” You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”Zen Proverb
Life is full of demands. Other people’s demands, or your own inner demands of how you “should” be doing stuff. These demands will keep you in a flurry of overwhelm all day long, until even glancing at your huge ‘to-do’ list will be enough to sap your energy.
I first started meditating years ago, but it wasn’t until I was studying under a Buddhist monk that I became aware of the potential of transformation through a regular practice. With repeated conscious contact to my own inner landscape and divinity I could apparently transform my life into something less fearful and more serene. I set an intention to meditate every day, and to this day my intention and practice still stand.
Meditation is the opposite of thinking. But that doesn’t mean thoughts don’t come in. I find the first 15 mins is a rabble, a busy jumble of noise. I practice coming back to the breath and labelling my thoughts and letting them go. Like a restless puppy, I keep bringing my mind back to the breath. As soon as I notice I’m being carried off with a thought, that’s a win. I simply come back to the breath and release the thought. Even if I got carried away with thinking for ten minutes I know that’s ok. It’s the noticing that’s the win and coming back to the breath; that’s the practice.
After a 20-minute session, I’ve got much more clarity about what’s on my mind, making it easy to choose a priority for the day. If I meditate even longer, for a full hour, I begin to gain a far greater perspective on what’s important – mostly being in acceptance of what is without needing to be in control (scrap half my to-do list right there)!
Like music and sport, meditation takes practice and to some it doesn’t come naturally. If there are days when you’re overwhelmed and don’t feel like meditating, that’s ok. When the overwhelm does come, remember it’s fine to just sit still and breathe. It’s only when we stop and pause that clarity and insights can drop in. You could save yourself a helluva lot of time by allowing space for insight. You may even realise that something you’re frustratingly trying to control has ten action points on your to-do list. Take a break instead. Change the “shoulds” to “coulds”.
So how do you start a regular meditation practice?
• Intention – know and understand the ‘why’: why do I want this? Set a clear intention.
• Allow – give yourself permission to have 15 mins to yourself, let your family know and the cat or dog too.
• Settle – find a comfy spot where you can be comfortable, but alert.
• Practice – don’t forget, it’s progress, not perfection.
• Give thanks – often showing up is the hardest part, so remember to thank yourself!
Meditation is not about applied thinking, it’s about creating space for insight to drop in. For me, the message behind the quote above is simply this: if you’re busy, meditate for 20 minutes and you’ll know what’s on your mind. If you’re really busy, meditate for one hour to gain a greater perspective on how everything is already as it needs to be.
All you need is right there within you, and it helps to place trust in yourself. Why don’t you scrap today’s to-do list and spend a day looking after yourself instead. Give yourself permission to just ‘be’. By the end of the day you’ll have had a deep re-charge, you’ll know your top priorities and you may even decide that your to-do lists can remain scrapped.
My weekly online meditation group starts again for the autumn term on Tuesday 7th September 6:00pm. Come and join me for some simple, guided mindfulness meditations. It will be 45 minutes of your time well spent.
Get your tickets here: https://spope.eventbrite.co.uk