/ enjoying mild chaos. You will still need to sweep up. Playful meditation has as much value as serious meditation— perhaps even more, as it can stimulate creativity in ways that gigantic revelations rarely can.
Close your eyes and listen to all ambient noise. Meditation does not require you to ignore everyone and everything around you— it requires you to focus your attention on specific things without engaging with them. Rather than trying to shut out the noises of traffic, chatty neighbors, or the children, close your eyes and simply listen as though they are static or other low-meaning noise.
Name objects in front of you. You can do this anywhere— at work, during a long car ride, even at home. Look at one object, and say its name to yourself: “book,” “wall art,” “carpet,” and so on. Simply name every item immediately before you.
Keep a small bottle of a favorite fragrance on hand. Sniff every so often— this alters your mood, and brings your attention fully to one thing in your environment. Clary sage and lemongrass are both wonderful fragrances for meditative clarity.
Use your sense of touch. Comparing the textures of your clothing can give you a brief meditative timeout. Run your hands over your legs and over your abdomen. Notice the differences in how the fabric of different pieces of clothing feels.
Try stretching your hands. Touch each one of your fingers to the thumb on the same hand. Press down with each connection. In some cases, it may take some practice stretching your fingers.
Visualize as many colors as you can in one sitting. This pulls together the right and left hemispheres of your brain and is a key skill for most chakra work. Notice which colors you dwell on, and which you have trouble picturing.
Tell yourself a story. If you are alone, speak that story aloud. It can be about something as simple as a chicken crossing the road, or involve monks and dragons. The point is to engage yourself on your own power, not with the input of a book or television. Do not write these stories down— they are for you in your moment. They need not be long— two or three sentences, maybe even just one sentence.
Practice the slow version of what dancers call spotting. Turn your head and focus on one point of the wall. Stay there for two to three seconds, then look up and focus on the ceiling for two to three seconds. Then focus on another spot on the wall, then the carpet, etc. This is all about directing attention and only takes seconds to practice.
13 Meditations for a Short Attention Span
Author: Diana Rajchel
Llewellyn’s 2014 Magical Almanac: Practical Magic for Everyday Living