Too Busy to Meditate? You Actually Need It the Most
By not admitting it, you’re really just lying to yourself.
Every time I speak to one of my friends who wants to meditate, I get the same argument — “I know it’s great, but…. I can’t find the time”
And I can empathize. For months, I kept telling myself the same thing.
“Only if I had more time, I’d meditate and feel at peace”
But that hardly works, does it? In the busy world that we live in, who has the time to sit down and do nothing? It’s hard to make the case for meditation to someone who lives a hectic life.
I remember my first few meditations almost 2 years ago. I bought myself a mat, took some cushions off the couch, and made a sacred space to meditate. For 10 minutes, my goal was to sit cross-legged with a straight spine and focus on the breath.
As I started my practice, I counted each breath — one, two, three….ten. My mind was at peace. I’d let go of all the worries and tasks I had to complete. I started to experience a sense of emptiness that people talked about on YouTube.
…for about 20 seconds. And then all the thoughts came rushing back in as the floodgates were open. The mind doesn’t like a vacuum you know. As soon as it sees one, it rushes to fill it up.
And when the monkey mind unleashes itself, there’s no branch it doesn’t hop on to — the calls I had to make, the projects I had to push, the forgotten messages I needed to send, the people I’d to follow up with, the book I wanted to read, things I wanted to say in my last meeting, things I want to say in the next meeting, and so on.
The list is endless. If you allow the mind to jump, it will shake the hell out of you. After all this, there’s only one thought that stares the aspiring meditator in his/her face — “What the hell am I doing sitting here, when I have all these things to think about?”
And what are we supposed to do then? To bring our attention back on the breath. I know it’s difficult but it’s true.
That way you train yourself to have control over your urges. It’s not that your urges would disappear. But that you’ll have a new-found control over them.
But before I dive into the benefits of meditation (which I can write at least 100,000 words on), let’s first take a look at your busyness.
Ask Yourself This Simple Question
Most of us feel constantly that there’s not enough time in the day. This feeling is called ‘Time Famine’.
Notice how I called it a ‘feeling’ not a fact. It’s common sense to recognize that we all have the same 24 hours a day. So in reality, no one has less or more time. We only feel so.
And how we feel depends on our perception of time.
Think about the last time you stood in the queue. Specifically, think just before you felt the uncomfortable sensation that you avoided by pulling your phone out.
Didn’t time seem to slow down? I bet you were wondering why it’s taking so long. Yet, when you looked at your watch, only 2 minutes had passed. Whereas to you, it felt more like 10 or 20.
On the contrary, think about the last time you were watching a high-intensity basketball game. Being engrossed in every move, you lost track of time. What seemed like 10 minutes to do was actually an hour.
Thus, having time is just a feeling that can be changed. And more often than not, it’s a reflection of your priorities.
To find out if you’re too busy, ask yourself this question:
Do you have 10 minutes a day for yourself?
If your answer is ‘No’, you need to meditate.
Further, an article published in Harvard Business Review gave me one of the best set of questions to find out if you’re in a busyness trap:
Do you find yourself attempting to create the appearance that you’re busier than you really are? Do you start typing furiously on your computer when your boss walks into your office?
Do you make it a point to emphasize how much travel you’ve undertaken on the company’s behalf and the sacrifices you’ve made? Do you usually mention to your colleagues how late you’ve worked, how you spent the weekend working on a project, or how many e-mails you have to respond to?
Are you addicted to your smartphone? Are you constantly checking for messages? Are you unable to sustain conversations with work colleagues or family or friends without regularly checking?
When things slow down at work, do you feel guilty? Do you find it impossible to take a vacation when things are slow? Do you attempt to fill your free work time with meaningless and boring tasks?
If you’re busy, what percentage of that work is meaningful and challenging? What percentage could be delegated to a subordinate without any dropoff in effectiveness? What percentage could be ignored completely without negative consequence?
Have your family or friends ever commented on your need to feel important? Do they make fun of your inability to stop talking about work-related matters or enjoy personal time without communicating via cell phone or email?
If the answer to any one of those questions is yes, then congratulations, you’ve taken the first step to identify your busyness habit. Most people are too busy to notice their behaviors — but you’ve now got the awareness.
I was at this place not long ago. I used to brag about sleeping less and working more. I couldn’t stand not having work — I carried my laptop on family vacations, I read self-help books in the car (even for 5 min rides), and I was stressed all the time.
But it takes only a small effort to stop one of these habits. Soon, before you know it, you’ll have the momentum to let go of busyness for good.
Embrace the Power of Mindful Minutes
If you identify yourself to be busy jumping right on to meditation may not be right for you. You need to calm yourself down before you take that step.
What’s the solution for these A-type, stressed, and driven individuals?
In many ways, micro-mindfulness is the new meditation. Almost all applications have 1-minute meditations to help people come back to the present moment. And as someone who wants the whole world to meditate every day, I’m on board!’
Here’s how you go about it. Set reminders on your phone for different times during the day.
To give you an example, I have an hourly reminder that starts at 8 am and ends at 8 pm.
When the alarm rings, here are a few things you can do:
Breathe. Take a few deep breaths and reconnect with your higher self.
Listen to the sounds around you. The AC, the people gossiping outside your room, the construction work going in the building. Let everything come to you and accept it without judgment.
Think of a higher reality and amaze yourself. We live in a vast Universe. To give you an idea, if you took the Universe to be the size of the Earth, then our planet would be a billionth the size of a pinhead in comparison! (or a millionth the size of a grain of sand). When you meditate on such supernal realities, you can’t help but notice the pettiness of your life and your issues.
Pray for others. Focus on your breath for some time, center your energy, and then pray deeply for someone who needs your help in any matter large or small. It will fill you with joy.
Do a body scan. See if a particular body part is tense. Concentrate on that body part and try to relax it deeply.
Correct your posture. Have a straight spine and neck.
Practice gratitude. It’s the antidote to fear, anxiety, hatred, and many other negative virtues.
Walk as if you’re kissing the earth with your feet
Eat and drink mindfully. Be aware of the sensation of water going down your neck and into the stomach. Chew your food with total awareness. It will slow you down.
These are just some things you can do. Of course, the list is endless, but it’s wise to start with just a handful of options.
Pick the one you like and run with it.
Once you have enough practice of being mindful throughout the day, your perception of time will change. You will start to free up more and more time in your day.
That’s when you’re ready to take out time for meditation in your life. The reason I suggest starting with small mindful minutes is they give you a taste of what’s possible.
Once you like it enough, you can start a regular meditation practice more easily.
Since talking about starting a meditation practice will be too long for this post, here’s a complete guide to help you: What is Meditation: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners
Struggling to meditate? Get your free 5 Day email course — Meditation 101: How to Start Meditating