How to meditate in public? Why would you want to do it? And what are the benefits of doing meditation in public places? These are just some of the questions we’ll dive into here.
It wasn’t long ago that meditation was considered taboo. Society shunned people that did it or talked about it – labeling them as odd.
Things have changed quite dramatically over the years. With more and more people unable to cope with daily stress, meditation is now becoming an increasingly popular tool to enhance mental well-being and quality of life.
So, how do you meditate? Or more specifically: how to meditate in public?
First off, public meditation is surprisingly common. Buddha meditated outdoors and in public for most of the time. A lot of people nowadays do the same.
Before we get into the how, though, let’s explore why practicing meditation in public might offer advantages over, let’s say, meditating in your room.
Why should you meditate? Most people are aware that meditation reduces stress levels and makes you calmer. But is that the only reason people do this ancient practice?
Definitely not! There are many benefits of meditation that stretch far beyond just stress reduction. They include:
- Better sleep – by inhibiting the release of stress chemicals such as cortisol, meditation makes it easier for you to fall asleep. What’s more, meditation allows you to be more skilled in letting go of your thoughts. This will enable you to ‘tame’ your racing mind and fall asleep within minutes after hitting the sack. (1)
- Increased focus – certain types of meditation involve focusing your attention on a single object, which is often your breath. The more you practice it, the more sustained focus you’ll develop, and this will spill over into your daily tasks and chores that require your concentration. (2)
- Impulse control – skilled meditators find it easier to control their urges and impulses. Meditation is even shown to help with addictions of different kinds. Including binge eating and alcoholism. (3)
- Enhances memory – meditation is particularly effective at preserving memory in older people who suffer from cognitive decline. But it can help you in that regard even if you’re healthy. (4)
- Bolsters your emotional resilience – just like lifting weights strengthens your muscles, so does meditation make you more emotionally robust. Stressful situations and challenges won’t overwhelm you that easily once you start your meditation practice. (5)
So now the question is… what unique benefits does public meditation deliver over traditional, ‘solo’ meditation?
Advantages of Public Meditation
There are many reasons to meditate in public. But two in particular stand out:
- The first reason is to squeeze in a bit more meditation in your day. Our busy lifestyles sometimes prevent us from meditating as much as we’d want.
Meditating in public is a great way to get the most out of your time. You can meditate while you’re commuting to work on the train. Or you can do it while walking across the street. While you walk, be mindful of your steps, sounds, and your surroundings.
The beauty of meditation lies in its simplicity. Nobody said you have to sit still to experience meditation.
- The second reason for meditating in public is doing it visibly and purposely to get out of your comfort zone and potentially risk facing the judgment of others.
People who’re self-conscious, shy, or introverted might benefit the most from doing public meditation. Staying with the sensations such as nervousness will, over time, desensitize you to them. As a result, you may begin to feel more confident and less worried about what other people will think of you.[alert type=”danger” icon-size=”hide-icon”]Side note: remember that this is not medical advice. If you do have any medical condition, such as social anxiety, talking to a healthcare professional is a much better idea than seeking advice on the internet.[/alert]
How to Meditate in Public: 5 Key Tips
Here are the five key things you should know before trying meditating in public.
#1 Choose Your “Why”
Before getting into how to meditate in public, you’ll need to know your reason for why you’re doing it in the first place.
As I said above, there are many reasons why you’d want to meditate outside of your room. Perhaps you love to challenge yourself. Or maybe you want to practice active meditation, for example, while you’re strolling down the street.
In any case, be sure to find your ‘why.’ If you don’t have a purpose for doing it, it will be harder to stick to your meditation practice because you won’t have that inner motivation.
#2 Pick a Form of Meditation
Regardless if you meditate in your room or a crowded place, you’ll want to choose the form of meditation you’ll do. After all, there are countless types of meditation out there. Mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, active meditation, body scan meditation… you name it.
My recommendation would be to avoid doing breath concentration meditation while in public. Especially if you’re inexperienced. The reason being, you’ll find it very challenging to focus with all the noises around you – leading you to feel frustrated and overstimulated.[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]Instead, I’d suggest trying a more open form of meditation and awareness. Where you’re observing the sounds, the smells, and getting a general sense of the space around you. You can also (non-judgmentally) observe what’s happening inside; do you feel any tension or reaction to other people around you? Notice your sensations without labeling or judging them. Let them come and go, just like clouds in the sky.[/alert]
#3 Prepare for Interruptions
The topic of “how to meditate in public” can’t be complete without mentioning the distractions you’ll face.
Prepare to get interrupted in public. You’d assume that people would know you’re in the “do not disturb mode” when you’re sitting on the bench and meditating. But most people won’t know what you’re doing. And you may be angered if you find them coming up and talking to you.
You may not be interrupted at all, but if you do, you have two choices:
- To not only accept the interruption, but use it as a way to deepen your meditation practice, observing your internal reaction to the event. Do you feel anger stirring up inside? Don’t try to ignore it or suppress it; observe the sensations mindfully and let them do their thing.
- To become reactive and angry. This is is the opposite of what meditation is about. As much as possible, try to stay mindful if someone interrupts you during your practice.
#4 If Sitting, Find a Comfortable Position (if possible)
If you’re sitting on a park bench, or in a bus perhaps, try to sit as comfortably as possible. You don’t want to be too upright and stiff where you’re sweating from frustration and pain. But you also don’t want to be so relaxed and comfy that you could easily drift off and fall asleep (and miss your next station, potentially!).
Try to sit in a relaxed but at the same time upright position. A proper posture is a key to a good meditation session, ask any meditation expert and they’ll tell you that.
Even if you’re doing walking meditation, walk in a way that exudes confidence. You don’t want to slouch too much, remember that your appearance reflects what’s happening internally – and vice versa.
#5 Repetition is Key
Keep practicing! Don’t set any expectations for your meditation sessions, including those you have in public. Keeping a curious, open, and welcoming mind is one sure way to get the most out of your meditation session.
What is the Best Place to Meditate?
Anywhere really. As I said, you can meditate while sitting on a park bench, while walking across a busy street, or while you’re flying in an airplane.
I think it’s important to note that certain forms of meditation are more appropriate for specific places and situations.
For example, if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to practice breathing concentration meditation in your room. Or somewhere quiet where you can’t be disturbed.
A more open form of meditation, such as active meditation, is more suited for when you’re on the go. You don’t need to be in public to practice active meditation, however. You can even practice it while you’re doing your chores at home.
Anything Else to Consider?
The thing with meditation is that you almost can’t do it wrong.
As long as you don’t set many expectations and go with the flow, you can do it pretty much anytime, anywhere. You can use your anger to other people’s comments as an opportunity to meditate and observe your emotions. Or you can meditate outdoors while doing a half-marathon. Meditation works in any scenario.
Some expert meditators reach a point where they’re almost always present. Sure, it might take some time before you reach this level of awareness. But it’s good to know how far you can take your meditation practice – it has no limits!
Conclusion on How to Meditate in Public
Meditating in public has some unique benefits, as we’ve seen in this article.
Not only will it make meditation an active part of your everyday life, but it will also push you out of your comfort zone.
I’ve done some public meditation personally, and it’s a great challenge. It gets you in tune with your body, and you get to see your reactions to the outside world from another perspective.
I’d like to hear from you, though; where do you meditate the most? Do you prefer to do it alone, or perhaps in public places?
Let me know in the comments below.