Ironically, when we get busy, the first thing that tends to get cut back is our meditation practice. We have less time and a lot on our plates, so it makes sense that this happens, but in the end it doesn’t really help us. Most of us know from experience that we function much better when we give ourselves time each day to sit in silence. And the more we have to do, the more we need that solitary, quiet time for the day ahead. As a result, while it may sound counterintuitive, it is during busy times that we most need to spend more time in meditation rather than less. By being quiet and listening to the universe, we will be given what we need to get through our day.
Expanding our morning meditation by just 10 minutes can make a big difference, as can the addition of short meditations into our daily schedule. The truth is, no matter how busy we are, unless we are in the midst of a crisis we always have five or 10 minutes to spare. The key is convincing ourselves that spending that time in meditation is the most fruitful choice. We could be getting our dishes done or heading into work earlier instead, so it’s important that we come to value the importance of meditation in the context of all the other things competing for attention in our lives. All we have to do to discover whether it works to meditate more when we are busy is to try it.
We can start by creating more time in the morning, either by getting up earlier or by preparing breakfast the night before and using the extra time for meditation. We can also add short meditation breaks into our schedule, from five minutes before or after lunch to a meditation at night before we go to sleep. When we come from a place of centered calm, we are more effective in handling our busy schedules and more able to keep it all in perspective. If more time in meditation means less time feeling anxious, panicky, and overwhelmed, then it’s certainly worth the extra time.
When our thoughts are scattered in several directions at once and we are no longer conscious of what we are doing or why, it is time to center ourselves. When we center ourselves, we begin by acknowledging that we have become spread too thin and we are no longer unified inside. Our thoughts might be out of sync with our feelings, and our actions may be out of sync with both. The main signs that we need to center ourselves are scattered thoughts and a feeling of disconnection or numbness, as if we are no longer able to take anything in. In addition, we may feel unfocused and not present in our bodies. Centering ourselves is a way of coming to terms with all the different energies within us and drawing them back into ourselves.
Centering yourself means that you are working from or being aware of the core of your being in the solar plexus area of your body. At first it may not make sense, but as you progress you will understand what this feels like. We naturally know how to center ourselves when we take a deep breath, for example, before making a big announcement or doing something big. Another way to center ourselves is to sit down and engage in breath meditation. We can start by simply getting into a comfortable upright position and noticing as our breath enters and leaves our bodies. Our breath flows into our center and out from our center, and this process can serve as a template for all of our interactions in the world. In conversations, we can take what our friends are saying into the center of our beings and respond from the center. Our whole lives mirror this ebb and flow of energy that begins and ends at the center of ourselves. If we follow this ebb and flow, we are in harmony with the universe, and when we find we are out of harmony, we can always come back into balance by sitting down and observing our breath.
When we sit down to center ourselves we can imagine that we are gathering our straying thoughts and energies back into ourselves, the way a mother duck gathers her babies around her. We can also visualize ourselves casting a net and pulling all the disparate parts of ourselves back to the center of our being, creating a sense of fluid integration. From this place of centeredness, we can begin again, directing ourselves outward in a more intentional way.
Sometimes when we need to make a decision, we can become overwhelmed or feel pressured into coming to a conclusion immediately. Often, a decision isn’t required right away, and the sense of urgency we feel is merely a limitation that we’ve placed upon ourselves. Once we’ve determined that we do have the time to make a wise choice for ourselves, we can release the pressure with a deep breath, like steam from a pressure cooker, and proceed to make the best use of our time.
The best first step may be to gather all the facts we can find. Once we have all the logical information we need, we can allow ourselves to sit with it and soak it up. Like a good recipe, we can allow ourselves to marinate in the juices of intellectual understanding while also adding our own spices made up of our feelings, our intuition, and any other considerations. We can taste the recipe for readiness as we go in order to decide if more time or ingredients are needed. We might want to take time to visualize ourselves playing out the various scenarios to see which feels the best, remind ourselves of our goals, or merely sit silently in meditation, listening for guidance. Any of these techniques can add depth and flavor to the recipe of our decisions.
We can allow ourselves to sit with our choices for whatever length of time is needed, whether it is a day, a week, a month or longer. Doing so gives our hearts, minds and spirits the chance to align, allowing us to make a decision that is right for us. Other times, we may need to let the wisdom of the universe unfold for us at its own rate, allowing our growth and realizations to sync up with the universe’s secret and essential ingredients so that all of the flavors are ready at the same time. When we allow ourselves the time to sit and allow understanding to sink in, we can cocreate the best decision possible for ourselves and for everyone involved.
Once we have discovered all that meditation can do for us in our lives, we have the opportunity to share that knowledge with our children. Since a child’s first experiences take place in the home, what they learn there provides a foundation of knowledge and then becomes their basis for comparison as they move out into the world. Even if we may not feel that we are qualified to teach, we can plant the seeds that will give them a basic understanding of the peace and power that lie within them.
There are many ways we can instill the value of meditation. Since children tend to learn just as much, if not more, by observation and imitation, rather than by instruction, we can teach by example. By following our practice, we show them that meditation is part of daily life. Even if they appear to resist, they will come to understand meditation’s importance in maintaining their inner health if you treat it as something that is as important and as essential as eating well and keeping proper hygiene. Little children are not the only ones that can benefit by learning meditation; preteens and teenagers can also benefit from learning the skills necessary to calm their minds and spend quality family time meditating together.
We may be able to introduce them to the concept of closing their eyes and taking inner journeys by listening to visualization CDs, or you may comfortable enough to guide them through a visualization of your own. Creating a time of quiet listening in the middle of guided imagery helps them know that they can be silent and go within whenever they choose. You might want to sit together and hold hands, creating a deep bonding ritual that may become everyone’s favorite part of the day. By discussing afterward, you can discover how your child experiences his or her inner world. By teaching children how to create with their minds and how to access the stillness within them, you are giving them tools that will help them create the best lives possible.
When things go wrong, it is easy to get into a bad mood, and that bad mood has a way of spiraling out and affecting our life for days to come. In the same way, when we feel badly about ourselves, we tend to act in ways that have repercussions, again creating a negative vibe that can negatively influence the next several days. While it is important that we allow ourselves to feel what we feel, and to be genuine, we do not have to completely surrender to a dark mood or feelings of self-doubt. In fact, the more we simply allow and accept our darkness as one part of the picture, the more easily we can also allow and accept our light. In this vein, we can temper our grey moods with an injection of sunshine in the form of sending good wishes to ourselves for the next 24 hours.
If you feel a bad mood coming on or find yourself plagued with negative feelings, take a moment to acknowledge that. At the same time, recognize that things can and will change, and that you can still have a good day, or a good week, especially if you take the time to visualize that for yourself. This is a great way to support yourself when you are working through tough times and hard feelings. When you visualize good things for yourself, you are sending yourself love and warmth, as well as encouraging yourself to keep going.
Before you even get out of bed in the morning, you can take the time to send good wishes to yourself all the way through to the next morning. As you picture your day, take the time to fill in the details—where you are going, who you will see, what you will do—and send love and good wishes ahead to yourself, as well as everyone you encounter. It will be like arriving in a new place and finding that an old friend has sent a bouquet of flowers from back home to welcome you and remind you that you are loved.