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I can’t find time to meditate!

Maybe you have completed Lifeflow’s Learn to Meditate and Level 2 Lifeflow classes (or even Level 3!) and you still can’t find time to meditate every day. Don’t beat yourself up about it.  Yes, a regular meditation practice will yield better results than a haphazard practice; but that regular practice has to evolve naturally, and with ease, for it to be sustainable.

The secret is to simply hold the intention to have a clear mind, connected heart and relaxed body.  Whenever, and wherever, you realise you are not ticking the box for any one of these states, then use a spot meditation to find some semblance of balance. These are short, simple activities where we consciously open up to our senses, how our body feels and our environment.  We do them ‘on the spot’, incorporating them into whatever other activity we are engaged in. They momentarily release us from our ‘cage of thoughts’ and bring us into the here and now.  They can take as little as 30 seconds and be as simple as watching the breath.

I can’t find time to meditate!

If you get into the habit of feeling just a little bit better at any time, you will find it easier to get into the habit of feeling much better regularly, like daily. Let’s unpack this a bit further, so you really get the point.

Conventionally, we expect it is necessary to develop a regular, disciplined meditation practice.  Many meditation programs will prescribe something like 10 minutes a day, or 20 minutes twice a day etc, as the benchmark to aim for. For some people this works well, but not everyone finds it easy to do this. And perhaps, if you have read this far, not you!    

Relax. There is no one-size-fits-all meditation practice. A beginner’s meditation practice has to adapt to a person’s lifestyle before that lifestyle can shift to develop a deeper, regular practice (if that’s what you want).  There is no point in blaming yourself, your family or work commitments, your house, or the meditation technique (and certainly not the meditation teacher!) for the fact you can’t get into a regular practice. Indeed, if you think like this, then you will subconsciously reinforce the attitude, and then the belief, that either meditation is too hard, or that you are not good at it. Both of these conclusions are fundamentally untrue.

So here is your ‘core meditation practice’.  Simply keep the intention to have a clear mind, connected heart and relaxed body; and when you notice that you are drifting from that state of balance, apply a spot or informal meditation to find some semblance of balance.

What is a ‘clear mind’? A clear mind is one where the focus of your attention is effectively responding to whatever is happening now.  This means that your attention is not caught by thoughts of past or future that causes you to suffer, or detracts you from what you need to do right now. These thoughts might be agitated or dull and they are usually self-referential (i.e. there is a “me” in the story).  It is possible to have these painful thoughts drifting in and out of your peripheral or background awareness, but because you prefer the state of clarity, you don’t gravitate to these thoughts. And as you don’t pay these thoughts any focussed attention, they eventually fade. 

What is a ‘connected heart’?  A connected heart is one that is open to, and accepting of, wherever you are, and whoever you are with. This is easy when you are in a nice place with people you like, but what about when you are stuck in an ugly or uncomfortable situation with disagreeable people? Why would you even want to accept this situation? Well, because this is your reality for now; and it is your rejection of the situation, whether consciously or subconsciously, that is causing you pain. When we notice these emotions, we can use a spot meditation to create an open space in our awareness where we can see things as they are without reacting to them. The stance of not reacting to the situation is the same as accepting the situation. We don’t have to like the ugly place or disagreeable people, but we can hold the open space where we don’t follow our habitual grooves of reaction to them.

Boredom is a particularly useful situation to develop open-heartedness and acceptance because there is nothing specifically happening against which you are rejecting. That’s the problem, there is nothing happening and you want something to happen. Using spot meditations to accept nothing-happening, can open up into a sense of delicious fullness. 

What is a ‘relaxed body’? A relaxed body has qualities of softness, aliveness and pleasure. Whenever we notice our bodies are hard and tense, dull and enervated, or even in physical pain, we can use spot meditations to soften and refresh the body, and reduce the pain. If we have chronic pain or illness, and we experience episodes of acute pain, we can use our spot meditation to open up to and accept the experience as just a strong sensation in the body.  By relaxing our attitude to the sensation we can soften our experience of the sensation.

If your core practice is to sustain a state of balance – that is a clear mind, connected heart, relaxed body  – then focus on the spot and informal meditations. Wedge them into whatever opportunity arises during the day: during a tea break; at the traffic lights; in the check-out queue; in a boring meeting; with a difficult person; whenever we notice our thinking is agitated; when we don’t want to be where we are; or when we feel pain or tension in the body.

Of course, the ‘semblance of balance’ we find in spot and informal meditations is not as deep and transformative as the experience of balance we achieve in formal eyes-closed, sitting meditations. However, they are of immediate practical value. As we grow to appreciate them, then we may naturally wedge them into our daily schedule as short, and then gradually longer formal meditations. 

Go forth gently.

Ian