Creating and sustaining a meditation practice can be challenging. There are some days when you feel like you don’t have enough time to brush your teeth, let alone carve out any semblance of stillness in your life, even for five minutes.
Experts would tell you, furry-toothed busy woman that you are, that your life is a perfect breeding ground for the benefits of a meditation practice.
But there are the days when you forget, or when you try to meditate to the tune of children crying because daddy is off his snack-provision game. Or perhaps your meditation practice just isn’t living up to what you build it up to be in your mind: complete with sequinned cushions, lit candles, and doves flying overhead.
That’s the real problem, I think: we’ve got too narrow a perception of what a meditation practice could look like. After all, at it’s heart, meditation is merely focus and breath, and it should be pretty portable, pretty accommodating to even the most hectic of schedules.
So I’m hereby no longer accepting excuses for not taking a few moments to centre yourself – from myself or anyone else. And here’s a little toolkit to make it easier:
Okay, they’re seriously pretty, and yes, arguably quite fashionable right now, but GUYS! They have a FUNCTION. The purpose of mala beads is, and always was, before they became hip, to act as the rails upon which your meditation practice is guided. Usually, meditators use mala beads by holding a bead between their fingers during meditation practice and silently repeating a mantra. Next bead; next mantra repetition, and so on, until you’ve completed the loop of your necklace or bracelet. This is especially helpful for people who have challenges with their “monkey mind” when they simply sit and breathe. Having a tiny bit more focus – both tactile focus and that which the repeated mantra generates – helps to calm and centre the frantic mind. Mala beads can also be a very practical reminder, when worn or hung somewhere you see them often, to take a calming breath, even if just for that moment. And yes, of course they’re pretty….
Not unlike mala beads, colouring is all the rage for a reason. The same reason, actually. There’s something about repetitive activity that is not overly mentally taxing, but just complex enough to require your attention, that soothes the chatter in your brain and allows you to focus. Another bonus to colouring is that it is the kind of activity that invites what happiness and positive psychology researchers call “flow.” Flow is that beautiful state of mind where you lose track of time, and studies show that it is achieved in activities that allow for a perfect balance between challenge and ease. That research also shows that the happiest people know how to and regularly cultivate flow in their lives. You don’t have to set aside a huge amount of time to colour – even just 5 or 10 minutes spent with your Crayolas can make a difference.
Though it sounds awfully heavy, devotional practice is literally what it says it is: it is time, devoted, a devotion to take the time on a regular basis (aka a practice), and a devotion to your own well-being. A devotional practice can be ritualistic, in the sense that it may entail the same activity done every day, like meditation or yoga, or it can merely be the intention to be entirely devoted and devotional to at least one activity in your day. For example, making your morning coffee can be a beautiful devotional practice: mindfully choosing a beautiful mug, feeling the texture of the beans once you’ve ground them, holding your hand briefly over the steam of the kettle, the flavours in your first sip…you get the gist. Very meditative, very calming. So, how could you start a devotional practice?
Meditation, mala beads, and devotional practices all centre around the notion of being present. The thing is, you don’t need any special time or equipment to just be present. Just a moment to breathe, and maybe something to focus on visually. Your practice of presence could occur at a regular time in the day, for example, while brushing your teeth, or, as above, while making your coffee. I often try to practice presence while putting my kids in their car seats (usually an *ugh* moment). You can be present simply by bringing your focus to your own thoughts, your body, and the world around you. It’ s a little different from meditation in the sense that you’re not necessarily trying to “acknowledge and let go” of those sensations and feelings, but rather simply notice them.
Meditative physical activity
You can easily turn your morning swim or your afternoon jog into an opportunity for meditation. These activities, which foster flow in and of themselves in the sense that they are repetitive and therefore somewhat “easy” for your brain, and yet challenging enough to bring you into your body, are perfect gateways into a meditative state. When I do a moving meditation, I often focus my thoughts by counting my breaths in and out. In this way, your daily exercise can be your centring practice as well.
Do you have a meditation practice? How do you find time for it?
Which one of these time-saving meditation practices resonates most with you?