Things I know how to do: Set my intentions.
Things I can’t manage to do: Follow my intentions.
Except one, so far, which is to meditate every day. Putting aside the fact that the one thing I can manage to get myself to do is sitting and doing virtually nothing, I am pleased that I have developed a practice. And by developed I mean that if I don’t do it, I miss it. Actually crave it. Like, saying to myself, “I want to meditate right now but I don’t have time to.”
Here’s the thing. I DO have time. Meditation is really just an opportunity to shut down the spinning mind. There’s no proscribed amount of time to make that activity effective. It’s something you can do anywhere and any time. (PS, a gripe. All those mindfulness lifestyle photos you see in the media? The ones where a pretty lady is sitting in a black leotard and her eyes are closed and she’s doing that thumb-to-pointer finger thing with her hands? That’s bs. Don’t sit that way if you don’t want to. You can meditate by lying on the floor or waiting in line at the airport or stirring risotto. You’re not summoning Krishna. You don’t need to be on a meditation cushion. Or in a treehouse in Bali.) I meditate in the doctor’s office waiting for an appointment. In line at the car wash or the gas station. In the shower, on the toilet, at a movie before it starts. Basically, except for the shower, I meditate wherever/whenever I might otherwise be scanning Instagram or checking my email.
But hold up–don’t think I don’t look at my phone! I’m just saying that every day there are times when I could be looking at my phone and I don’t. I catch myself. I put the phone down. And there’s a shift in that moment. It can feel delicious, like when the pile driver that’s been going all day at the construction site near my house just stops. It can feel like relief, like scratching an itch. It can feel nourishing, like water when you are thirsty.
These impromptu sessions are not the way to develop a practice. You need the discipline of a daily sit for that, along with some kickass dharma talks like the kind you’ll hear at Common Ground or that you can download from Audio Dharma. But if you’re looking for some way to stop wasting time, to check in with yourself, or to just quiet the buzzing in your little brain, try this:
- Lower your eyes (don’t close them) and gaze out into the distance at nothing,
- Take a few deep breaths.
- Just think about those breaths. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking about. By concentrating on the breathing you will refocus your attention.
- If your mind wanders, gently coax it back to the breath. Don’t berate your mind for wandering–it’s what minds do. And don’t worry if you have to continually return your attention to the breath. The act of noticing that your mind is wandering is actually what it’s all about.
This little instruction is actually a pep talk for myself, because some days I can’t get it together enough to load the dishwasher or walk the dog or write a to-do list let alone cross stuff off of one. But every day I do accomplish a moment or two of meditation and that’s perfectly okay.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton