I don’t have enough time to meditate

If I hadn’t made a stupid resolution to post at least once every month, I would not be writing this post tonight. I would be meditating—because I didn’t meditate this morning. But that’s still no excuse for not meditating.

The most consistent challenge I have to face in my daily practice is dealing with the limitless excuses that bubble up—the excuses that tell me I really don’t have to meditate. I don’t have enough time today. I can meditate better tomorrow. I don’t need to meditate every day. It’s so easy, so tempting to just go and sleep or check the news or eat or shop… But the truth is, I always have time to meditate. I always have ten minutes to squeeze out of my schedule.

For me, inspiration isn’t as much of a problem as is discipline. I am well aware that the biggest lie I tell myself is that meditation is not a priority. So here are some techniques I use for days like today—long days tucked between nights of less than four hours’ sleep.

I always have ten minutes. At nineteen, I was in a serious car accident, after which I found concentration frustratingly difficult. My recuperation included sitting meditation for ten minutes every morning over a week. I slowly expanded my daily meditation time, week by week. Ten minutes was the minimum time that, even when my mind was belligerently uncooperative, I found I was able to sit every morning. It was the amount of time that didn’t seem hopelessly intimidating. It was a sit that I could consistently look forward to. I was always able to squeeze ten minutes out my day, and even when I’ve gone without sleep and find myself on the brink of exhaustion, ten minutes still seems to work.

I fit in ten minutes wherever I can find the time. Sometimes, the only time I seem to have is in transit, on the train or up in the air. I put my work aside for ten minutes as I fold my hands and focus my mind. If I commit myself to ten minutes every morning, I’m always gripped by the fear that I’ll fall over back into sleep. If I miss one morning, then everything falls apart. Especially for mornings like tomorrow’s—which begins in less than five hours. So instead, I make sure to find ten minutes anytime I can find it. As long as I fit it in sometime during the day, it counts.

Loving kindness meditation helps me concentrate when I have trouble focusing on my breath. The words, woven into the deep fabric of memory, stretch out like rungs on a ladder that keep my mind from drifting too far away into dreams. When I catch myself daydreaming, on the brink of sleep, I bring myself back with loving kindness meditation. I don’t know why, but I find this practice remarkably grounding. And I can easily practice this meditation with my eyes wide open, staring out the bus window or sitting through a dull meeting.

At least for me, the key here is continual practice. Keeping up the practice day by day, even when overwhelmed with work. And if I fall off track? Well, I can always start over. From there, I slowly extend my meditation practice. I begin by setting aside ten minutes to sit in the morning. The next week, I add ten minutes to the evening, and I then extend this time by five minutes each subsequent week. But that’s all long in the future. For now, it’s time for me to sit. Ten minutes, and then I’m going to sleep.

5 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Meditation has always been a big struggle for me as well, at least keeping it consistent that is. Like you are insinuating here, we just make excuses though not to do it, there is always time.

  2. I’m reminded of a quote I particularly like from Albert Low, teacher at the Montreal Zen Centre:

    “One of the questions frequently asked is, Why does it take so long to come to awakening? The answer is very simple: we want something else more than we want awakening.”

    I use that quote all the time on my own practice — both to remind myself how important this work is, and also to remind myself that I’m human and distractable and unenlightened and egobound and of COURSE I’m going to have trouble getting my butt on the cushion sometimes, and not to beat myself up over it but just to acknowledge it the same way I’d acknowledge a thought during zazen.

  3. Being Kind says:

    I appreciate this post. I have been there (am there) and can relate to not making meditation a daily priority. Fear of falling asleep is an issue (only because I have on many occasions) – so I have made a habit of meditating mid-day when I am the most energetic. Thanks for sharing and motivating.

  4. Your dedication speaks volumes. To calm the mind for any amount of time brings joy. I recall when I started I would often fall asleep, that stopped when someone tried to wake me and I yelled out. Needless to say, that brought some stern conversation about being dedicated. Thank you for sharing.

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