7 Tips on Meditating in a Crowded Place
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Meditation is a widely discussed topic nowadays, primarily because of its significant potential benefits. However, if you were to ask 100 people what meditation means to them, you’d probably receive a lot of different definitions and perceptions.
There are so many people who associate meditation with the sitting yoga posture with the legs crossed and hands held in special “mudras”. That’s not what meditation is about. In fact, meditation is nothing more but the art of observation, the art of focusing, and the art of internal peace.
Before getting to our main topic, I’d like to express my point of view concerning the act of meditation. After 11 years of daily meditation practice, I came to realize that meditation is not an activity that requires too much planning, and certainly not a ritual that must be performed alone and in silence. You can even practice it while driving.
To meditate means to attentively observe what is going on inside and around you. To meditate is to pay very close attention to your present moment – your present thoughts and feelings, the external environment, the smells, the sounds, the warmth, the cold…
When our mind is clear, not wandering in the past or future, we’re 100% here, and yes, we meditate. Therefore, meditation is not necessarily a scheduled activity (even though it could be), but a state and frame of mind that demands our full attention.
If you’re having trouble meditating in public and crowded places, you’ve reached the right place. In today’s post, I’ll show you 7 insightful tactics to overcome the public noise, accept the external stimuli, and preserve your attention for longer periods of time. This way, the meditation experience will become both productive and enjoyable.
#1. Become Aware, Observe and Accept
We can meditate in so many different ways. We can do it in private or in public. We can focus on our body, our breath, our external environment, and basically on everything that we set our mind to. Meditation is simple and complex at the same time.
When you’re in a crowded space, focusing on single elements such as your breath or your physical sensations is often impossible. For that reason, you should focus on a different meditative state, which involves three steps: awareness, observation, and acceptance.
Here’s how you should do it: as you walk, sit, or communicate with others, start becoming aware of more external factors, such as the body language of other people, their tone of voice, the energies that flow around the room, the smells, the background noises, and basically everything that you can “seize”.
Next is the observation part. Once you’re aware of everything that’s going on around you, you should simply observe without judging or questioning their meanings. As you observe, your mind will continuously try to figure out a meaning or a rational explanation. Stop your thoughts right there. Instead of analyzing, simply start accepting your external environment as it is.
#2. Wear Headphones and Focus on the Music
An effective yet different way of meditating in public places involves focusing your full attention on the sounds that come from your headphones. While walking or sitting somewhere outside, you can listen to lyric-free music or to guided meditation sessions. If you’re in a waiting room, grab the phone, play your favorite instrumental, and shift your entire attention towards the music.
Before you do it, remember that your mind can only fully focus on one thing at a time – this will make the meditation process simpler and longer!
#3. Take a Walk and Pay Great Attention Even to the Smallest Details
We cannot experience anything but the present moment, yet so many people are trapped in the past or future. When you walk on the street, where’s your mind wandering? What are you focusing on? Do you experience internal talk? Are you paying attention to your present surroundings?
For example, when you get out of your house for the millionth time, are you paying attention to its surroundings? Or you’re skipping it because you “already know” or because you’ve “already seen” every possible detail?
We can only observe more details if our mind is focused on what’s going on right now. If we allow ourselves to think about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow, half of our focus goes on our internal talk. However, if we simply focus on what we’re experiencing right now, we’ll enter a meditative state that’ll help us observe and acknowledge our external environment.
Next time you catch yourself walking on the street, enter the present moment and pay great attention even to the smallest details. Nature, the people, the sun, the wind, your breath, your heartbeat, your emotional state…these are all excellent points of focus while practicing walking meditation!
#4. Meditate Without Drawing Attention
If meditating in crowded places is difficult because of the numerous distractions, the last thing you’ll want to do is draw the attention on your meditation practice. Avoid meditation postures that involve weird postures (e.g. the Buddha poses) and try your best to take a stealthy approach.
The simplest way to avoid attracting people’s attention is to sit like you normally do and rest your hands in the lap or on your knees (without “mudras”.)
#5. Don’t Get Angry or Discouraged If You Get Interrupted
Meditating in crowded places is risky. There are many distractions and interruptions that can kill your focus, so you must be ready to face them gracefully. There will be instances when people will talk to you even if you’re sitting quietly with your eyes closed and times when children or dogs will run into you.
Instead of getting angry or discouraged, simply accept the external interruptions and deal with them in a calm and diplomatic way. Keep in mind that many people won’t even realize that you’re meditating. Accept that it can happen and start again. The quicker you can get yourself back in a deep meditative state right after an interruption the more advanced you are in this practice.
#6. Start with 60 Seconds
If meditating in public often seems impossible, don’t stress about it. Dealing with noises and lots of external stimuli can distract anyone’s attention. When I first started meditating in public, my experience was poor and dissatisfying. I simply couldn’t focus for more than a few seconds!
A great practice that allowed me to make real progress involved a progressive system that would allow me to focus for 60 seconds only. I would use my phone to set a 1-minute alarm, and I would simply close my eyes and focus on my breath. Once I’ve managed to successfully meditate for 60 seconds, I have set the next goal: 90 seconds. Then 120 seconds, then 150, then 180, and so on. By taking small steps, I’ve managed to focus for 20 minutes straight, all while sitting in a crowded public space.
#7. Try the 100 Breaths Technique
The 100 breaths technique is easy-to-implement meditation technique whenever dealing with a noisy public environment. The process is simple: take 100 deep breaths and pay full attention to each of them.
When you inhale, imagine a positive energy that enters your entire body. When you exhale, think about how the energy that has initially entered is exiting your body carrying the negative energies accumulated. Inhale good energy and exhale the “garbage”.
Meditating in a crowded place is surely more challenging than sitting in the comfort of your home, alone, away from most distractions. But then again, even though the meditation experiences are similar, they’re also very different because they demand a different type of awareness. Try our tricks & tricks on your next “meditation in public” attempts and witness an enhanced experience. Stay mindful and enjoy life!
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