What is Active Meditation?
If you’ve found yourself reflecting on your day, or have found solace in a long walk alone with your thoughts, you’ve already practiced the basics of Active Meditation.
Dr. Robert Leichtman, a physician and scholar, has practiced Active Meditation since a young age. While attending medical school and working as an emergency room doctor, he found solace in Active Meditation, seeing its benefits firsthand while dealing with trauma on a regular basis. “I was very introspective, thinking about the world and my place in it…meditation was kind of a natural thing for me.” Since Active Meditation encourages following your trains of thought and actively engaging with your emotions to try to find solutions to your problems, you can imagine the benefits Active Meditation had for Dr. Leichtman. This is a different approach to meditation from the age-old “clear your mind and be still,” and therefore may be a great asset to those of us who struggle to “just be.”
“I use meditation in terms of finding a peaceful place within myself to which I can withdraw and rest, even for a minute or so,” Leichtman reflected.
One of the best things about Active Meditation is that it doesn’t take much to get started, and though references to religious text may be made in various guided practices, Active Meditation is not religious, and may be practiced by anyone, spiritual or not. This practice does not require a specific environment, have a set time length, or require additional resources or tools beyond your mind and a relatively peaceful environment (you may choose to add binaural beats if you have access). Your practice space does not have to be indoors, solitary, or entirely silent.
Practicing in a space where you are comfortable is key. If you can get somewhere quiet, that’s just an added bonus.
As Dr. Leichtman points out, Active Meditation goes beyond attempting to achieve a calm state of mind and focusing on breathing – it encourages one to dive deeper with their thoughts to come to a greater understanding of their feelings. This approach helps to come up with solutions to problems. Many Active Meditation practices, including those created by Dr. Leichtman, utilize “binaural beats,” or tonal frequencies that promote balance and harmony within our minds (for more insight, check out the article “Sleep Better with meditation and binaural beats”).
Benefits of Active Meditation
We manifest stress not just emotionally, but physically as well. If you’ve ever noticed yourself with tense shoulders, biting your cheeks, or clenching your jaw, you may benefit from Active Meditation. As Dr. Leichtman aptly pointed out, there is “a tremendous relationship between emotional stress and the body…. when I meditate, I can find my strength, my confidence, my clarity of thought, and my focus.” Active Meditation is more than just taking a nap, it is going deep into our thoughts to help us find solutions to our problems, and has the potential to lessen the physical symptoms of stress we all can exhibit.
If you’re new to meditation, it can be a bit intimidating. It may make you more at ease to take a few deep breaths, close your eyes if you are comfortable and it is safe to do so, and get ready to ask yourself some deep questions. There is no such thing as a “perfect” way to meditate—so long as you are ready to grow and learn, you can meditate!
Getting Started With Our Favorites
We took the time to scope out the guided Active Meditation practices from Dr. Leichtman’s website for you, and found a few that we really loved! Our top picks are simple to follow, 20 minutes or less, and had us feeling relaxed and ready to conquer whatever came our way. Here are the ones we recommend but we encourage you to explore the other guided meditations offered.
Reboot (The Rest of Your Day)
Encourages practitioners to focus on the idea that we are more than our physical bodies, and to focus on our higher self. This practice is great if you are having a long day. It reminds us to look at the big picture in life.
Detachment for Dark Moods
If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed with the world, take 10 minutes to embrace this guided meditation. Peaceful water sounds in the background aid in keeping listeners calm and easing stress.
Wheel of Consciousness
Peaceful, relaxing, and reflective, this guided practice helps listeners reflect on their emotional reactions to situations. This meditation is slightly longer than the others, and is great for those who wish to dive a little deeper while still being a “quick” guided meditation.
The Bottom Line
It can feel intimidating to start a meditation practice, especially if you know you have trouble “quieting your thoughts.” Active Meditation can help you productively engage your thoughts to achieve serenity in stressful times. The trick is to be patient with yourself, and see what active meditation can reveal to you!