Meditation in Action
How To Find Time To Meditate
Saying you value a particular activity just isn't enough, says author David Dillard-Wright. It's another thing altogether to assign it a space on the agenda for your life.
Scheduled meditation may seem a little unromantic, a little type-A, a little anal-retentive. But scheduling something means that it's important. Writing something down, especially writing by hand on a sheet of paper, has a powerful effect on the memory. By writing a schedule for your meditation, you commit to that appointment. You also say to yourself that you value your own well-being enough to take time during the day for yourself.
In the yogic tradition, the first two hours before dawn and the first two hours after sunset are considered the most auspicious times to meditate. This has to do with astrology, but it also makes sense from a practical standpoint. Before dawn, you haven't had the chance yet to get too immersed in the activities of the day, so you don't yet have to tear yourself away from your work.
After sunset, you have accomplished enough to call it quits and should similarly have little to bother and distract. Any later or earlier than these two time periods, and you are likely asleep or a least sleepy. So use these two windows if you can: not the whole two-hour bracket, but somewhere in those periods, find a few minutes.
What about other times during the day? How do you know when it's a good time to meditate? If you wait for a perfect time, it will never come. You will always have other things to do, and you may not always feel particularly inspired to meditate. In order for it to be effective, meditation has to be an appointment that you keep and not something you do when you feel like it. And yet and some points during the day you would derive more benefit from working than meditating, because you are clearing items from the mental landscape that would interrupt your peace of mind. And there is the usual business of life: meetings, reports, classes, and the like, which do not qualify as distractions and cannot always be negotiated. So you have to be flexible and work around busy times.
Finding Small Holes in Your Schedule
It's a cultural requirement that everyone should at least put on a show of maximum stress. But the average day is not a solid wall of activity—it's more like Swiss cheese. The key to finding a little bit of personal time is to look for the small pockets of air. Remember, we're talking about only a few minutes at a time. Most people don't have the luxury of big two-to-four hour blocks of time, but nearly everyone can find one-to-twenty minute blocks.
When you identify them in your own life, schedule them and commit them to writing. When you come to the appointed hour, drop everything and get settled for meditation. Beware that something will happen that might tempt you to deviate from the plan: you will get a phone call from a client, a deadline will be changed, your e-mail will ping repeatedly. Discriminate between the true emergencies that need your attention and the routine miasma of noise that should be avoided.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool."
- Richard Feynman
Maybe you have some trouble distinguishing between emergencies and noise. Ask yourself: "Can this wait for a few minutes? Will my reputation be affected if I don't attend to this right this minute?" Tell your obsessive-compulsive self that you can get right back to whatever issue arises as soon as the meditation is over. You may even have a better handle on the issue after meditation than you did before.
If you're still having trouble letting go, meditate anyway. It is better to meditate while distracted than not to meditate at all. If you miss a session because you can't drop what you are doing, no worries: just get yourself back on track at the next appointed time.
Don't feel the need to atone for your sins by adding the time onto a future session: guilt tripping is not productive. This is about your own unfolding development and not about some imaginary yardstick of perfection. If you miss a session, it just means that that is where you were at that moment in your journey. So don't cry over lost time or a difficult season. If you have discovered meditation as a part of the purpose of your life and not just an adjunct, you are not in danger of losing it entirely. You will come back to it at a later time when the life atmosphere is more conducive.
Excerpt from Meditation for Multitaskers: Your Guide to Finding Peace Between the Pings (Adams Media, a division of F+W Media, 2011) by David Dillard-Wright, PhD.