Many people have the impression that in order to meditate, you have to sit in a cross-legged position on a hard floor, close your eyes, and stay still until:
your legs go numb, or
you can't bear it any longer.
At best, experienced practitioners typically meditate in this way, people who have been meditating for years. At worst, it's torture for anyone new to meditation, and could result in someone being dissuaded to try or continue a meditation practice.
In reality, meditation can take many forms: washing dishes, walking around the grocery store, waiting at a stoplight, or dancing to your favorite Stevie Wonder song - as long as it involves you being fully present (i.e. not checking your Facebook updates every thirty seconds or thinking about that stupid thing you said). In fact, one of the reasons I love to do yoga, cycling, and hiking is that I find these activities force presence upon my mind. In fact, on a recent hiking trip my intention was to practice mindfulness and "catch" myself thinking.
When I went to Bangkok a monk trained me in a slow walking meditation (which to me is tougher than butt-in-the-seat meditation). It went something like this:
*This is for walking really, painfully slow, to speed it up simplify it as you see fit*
[Start standing] Left foot lifting, left foot moving [forward], left foot setting [down], right foot lifting, right foot moving, right foot setting. [Repeat.]
Another idea is to count your steps down from 100, and if your mind wanders, go back to 100. It's much tougher than it sounds!
To explore other alternatives to sitting meditation, check out these books:
Search Inside Yourself
Written by a Google engineer, so great for left-brained folk like myself. He has good explanations for walking and moving meditations.
The Miracle of Mindfulness
Thich Nhat Hanh is a prolific buddhist monk/author who has oodles of books on meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism. My main take away from his book: if you're washing dishes, wash dishes, don't think about to-dos, just wash the dishes. Same goes for taking a shower, just focus on the shower.
Visit my next article for Meditation 101: Tips to start or improve your meditation practice.