05/29/2013 12:02 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2013

Relaxation Games

The other night I dreamed I was in a meditation competition. I didn't do very well and suddenly was being chased by bears. We'll leave the analysis of my dream for another day, but the idea stuck with me.

What if there was a meditation league like the NFL? Would it be based on who could sit the longest? Would the winner be determined by who could raise their body temperature the highest? Would the champion fist bump his fellow monks or go to Disneyland? I hope the victor would as least smile at reaching total consciousness.

As absurd as a meditation world championship is, it sparked a few thoughts of how to make mindfulness more playful.

Most of us are so reactive all day, following the demands of our schedules and the commands of the people in our lives, that the idea of meditating for just a few minutes seems impossible. When we do stop, our heads don't.

But here are three relaxation games that continue to help me through the normal travails of work, family, and smart phones.

1. Cloud Hunter. In every cloud is an evolving Rorschach and this test you always pass. Search the sky for a lizard or Mickey Mouse. When you see something, watch it until it disappears or your thoughts start to wander. What makes it a mindfulness exercise is to stay in the clouds, moving between shapes when your mind is ready. We did this as kids and we forget how many giggles and amazing things we can see when we spend time intentionally looking.

2. King of the Count. How high can you count without another thought intruding? For most of us, the answer isn't even 10. The moment we get to seven or eight, the alarm in our brains wants to remind us of something else we need to be worrying about. The reason making your "high count" a game is that any time you feel overwhelmed, try to beat your high total. It reminds you that you have focused well in the past, and that you've practiced a way to stay in the moment now. The same game can work when you're out for a walk -- just count your steps on those days you're revving too high to sit still.

3. One-line Master. Picasso did drawings where he would put his pencil on a piece of paper and create amazing images without lifting the lead until he was finished: animals, people, even fanciful scenes. With a friend, take turns picking an object or scene and see what you can draw using one line. The goal is to laugh at what you create and become totally absorbed in the exercise of letting your imagination loose.

In each of the relaxation games, the goal is not to win, but to be. Be absorbed in the sky; be awed by your mind's ability to focus on one thing at a time, whether a number or a step; be mesmerized by how artistic you can be (and everyone can be).

We can't always sit still or slow our minds down enough to enjoy meditation. What we can do is turn relaxation into a playful way of being. Over time, the more we learn to be present and love where we are, making room for just sitting begins to happen naturally.

For more by Jon Wortmann, click here.

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