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8 Unconventional Meditations For A Busy Lifestyle

8 Unconventional Meditations For A Busy Lifestyle

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” – Old Zen adage

What’s the most common excuse you make as to why you don’t meditate? If you’re like most people, it’s time.

Meditation takes time – precious minutes that most of us perceive ourselves not to have. However, this is only an issue if you perceive meditation in a super-traditional sense. For example, you must meditate for an hour each day, in complete silence, in a sitting position. We think of ancient sages sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, serenely zoning out beneath an old beautiful tree. Who has time for that? This idealized image is certainly discouraging, considering the pace of our modern day-to-day life.

But if we were to suspend all preconceived notions about what meditation is, and what a “successful” meditator looks like, we could break through that stale barrier of “not enough time.” Here are a few unconventional meditations for a busy lifestyle.

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1. The Board Meeting Meditation

We don’t often associate meditation with productivity, but a Japanese study suggests that we may want to start. The findings of the study, conducted by the Kyoto Convention Bureau, showed that 10-minute meditations before work meetings led to better concentration and an increased ability to absorb new information. So plowing right through your meeting may not actually be the best way to get things done. Doing a brief meditation in your office, or even a collective meditation at the beginning of a meeting will ensure information is

So plowing right through your meeting may not actually be the best way to get things done. Doing a brief meditation in your office, or even a collective meditation at the beginning of a meeting will ensure information is
better understood and remembered.

2. The Lunchtime Leisure Meditation

Do you ever find yourself talking or worrying about work on your lunch breaks? This can barely be considered a true break. Instead of working straight through lunch or rushing out to meet a friend for gossip, try eating your lunch more mindfully.

Turn off your phone, sit somewhere with a decent view, and simply eat – or adopt a mindful journaling practice during this time. While your mind may wander, simply returning to the taste of your food and the scenery around you can serve as a rejuvenating meditation.

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3. The Laughing Meditation

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, but this is not just an anecdote. When you laugh, your body’s level of the stress hormone, cortisol is reduced. The key to laughter meditation is not to hold back, to allow yourself to laugh out loud and without guilt. Whether you are simply recounting humorous events of the day or watching a funny video, try to remain present and aware of your body during the process. Don’t allow the subject to draw you in so much that you completely lose yourself in the story. The Daily OM offers a

Whether you are simply recounting humorous events of the day or watching a funny video, try to remain present and aware of your body during the process. Don’t allow the subject to draw you in so much that you completely lose yourself in the story. The Daily OM offers a three-staged guide to laughter meditation.

4. The Driving Meditation

Many people who commute to work see their travel time as lost time, especially if they spend it in traffic. However, an uninterrupted period of time in your car is actually the perfect excuse for a longer, more focused meditation. You don’t need to close your eyes or lose focus of the road. In fact, that is the meditation. So often when we drive, we are texting, worrying, yelling at other drivers, or planning what we’ll do when we arrive at our destination. The simple act of focusing on your hands gripping the wheel, the car in front of you, or the sound

You don’t need to close your eyes or lose focus of the road. In fact, that is the meditation. So often when we drive, we are texting, worrying, yelling at other drivers, or planning what we’ll do when we arrive at our destination. The simple act of focusing on your hands gripping the wheel, the car in front of you, or the sound of the engine is a kind of meditation few recognize and practice.

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5. The Clean Sweep Meditation

Much like in the case of driving, cleaning is an activity that we sometimes dread and take for granted. It’s not a whole lot of fun, and cleaning jobs seem to constantly pile up around the house – the yard, the dishes, the laundry, etc. While it may seem less glamorous than that idealized image of a zen meditator, cleaning is a meditation used by some of the greats. Spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh once spoke of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” Thus a meditation opportunity hides in every cluttered corner of your home. It’s also worth noting that external order and cleanliness can often seep in, leading to feelings of inner peace and clarity.

Spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh once spoke of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” Thus a meditation opportunity hides in every cluttered corner of your home. It’s also worth noting that external order and cleanliness can often seep in, leading to feelings of inner peace and clarity.

