When talking with beginning meditation students about creating space in their lives for meditation – (intentional non-doing as Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it sometimes), the issue of “finding the time to do it” always comes up. “It’s unlikely you will “find” the time, as if you had just stumbled upon it accidentally- the way you might find a penny on the sidewalk.So I encourage you to thoughtfully choose and select the time. Which means you are already doing what meditation can offer, making conscious decisions about what is really important in your life. Initially however, for folks who have not yet experienced the benefits of meditation, we’re asking them to trust the research, trust the yearning in their hearts that led them to want to learn in the first place, to trust all the many people who have been practicing and teaching for thousands of years, and to take a bit of a leap of faith.
I often tell them about the busy physician who took my class years ago, after being a devoted reader of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work – had recommended it to many patients, but had never had a practice herself. After week three of the MBSR class, she reported;
“At first I was really resistant to taking thirty minutes to do the practices, I kept thinking, “I don’t have time for this!” Then I heard everyone in the class saying how much they were benefiting from doing it and I knew I wanted to that too. So I started doing them everyday, and I can honestly say it feels like time has expanded for me! I get more done in less time and find myslef with more peace at the end of the day.”
I had my own very vivid experience of this the other day, so powerfully- that I wanted to share it. I live near a lovely retreat center which holds it’s monthly “Days of Mindfulness” on a Monday. I have been trying to get to as many of these as possible this year as the teacher Esther kenned is one of my most beloved spiritual mentors and friends and is due to retire soon. She’s moving out of state in July and I want to soak up every ounce of her before she goes. (speaking of time and priorities) . This past Monday was a ‘work from home day’, and I had a lot on my ‘to do list’ some with very close deadlines. I really wanted to go to the retreat, my whole boy was practically leaning out the door to get to the retreat center. (Trust your body it always knows).
So I made a deal with myself. I would go for half of the retreat and leave after the silent lunch. I made the drive up there- about thirty minutes – as an extension of the retreat, by listening to a Thich Nhat Hanh CD. It was wonderful to see Esther and be in that safe and sacred space, but it took me a little while to settle into the retreat. I was buzzing with anxiety and energy about my work at home. And then about a third of the way into the first meditation period, I felt myself settle down into the present moment. Before lunch there was a period of quiet time just for ourselves to spend with ourselves. It was delicious, even better than the green bean cheddar soup!
Once I got home I eased into finishing up my taxes, writing an outline for a workshop and answering emails. The time between 1:00 and 5:00 felt like an entire day. I realized the time spent in meditation and in quiet really had increased my ability to be fully present in the ‘doing mode’ and I remembered what my former student had said, time truly had expanded for me. It felt like an entire day’s worth of work and done without stressful feelings, thoughts or striving. Every thing I give to meditatio is given back to me, always. I encourage you to give it a try.