How watching your favourite TV show can be a mindful meditation
This is a great mindful meditattion exercise to do peacefully alone, or with children.
There is a misconception that meditation has to be done sitting in a crossed legged position, in silence, while clearing the mind. The purpose of meditation is to still the mind to a point of focus, and keep returning it to that anchor, each time you get distracted. The point of focus is usually your breath, the repetition of a mantra, a candle flame, sensations in the body etc. But whatever your anchor to the present moment is, concentrating can be a lot easier said than done. However, the advantages of regular meditation have been widely documented and the benefits are worth the practice.
The issue is that we are not ‘doing’ our tasks with focussed INTENTION. Therefore we go through life on autopilot just ‘doing’ out of habit, and not also ‘being’ in that moment. We constantly get sidetracked, vere off into other things, trawling through the internet, memories or worries, thinking of and doing, several things at once.
Whether sitting in silence concentrating on your breath, cutting vegetables or driving a car, your actions are mindful or meditative, if done with focussed intention. Meditation can be in stillness and in movement.
You may think that you’re fully focussed watching a T.V show, but you may not realise how many times your mind actually gets distracted in thoughts and ideas, and the body fidgets. In fact it is harder to meditate while doing something ‘every-day’ because your body and brain aren’t used to having to focus so hard on a regular daily task. It’s actually easier to set some time apart to sit in stillness and meditate, because at least you know that’s all you’re meant to be doing! The only intention is meditation. Meditating watching television, is harder than it sounds!
HOW TO: For Beginners
Pick an episode that you’ve NEVER seen before, from a T.V show that you really enjoy/find interesting. It’s better to pick a short episode (around 15/20 mins) for your first go and then see how you get along. Sit comfortably, making sure you have everything you need near you (remote, drink etc), before you press play. Watch the full episode bringing your full awareness back to it every time your mind wanders or you get distracted. You need to actively and forcefully keep bringing your focus back to the episode and away from anything else. As something interesting that you’ve never seen before, it should be easier to keep returning too. Once the episode is over, congratulate yourself for each step in your training to mindfully watching television with intention, and the difference between doing so and watching it regularly.
HOW TO: More Advanced
Find an episode of a T.V show that you’ve already watched and enjoyed. Knowing what is coming up and watching without suspense, gives the brain more space to wander off or get distracted. There is no anticipation for what is going to happen so it is harder to stay focussed. As above, keep returning your awareness to the episode over and over again until it finishes, strengthening your brain’s productivity, focus and control.
HOW TO: With Kids
With children it is better to use an episode that they have not seen before as it is harder for them to concentrate on something they’ve already seen. Children’s brains are built for absorbing and memorising knowledge, so once something has been ‘leaned’, they often need to move onto something new. The concept of mediating watching T.V for kids is the same as above for adults, but they are likely to need supervision and reminders to bring their focus back to the programme. Let the child know that this is a special way of watching television and that you are going to test them on how much they were concentrating with some questions after it has ended. This gives them an extra reminder and incentive to bring their focus back to the T.V and quietly concentrate on what they’re watching.
Have a go at this new way of watching television and maybe you’ll notice things you never noticed before!