6. The Neutral Listening Meditation

Many of us would be quite surprised to recognize the calming effect of just listening. Typically chaotic and stressful environments can be transformed with this detachment trick. This is especially useful for those who hate their work or home environment, which may be filled with loud voices, traffic noises, or other sounds that continuously unground us.

However, even if you are listening to a conversation between two coworkers, there is an option to detach. Instead of frequently looking for the meaning in each sound in your environment, simply practice hearing. For the first time, you may recognize birds chirping outside. Maybe the shrill sound of a car horn honking won’t be as troublesome as it usually is. This is a powerful way to solidify a habit of meditation, as it requires nothing but the recognition of sounds around you.

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7. The Traveller’s Meditation

You don’t need a pile of cash and a plane ticket to practice this style of meditation. It simply rests on the belief that in nature, we can more easily find ourselves. The hum of a stream or the simple sound of silence on the front porch can serve as a reset – an experience that takes us out of ingrained habits and puts us back in alignment with nature. Your version of

Your version of traveling meditation might be taking a new route home from work, taking your lunch break at the park, or even just taking a walk to a new store. You don’t need to travel around the world to receive the benefits of the outdoors.

8. The Gazing Meditation

This meditation is specially designed for busy folks and requires nothing but your eyes and a focal point. It has been reported that staring into the flame of a candle – or even better – the eyes of another person can have radically beneficial effects. However, even if you are stuck at your desk, simply choosing a focal point and softening your eyelids can help quiet a tensed nervous system and bring you back to a sense of peace.

Another recommended gazing technique involves closing your eyes and looking up at the third eye, or the middle of your forehead. While scientists are still uncertain about the true function of the third eye, many have experienced its transformative effects. A third eye gazing meditation can help you generate new ideas and move through challenging problems during the work day.

As we know from research studies, meditation is associated with a shift in brain wave activity. Thus anything that can reduce stress and bring about a content level of focus is beneficial, and technically a kind of meditation. Use your imagination to begin implementing these and other creative meditative techniques for grounding and clarity.

Featured photo credit: grandrapidscenterformindfulness.com via grandrapidscenterformindfulness.com

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Published on October 5, 2020

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

I think we’re all familiar with that feeling of needing to solve a problem, trying way too hard, getting frustrated, and then throwing our hands up in defeat. For example, when my editor assigned me this topic, the structure and concept of the piece weren’t instantly clear to me. I had to problem-solve to figure out how to even begin. But problem-solving isn’t quite so linear. It’s not just a matter of brute force. You can’t just muscle your way through. This is where creative problem solving comes in.

Creative problem solving is about using what we know about how the brain works to come up with outside-the-box solutions to creative problems. Sure, we can do things the same way we’ve always done them. Or we can try creative problem solving, which means we spend time ideating (a.k.a. brainstorming), collaborating, ruminating, and refining to land on better and more novel solutions than we could have if we tried to force or rush a solution.

Stages of Creative Problem Solving

There’s no right or wrong way to try creative problem solving, but there are some stages that can help you integrate it into your creative process. Here are the 4 stages of creative problem solving

1. Ideating/Brainstorming

If we’re using creative problem solving, we’re not just going with the first idea that pops into our heads. Brainstorming is crucial to come up with more novel solutions.

One of the most important things to keep in mind during brainstorming is that this is not the time to evaluate or judge ideas. The goal of ideating is to come up with as many ideas as possible.

There’s an improvisation rule called “Yes, And” or the rule of agreement that can help you get the most out of your brainstorming sessions.[1] The idea is simple. If you’re brainstorming in a group and someone tells you an idea, you need to go along with that idea. That’s the “Yes” part of “Yes, And.” Then, you can take it a step further by trying to add to that person’s idea.

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Let’s say you and your team are trying to figure out how to rebrand your shoe company. Your colleague says you could use a mascot. If you’re using improv’s “Yes, And” rule, you might agree and say that the mascot could be a shoe or a sock or a lonely sock looking for a shoe.

During the ideation stage, no one should be worried about which ideas are good and which are bad. Everyone is trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, and everyone should be trying to make the most of everyone else’s ideas.

