Meditation has recently been earning numerous honorable mentions because of its amazing ability to improve focus, hone awareness, decrease stress and elevate feelings of well-being. This isn’t actually new information, millions of people have known for thousands of years what science is proving; we can change our brains and manage our attention through regular meditation practice.
We're huge fans and practitioners of sitting meditation, but we admit that this approach doesn’t “sit” well for everyone. How about boosting focus through more active pursuits? Like sitting meditation, physical activity has been proven to inspire creative thought, encourage problem solving ability and support overall mental and physical health.
While watching our mind wander during sitting meditation is part of the practice, active pursuits reward distraction with immediate and potentially unpleasant consequences. Like climbers say, "keep your head or hospital bed."
First thing first though, none of these activities should be undertaken with a mobile device alerting us of incoming notifications. If it’s important for tunes or to track fitness goals, ok bring the mobile, but be sure to silence those alerts. These undertakings will engage the mind and body while punishing lapses in attention so best ditch the device.
For those interested in cultivating mindful awareness through more sporty mediums, how about:
Trail Running: Flying along uneven, rocky trails requires ample focus while distractions lead to scary trips and bruised hips. As a bonus, trail running requires very little skill (baby we're born to run), not much fancy equipment and no membership fee. Plus, it's a great way to find a meditative groove while staying focused on the present.
Mountain Biking: Faster than running and requiring consistent clarity, mountain biking demands our eyes stay on the prize. Cruising down the trail leaves little room for distractions. More gear intensive than running and offering higher stakes for wrecking, biking is a great way to keep our mind in the saddle.
Swimming: Leave the phone on shore and dive into a distraction free workout. Swimsuit, goggles, maybe a swim cap, a little skill and away we go. Doing laps is a great way to get fit and focused. Swimming inspires us to concentrate on breathing and movement, staying in the moment and rewarding us with a mouthful of water when our attention flags.
Yoga: Enough has been said about Yoga's ability to calm the mind, strengthen the body, lift the spirit and improve attention that we won’t go into it. Yoga is an amazing way to unplug from distraction and train the brain to focus where we want for as long as needed. There are a variety of styles and classes to try, just do it.
If cultivating mindful awareness with the added bonus of improving fitness sounds like a win, give one of these activities a try. There are plenty more to choose from (surfing, climbing, skiing, boarding, kayaking), we just chose these since Fort Lewis’ amazing location makes them easy places to start. Have fun!
- Eli Shostak
Eli is a Lecturer of Adventure Education at FLC with expertise in mindful leadership, expedition planning and leadership, and tons of experience leading others in finding the personal and interpersonal benefits of exploring wild spaces.