November 14, 2016
“I meditate an hour everyday. Unless I’m busy… and then I meditate two hours.” -Anonymous
It is becoming more and more accepted that meditation can be a powerful aid to one’s overall well-being. Yet one of the most common reasons people give for why they don’t meditate is that they “don’t have the time.”
When we say that we don’t have the time for meditation, it generally means we are overwhelmed with (or just barely managing) all we have on our to-do list. In this situation, all our energy is directed outwards – errands to run, people to email, loved ones take care of, work deadlines to meet – and nothing is coming in. We spend a lot of energy focusing on the world around us, all the while neglecting the world within.
This is exactly why meditation is needed.
Most of us have had the experience of being so busy that we either forget, delay, or even skip eating lunch. Noon rolls around, and we think, “Yea, I have too much to do. I can’t afford the break,” and we work right through lunch. But then comes 2 or 3 PM and we’re suddenly brain-dead, unable to compose a coherent email or complete a task on our list with any sort of quality.
Brain dead and ineffective with work, we are now forced to pause and eat. Yet having depleted ourselves by skipping lunch, it takes more energy to get our engines running again than if we had paused at our regular lunch hour, and we’ve lost even more time of our day.
This is the same with taking a pause to meditate. If we steamroll through our days, always chasing the impossible dream of an empty to-do list, we will inevitably end up depleted and burnt out. By pausing before our health or other circumstances force us to, we ultimately limit our downtime and can operate more efficiently with all that is being asked of us.
In addition, when I hear that “I don’t have the time to meditate,” I question what the expectations are of meditation. Is it that we must seclude ourselves for half an hour (or more!) to the proverbial rural mountain, sit cross-legged in the lotus position and not have a thought pass through our mind? This is as unreasonable as it is unrealistic.
So, what is reasonable, and what do we do?
- Make it a priority
Just as you “make time” to brush your teeth and eat food daily, consider that pausing and meditating is another form of self-care.
- Start small
Do not think you have to upend your entire day to meditate. Start with 5 minutes. Or 2 minutes. Just stop. Sit down and don’t do anything. Breathe, feel what’s happening in your body, hear the noises in the room, watch the whirlwind of thoughts that spiral in your mind, just don’t do anything.
There will be times when 2 minutes feels like 2 hours, or 5 minutes feels like 5 seconds. It’s all part of the process. But soon 5 minutes will become 10.
- Take pauses throughout your day
Another option is to take 10-second pauses several times throughout your day. Once you arrive after driving somewhere, turn off the car and sit for 10 seconds. Take a few breaths and pause. Gather yourself in the moment before moving on to your next task.
Take a pause before you eat. Or after you hang up the phone.
These short breaks start to breathe some life into your day, freeing you from the always-on-to-the-next-thing race to nowhere.
- Make a commitment
The benefits of meditation show up over time. Commit to this form of self-care, of bringing your energy and focus back home to you. The rewards are rich and numerous, but they show up with practice.
Just as it is unrealistic to go workout at the gym once and then expect yourself to have six-pack abs and be able to run a marathon, it is unrealistic to meditate once and then be a Zen master. Stick with it, and you will be surprised at what you find.
It was not too long ago that when we drove somewhere, it was just us and the car, or when we were in a waiting room at an office, we actually had nothing to do but wait. But now, we are not afforded natural breaks in our always-on, always-connected, instant-gratification, instant-response-needed society. So the need for taking break, the need for creating the pause, is stronger than ever.
Please, right now, at the end of reading this post, stop. 10 seconds. Before you comment, close this tab, or move on to the next item in your queue of things to read or things to do, just stop. Sit. Be.