There is an old Zen saying: You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. While that may seem well and good for practicing monks and yogis, finding time to meditate on a daily basis may seem unreachable for those of us in the western world, with our endless to-do lists and emails. For many of us, thinking about the next moment is our prerogative in the present moment.
This moment is the moment to change that!
The following methods will help you quiet the Busy Person inside of you in order to meditate without feeling sabotaged by the rest of the day’s plans.
1. Meditate first thing in the morning.
One of the best times to meditate is first thing in the morning, before you're carried along with the day’s current. Once you've done your morning ritual, whether it’s having a cup of tea or reading the paper, sit down for a 10 to 15 minute meditation.
Make meditation a part of your morning routine, a quiet time for you to center yourself. This way, you'll take your centered and peaceful nature with you throughout your day, which preemptively curbs any stress that may creep in later.
2. Set a meditation timer.
Don’t become a victim to the ticking clock in your head! One of the biggest ways to sabotage a meditation is to be burdened with thoughts regarding time: what time it is, how long until the practice is over, how your time may be better spent “doing something.”
To avoid all of the white noise of the Ego mind trying to end your practice prematurely and keep you from finding a place of peace, set a meditation timer on your phone. Sit in confidence that your phone will alert you when your practice is done, and do not open your eyes until that alarm sounds. Whether you are sitting for 10 minutes or an hour, setting a meditation timer is a great way to cut time out of the equation and make your meditation more accessible.
3. Set a meditation alarm.
Once you have programmed a meditation timer, set a meditation alarm. Let this phone alarm be your “call to prayer,” in a sense, calling you to your meditation. Set it for a time when you will be free to meditate. This will eliminate the Busy Person’s forgetfulness and excuses to avoid meditating.
4. During meditation, allow thoughts to come in at first, and then float away.
One pitfall the Busy Person faces in the beginning of a meditation session is succumbing to the distractions of her own thoughts: the incessant stream of consciousness where your mind evaluates the actions of the day, or the actions yet to be performed.
One’s first instinct may be to silence these thoughts, but in reality that only postpones the thoughts. Instead, allow yourself a few minutes, or however long it takes, for the thoughts to subside naturally. Sometimes it may take the entire meditation, and that’s OK. In the essence of Zen meditation, listen to what your body needs. Next, observe thoughts from an outside perspective, as if you are on a park bench watching cars go by. The cars are your thoughts, and after awhile, you may find that they will subside naturally.
5. During meditation, return to your breath if your to-do list rears its ugly head.
If you find yourself following a train of thought, always return to your breath. It’s an easy way to get back into your rhythm.
6. Be patient with yourself.
Show yourself some love and understanding as you navigate the waters of meditation. It can be a difficult practice, and you may at times feel lost – but you may at times also find your self.
As a meditator with a loud inner Busy Person, these methods have helped me to advance my meditation practice and to cultivate a deeper sense of myself. As a full-time college student and a part-time writer, I have pledged to myself to pay homage to the Zen saying about meditation – my to-do list will not be the captain of my ever-evolving journey, and when I sit to meditate my schedule will not be sitting on the mat with me.