“Yes, And” can also work if you’re creative problem solving alone. Instead of discarding ideas, you should be saying yes to your ideas, writing them all down, and trying to make all of them as workable as possible. But before you get too far in your creative process, it’s important to run your ideas by someone else.

2. Collaboration

I know sometimes you don’t want to share your ideas with other people. Maybe you’re self-conscious or you just don’t think that your idea is ready for prime time. However, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and let other people join your creative process if you want to reach the best possible creative solution.

When we’re working in a team, it’s important to not judge each other’s ideas until we’re safely in the final stage of the creative problem-solving process. That means no critiques, no evaluations, and no snarky comments. Not yet, at least.

The reason to hold off on evaluating ideas at this stage is that some people tend to shut down if their ideas are judged too early. There’s a concept called creative suppression that occurs when people stop a creative pursuit temporarily due to feeling judged, shamed, or embarrassed.[2] Even worse, creative mortification is when judgment, shame, or embarrassment makes you quit your creative pursuit altogether.

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When you’re collaborating with others while creative problem solving, you don’t want to shut anyone down. The more people who are actively engaged in the creative process the better.

In improv, there’s something called “group mind.” The basic idea is that a group can come up with a better solution than any single individual. It makes sense since each person in the group enters the creative process with their own strengths, knowledge, background, experience, and ideas. That means that when the group is working harmoniously, the best contributions of each individual will be reflected in the team’s solution, making that solution far better than what any individual could have come up on their own.

So, find someone you trust and lay the ground rules for your collaboration. Tell each other that you won’t be judging each other’s work just yet to bring out the best and make it as creative and effective as possible.

3. Pause

It can seem counterintuitive to pause during the creative process. But to tap into the creative unconscious parts of your brain, you need to stop forcing it and let your mind wander.

The part of your brain that you’re using to understand this article right now is not necessarily the part that’s going to come up with the most novel solution to your problem. To start using your creative unconscious brain, you need to take a break.

Have you ever had that experience of struggling with a problem and then effortlessly figuring it out while you were showering or walking the dog? That’s your unconscious brain doing the heavy lifting.

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This part of the brain can’t be forced into creative problem solving, so stop consciously obsessing about your problem for a while. Take a walk. Go for a drive. Let your mind wander. Dream. This gives your unconscious mind a chance to sort information and come up with some truly novel solutions.

The bonus to letting your unconscious take over is that it’s effortless. Conscious thought requires you to burn lots of energy, while unconscious doesn’t. So, stop trying so hard and let ideas come to you.

4. Refine

At some point, you’re going to have to start evaluating, eliminating, and refining your ideas to get to the best solution. But if you’ve brainstormed, collaborated, and ruminated enough, you should have plenty of material to work with.

An Example of Creative Problem Solving

I think it’s helpful to walk through an example of creative problem-solving in action. Let’s go back to the example of me writing this article.

First, I was presented with the problem, so I started brainstorming and “Yes, And”-ing myself. I thought about everything I already know about creative problem solving and did some preliminary research, but I still didn’t have a structure or theme to tie my ideas together.

Once the problem was marinating in my mind, I started talking to people. I talked to an old friend about my initial ideas about the article, but I still didn’t have any words on the page just yet.

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Then, one morning, the article seemed to come fully formed while I was showering. I could see which examples would work best and how to structure the article. So, I sat down to write and refine the ideas. During the refining stage, I swung back to the collaboration stage when my editor further refined and improved my ideas.

It’s important to remember that these four stages of creative problem solving aren’t linear. They’re circular. After I refine an idea, I can go back to brainstorming, collaborating, and pausing as needed to develop and improve that idea.

Bottom Line

Creative problem solving is, first and foremost, creative. You have to give yourself time and space to be able to reflect and ruminate. It’s also important to collaborate as necessary to improve your ideas with the help of other people.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t force creative problem-solving. Forcing it only leads to frustration and failure, so give yourself some time and a team you trust to come up with the best possible solution to your problem.

More About Creative Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Per Lööv via unsplash.com

Reference

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