No time for meditation? Try this instead.
So you want to try meditation? You’ve heard there are many health benefits: it boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces depression and improves mental focus. Also, your favourite celebrity practices meditation, so it must be useful, right?
“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” – Gandhi
I know what you’re thinking; ‘That’s OK for some people, but I don’t have time to sit around for 2 hours meditating.’ Well, what if there were a way to include meditation into your daily life without having to create any extra time at all?
Although making time for formal practice can be a challenge, it’s not necessary to sit cross-legged, staring into space to get the benefits of meditation. Mindfulness practice can be done almost anywhere, whilst incorporating our favourite modern practice: multi-tasking.
Many opportunities present themselves for mindfulness practice: cleaning the bathroom, walking to the car, standing in line at the supermarket, waiting to meet a friend, eating lunch, gardening, even driving.
Don’t try to stop thinking
A popular misconception of meditation is that you need to completely stop your thoughts. Trust me, that’s not going to work. Instead, allow yourself to be the witness of the thoughts that are arising. Don’t follow them down the path they want to take you. Come out of your thoughts and focus on the task that is in front of you.
As thoughts come, acknowledge them and then let them go. Bring your mind back to the laundry you’re folding, the car you’re cleaning or the bite you’re taking of that delicious sandwich. Our conditioning tells us that, if our hands our busy, then we should use our mind to plan, think and strategize. The problem is that we end up missing this moment because we’re so wrapped up in re-running conversations or worrying about something we have to do tomorrow. Have you ever reached for your coffee cup, only to realize that you’d drunk it without even tasting a mouthful?
Let go of the judgemental mind
The human mind is constantly judging and evaluating everything that occurs. We strategize and prepare ourselves for things that may never occur and probably won’t. A large portion of our thinking is spent on flights of fancy and resistance to ‘what is’. Of course the mind can be a wonderful tool for problem solving, but a lot of our thinking is pointless and anxiety-producing.
If you’re queueing at the post office then why let yourself get upset and frustrated? Why not just accept that you’re there and practice mindfulness instead. Bring your full attention to your surroundings; the people, the sights, the sounds. Involve all of your senses. Be aware of any inner dialogue that may be judging, criticizing, wanting, resisting. Breathe in and out and allow yourself to be completely calm. Don’t drift off in your thoughts. Be wherever you are, fully.
Wake up to reality
Accept whatever is happening right now. This doesn’t mean that you allow someone to jump the queue, it just means don’t allow your mind to start fantasizing about what you would do if someone tries to push in front of you. Be aware of the mind’s propensity to prepare for battle and instead bring your attention back to what is real.
Come out of your anxious thoughts
When we start to observe our thoughts, we realize that we cause ourselves a lot of anxiety by focusing on things that upset us in the past, fearing things that might happen in the future and ignoring the reality of what is occurring in the here and now. By giving full attention to the small, everyday events we can reclaim a lot of wasted energy, reduce stress and reap the many benefits of formal meditation without having to sacrifice anything from our busy lives. Many think that meditating is akin to day-dreaming: in fact the opposite is true. Be here, now is the best kind of meditation practice and you can do it everywhere.