How do you know when it’s a good time to meditate? 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. Here are 6 tips for finding time to meditate:
- Schedule your meditations. 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.
- Pick a time with few distractions. The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning, before you’ve had the chance to get too immersed in the activities of the day, so you don’t have to tear yourself away from your work. After sunset is another good time to meditate, especially if you have accomplished what you set out to during the day and feel like you can legitimately call it quits on work for the day. Any later or earlier than these two time periods, and you are likely either asleep or sleepy. So use these two windows if you can: not both, but somewhere in those periods, find a few minutes.
- Find small holes in your schedule. It’s seems to be a cultural requirement to put on a show of maximum busyness. 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.
- Commit to your meditation schedule. Once you identify the best times to mediate, schedule them and commit them to writing. When you come to the appointed time, drop everything and get settled for meditation. Be aware that something will happen that will tempt you to deviate from the plan: you will get a phone call, a deadline will be changed, your e-mail and social channels will ping repeatedly.
- Break only for emergencies. Discriminate between the true emergencies that need your attention and the routine miasma of noise that should be avoided. 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.
- Meditate anyway. 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. But don’t feel the need to atone for your sins by adding the time onto a future session: guilt tripping is not productive. This not about some imaginary yardstick of perfection, it’s about your own unfolding development.