But your to-do list just keeps growing. You’re trying to juggle work with family obligations and friendships. You’re an expert at multi-tasking, but there’s just too much that has to be done - and only a measly 24 hours in each day. You’ve got phone calls to answer, clothes to wash, meals to cook and shopping to do. And there are social obligations and chores. Don’t even mention the spare room.
Everything seems slightly out of control and relaxing seems somehow taboo - liking giving up, or giving in, or letting someone down. Contentment or even just a pause to think remains out of reach.
How the #@$* do I fit meditation into that schedule? I don’t have time to breathe!
If this is you, then bare with me a moment while I make an infuriating recommendation: moments of meditation and mindfulness are just what you most need when you live at this speed. As Donna Farhi wisely says: "The degree to which you do not believe you have time to spend even ten minutes sitting quietly is the degree to which you desperately need to spend ten minutes sitting quietly."
But don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to sit quietly for ten minutes. If you’re really busy, that idea itself might seem stressful or impossible.
No. I’m going to suggest something much easier. Something simple, practical and realistic. We’re going to work smarter rather than harder.
The truth is, you don’t need time to meditate. What you need is control of your attention. My guess is that you probably don’t think you lack attention; at least not in the same way you lack time. But it’s a lack of ‘attention control’ that leads to the sense that time is lacking. And if you develop greater control of your attention (which is what you learn in meditation) then you’ll find that time pressure drops away, and you feel more calm, confident and in control.
Simultaneously, you’ll be nourishing your body, mind and spirit, giving the voices in your head a chance to settle, stimulating creativity, making better choices and lowering your stress. Here’s how:
1. Think Coffee, Think Meditation
To integrate moments of meditation into your day naturally, rather than through sheer will-power or discipline (which we all run out of, sooner or later), you need to create triggers: things, events or situations that remind you that you can pay attention in a different way.
Triggers work best when they occur frequently, but not too frequently (say two to five times a day), and when you notice them without effort.
We tend not to notice many of the things we do each day - because we can do them perfectly well on autopilot. For example, do you know which leg you typically put your weight on when you are standing still, or which arm you put through your jumper first when getting dressed? In both cases it will (nearly) always be the same leg or arm every time.
Enter coffee. Grabbing a coffee (or whatever beverage you prefer) may be something you do every day, but it’s not quite as habitual as getting dressed, so you can probably remember where you drank your last coffee, and also notice when you’re about to drink one. This then, is your ideal trigger. It’s a chance to pay attention consciously, and to stop your mind revving like a hoon at the traffic lights, just for a moment, so that you can find a few moments of calm.
2. Drive Yourself Calm
Impatience, frustration, annoyance, road rage - these are staples of city life for many of us every morning and afternoon, as we commute to and from work, or pick up the kids from school. You might buy a car with the expectation of driving pleasure, but you probably ended up with a lot more driving pain.
The car, however, can become your meditation capsule; a little cocoon of peace and quiet. All you have to do is make use of it. Dropping the kids off to footy training? Instead of immediately whizzing off on your next errand, stop for five minutes and let yourself slip into a delicious rest. Nap if you want. You’ll feel much better for it.
3. Let Loose in the Loo
Everyone knows that meditation is about letting go. At work however, letting go might seem like the last thing you can do. “Hold on” might be a more realistic refrain. But there is one place you can get away. One place where colleagues are unlikely to track you down. One place where you can truly let go. Make use of it. Big ideas, creative solutions, inspiration, and yes, even relaxation - they’re all best done in the smallest room in the building.
4. Check-in When You Check-in
At airports, technology is making check-in procedures quicker and smoother than ever before, and almost eliminating time spent queuing. Almost, but not quite. There’s always time to kill. Time where you can do nothing but wait. So whenever you find yourself waiting (wherever that might be), check-in. Stop and pay attention to your surroundings. What can you see? What can you hear? What are the most prominent colours, features, shapes and sounds around you? And what are your top-of-mind concerns? What’s eating at you? Who or what have you been thinking about? How are you feeling?
Doing a check-in like this works on the premise that what we’re mindful of has less capacity to spiral out of control. It helps us to develop awareness, stay present and behave in more skillful (and less reactive) ways.
5. Refuel While You Refuel
If, like me, you don’t get to go on those overseas holidays quite as frequently as you might wish, then you might have to make do with a more local trip. And if you’re making a local trip, chances are you’ll have to fill-er-up from time to time. This is one place where you really can’t do anything except what you’re doing. Actually, you could probably daydream, or complain to yourself about the price of petrol, but why not spend a minute or two just indulging in this opportunity to be quiet and still. Take a few deep breaths, or think about all the little things you’ve achieved in the day, or give thanks for all that is good or going well in your life. Phew!
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