Using a word is one way to anchor awareness in a meditation practice. The word you choose is very intentional. It’s a word whose qualities you welcome into your life; you want to embody the qualities of this word. The word might be something like, “acceptance”: I want to embody the qualities of acceptance, knowing that this will bring some release, some relief, into my life, into my being. I want to welcome more acceptance into my life, and what this means is I want to be less resistant to things in my experience; I want to relax and release more into my experience.
Word meditation can be done as a sitting or walking practice. In a walking practice synchronize your steps with the repeating of the word. Not with every step, but just at a pace that makes sense for you. You might repeat the word “acceptance” over three or four or eight steps because you want to get a feeling of it as you’re saying it. In this meditation you’re not just repeating it over and over as many times as possible. Why? Because you’re getting in touch with how that word, “acceptance,” feels in your body when repeating it over and over, slowly, mindfully, warmly.
Word meditation can calm the tendency to move toward the fight/flight/freeze response, especially if you find that you’re in the middle of not accepting something. If you’re vehemently resisting, you can insert a little wedge of mindfulness in to notice the resistance. Perhaps you notice that there is a defensive attitude happening and it comes out of a sense of feeling threatened. For me, inserting the wedge of mindfulness allows me to notice that I’m resisting and to notice that it feels uncomfortable to resist. I know that a different way of being is going to offer me a more peaceful way of relating to the world. I can tap into a word that embodies what I would need right now to feel more kindness, to feel as if I am with myself, to feel as if I’m not abandoning myself. I’m quieting my mind, I’m getting in touch with what is a skillful: a kind and compassionate way to be right now. It could be “acceptance,” “release,” “slowness,” “kindness,”: your word is whatever you would like to bring into your awareness in the moment.
Repeat it for as long as you like. You might do it for ten minutes. If you’re walking you might do it for the duration of your walk. It can really bring a lovely quality into a walk rather than your mind going off with the default mode network. You’re bringing intentionality to your walk. It’s a walking meditation. It’s an adaptation on the traditional walking meditation, but it is a walking meditation. If you feel called to try a sitting word meditation then do it as a sitting practice. Just sit and repeat the word, over and over, slowly, kindly, gently, getting in touch with the feeling that that word offers you.
I hope you try a word meditation. It can be a nice transition from silent and breath meditation into something more active. If you’re working up to something like loving-kindness practice you might move to word meditation first as a transition. Enjoy your practice!