6 Surprisingly Soothing Tools to Take Your Active Meditation to the Next Level

updated Apr 26, 2021
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Meditation does not come easily all the time. I enjoy the process of sitting still and acknowledging my thoughts before letting them float away, but I don’t always make time for mindfulness. As a result, I tend to look for other methods of incorporating mindfulness practice into my regular activities. Cleaning works when I’m not too lazy to do it, cooking is too actively engaging for me to turn off my mind; and washing my face during my morning and evening routines is relaxing but I can’t turn to my face wash whenever I need a moment to chill. 

Reaching a meditative state can be done with any task that allows you to focus on one thing in the present; be it exercising, making breakfast, or filling in a gratitude journal. “In order for meditation to be truly effective, we need to be willing to set aside our other activities for a few minutes to truly feel what it’s like to inhabit our bodies and rest with our breath — without doing anything else,” meditation expert Adreanna Limbach told Byrdie. “What makes any activity meditative is that it taps into our capacity for mindfulness.”

Here are six meditative activities designed to help you create some space to breathe:

Piece by piece

Puzzles are a powerful two-for-one pastime: They’re both a hobby and a way to practice mindfulness. The activity combines logic and creativity and asks you to focus on the task at hand. The Waves Puzzle uses color and puzzle-solving to spark clarity. The 49-piece puzzle can be solved multiple ways, but typically measures eight by eight inches when completed. The acrylic pieces are designed to change colors depending on the light and shift to soothing sunset tones.

Follow the path

Unlike a maze, labyrinths have a single path from start to finish, no matter how complex they seem. Used in meditation, finger labyrinths involve paying attention to the thoughts that arise as you trail your finger along the indicated path. On the Seven Circle Maple labyrinth, that path begins and ends at the center of a tree, representing life’s journey. The round board measures only six inches in diameter and comes with a wood stylus for tracing.

Move like water

In “Journey to Awakening,” the spiritual teacher Ram Dass suggests that people looking to meditate see thoughts “as autumn leaves floating down a stream” — they come and go — and to “keep your attention on the water itself.” Regardless of what’s thrown into it, water naturally clears with time. Painting with water captures that essence of renewal. The Buddha Board helps with the practice of letting go. Using water, you can create any ink-inspired work of art you dream up. As the painting dries, it disappears, leaving you with an empty canvas to start anew.

One step at a time

Much like a puzzle to solve, paint-by-number kits ask you to focus your attention on the page in front of you. The paint-by-number kits by Portland-based illustrator Rachel Austen have a limited, gentle color palette, and the backgrounds are pre-filled; so all that’s left to focus on is matching each hue to its respective space. The painting can be completed in roughly three to five hours, providing a solid chunk of time for mindful creation.

Garden solace

With lush greenery and the quiet of nature, it’s clear to see why gardens have long been environments that nurture calm. Zen gardens, in particular, are designed for mindfulness. But even if you don’t have the space to create a sprawling garden of your own, you can channel the power of a zen garden in a scaled-down version that fits neatly on a desk. Tabletop zen gardens are modeled after traditional zen gardens of Japan, and come in many forms, including sandboxes, celestial-thened, and even ocean-themed variations. Most come with tools to create designs in the sand, but you can invest in a few other accessories as you practice.

Roll the dice

When you absolutely have no idea of where to start with a mindfulness routine, Mindfulness Dice can decide for you. The set includes 36 mindful practices split between six color-coded blocks. A roll might suggest that you take a nature walk, count your breaths, set an intention, or show gratitude — among plenty of other self-care tips. Leaving things up to the shake of the dice to decide for you takes away the challenge of choosing how to slow down, and you might just find that you have more room to embrace the experience as you go.