If you already feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done, you might find the idea of learning to meditate ridiculous. How could you find time to learn something new or fit it into your already overbooked day?
No doubt you're already aware of the benefits. You may have heard that just 10 or 15 minutes a day can help you reduce stress and find some inner calm and balance, but you just don't know where to start or what to do; and finding out seems just another item on your ever growing to do list.
I remember some years ago feeling much the same myself. I was so stressed I didn't know where to go or what to do to feel better. I scanned book after book looking for techniques to help me feel less anxious and more relaxed, and eventually, I found my chosen way of looking after myself.
Now, after 20 years of practicing various relaxation and meditation techniques I feel busier if I don't make time to meditate than if I do. Those experienced in meditation teach that meditation actually saves you time. For a short investment of 10 minutes spent paying attention to your breath you can become more streamlined and productive in everything you do...
“Some people think that meditation takes time away from physical accomplishment. Taken to extremes, of course, that's true. Most people, however, find that meditation creates more time than it takes.” Peter McWilliams
My Mistake with Meditation
My mistake, and I hear it’s a common one, was to make hard work of settling on a meditation technique. I thought it all sounded too simple.
A busy mind makes hard work of everything. Thoughts race around our heads and we become drained, distracted and overwhelmed. In such a mental state we can never grasp the benefits of stopping, sitting and breathing. And that’s why timing is important…
Start Before the World Gets Going
The best time of day to meditate is in the early morning, just before dawn. But if that’s not possible, you could try getting up 20 minutes before the rest of your family and starting the day practicing one simple breathing technique before the house gets busy, the traffic starts rumbling and the phones start ringing.
Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, speaks of his morning routine of quiet personal victory. He gets up early to spend some time in prayer and contemplation before his day gets busy. He refers to it as a quiet personal victory because he knows that by getting up early he can take good care of himself before anyone else is even up, and whatever distractions and complications the working day may bring comes after that. So victory is his before his day has even begun.
I know this works from personal experience. If I tend to my spiritual life and meditation early in the morning I feel immune to whatever may come later in the day because nothing can touch what matters most to me in my life. It’s already happened while the world was sleeping.
Of course, once we have experienced the benefits of our quieter moments we may want to repeat them later in the day and that’s fine too. It’s just easier to get started in the morning before your head gets as busy as the highways.
One very simple way you can start now
If you practice this one simple exercise for just ten minutes a day you will feel the benefits within a week.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight
- Gently close your eyes
- Relax your shoulders, neck and jaw
- Breathe naturally through your nose, don’t try and control your breath in any way, just let it flow in and out of your body of it’s own accord
- Now begin focusing your attention on your breath, try and become aware of the slightly cool sensation of your breath as it enters your nose, and notice it’s less obvious departure after the air has been warmed by your body.
- Try and give your full attention to this place where your breath enters and leaves. This sensation and change of temperature should be your only focus.
At first your mind will wander all over the place, just keep bringing your it back to noticing your breath. Try not to chase after any thoughts that come up, though sometimes you will without even noticing for a while. That’s OK, just bring your mind back to your breath when you realise that you’ve followed a thought away from noticing your breathing
This simple exercise can help settle the mind and lead to a state of calm and lucidity that will stay with you long after you have finished practicing.
Photo by Drab Makyo