Finding Time To Meditate
When life gets hectic, meditation tends to be the first thing to go. Sitting and doing nothing might seem like a counter intuitive strategy for dealing with a busy schedule. However, meditation practice is actually a great way to get your mind in shape to tackle those tasks on your to do list.
“It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet, and relaxation is a good idea,” says meditation teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “but why don’t we think about training our mind?” Exercising your mind through meditation cuts down on the time you waste worrying and mulling over your tasks and prepares your mind to actually accomplish them.
There is also increasing scientific evidence that meditation helps us focus. A 2011 study at the University of Wisconsin, found that participants who meditated 5 -15 minutes a day had activation patterns in their left brain associated with rational thinking and positive emotional states.
A 2012 study of University of Washington office workers found that mindfulness practice improves employees’ ability to work steadily without switching tasks, and maintain focus without stressing out. Its not surprising that mindfulness helps focus and fosters a positive, engaged mindset.
Mindfulness Meditation focuses your attention on the present moment, training the mind to dismiss distractions, which actually helps us get things done more efficiently and with less stress.
It might be difficult to prioritize meditation if you’re unclear on why you’re practicing. Finding your personal motivation for meditation helps build a strong practice routine.
When we feel that there’s no time for practice, we’re often not connecting to our motivation for practice, which makes it easy to forget or toss aside as soon as things get busy.
Before practicing, take a moment to reflect on why you want to practice. Perhaps you want to lower stress, create some space in your reactions, touch into what is really going on, attain enlightenment, or simply become more relaxed.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche writes, “After we sit down and before we begin practicing the technique, we should slow down and reflect on our presence in the world. We need to think for a few minutes about what we like and what we don’t like, what we’re worried about, and where in our lives we feel a sense of relief.”
Contemplation connects meditation practice to our life off the cushion, and makes the discipline of practice feel natural instead of imposed or harsh. It gives us a bridge between our speedy life and mindfulness practice. Eventually this bridge will dissipate, and meditation will become a natural part of life.
When you can’t meditate
There are times when it’s just impossible to get away. Sometimes we skip brushing our teeth, or a morning run. Our teeth might feel kind of grimy and our body tired, but it happens.
There are ways to touch into mindfulness in your everyday life. The RAIN method is one technique that can help ground us if we feel like the day is running off with our mind. This simple practice has four steps:
- Recognize what’s going on
- Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
- Investigate with kindness
- Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.
This simple mindfulness practice of self care, helps us stay grounded when we don’t have time to meditate.
There are also times when we are too overwhelmed to meditate. Sometimes stress and anxiety can make it simply too difficult to find our object of meditation. In these moments we are completely taken in by a storyline, which colors our whole perception.
In this situation, says Mipham Rinpoche, “we’re too close to the action. Its too soon to investigate the scene of the accident.” In these situations, getting some distance from your thoughts can be helpful. Going on a walk or bike ride, a shower, calling a friend or doing a quick stretch routine, can be more calming than sitting. “Knowing when we can meditate is honest meditation,” says Mipham Rinpoche.