“Meditation is about creating inner space, In absolute spaciousness, you will start feeling something mysterious which surrounds you, which is everywhere inside, outside, within, without.” -Osho
So I have a confession: Up until a few days ago, I hadn’t meditated in weeks. And I was definitely feeling the effects of not taking time to slow down and be still. I could feel that internal buzz that happens when the balance between doing and being gets out of whack. We’ve all been there, right? For me, the past few weeks have been so full of really good things and I haven’t been saying no enough, I haven’t been keeping my physical space clear, I haven’t been making time for stillness. I know sometimes for folks it feels more like there are too many responsibilities, too many people needing things from us, too much to do, to take time for stillness.
We live in a culture that tells us if we’re not being productive, we’ll fall behind, that more is always better, and that there’s never enough. It’s hard not to get caught up in this current of energy. I say that so that we can all give ourselves a good dose of compassion around how tough it can be to create space, slow down, do things where there is no tangible outcome. It’s not easy to pause when it appears that everyone around us is working, producing, and creating non-stop.
But I’ll tell you something you probably already know—spending all of our time in doing and being busy is not sustainable. In a culture where there’s never enough, productivity/doing does not equal happiness, it equals burnt out. When things are out of balance we end up feeling overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted, depressed and eventually perhaps physically sick.
That said, I know how hard it can be to take time to meditate or create some space in your day when you’re so busy. I’m right there with you. A few days ago I had several open hours in my schedule and was feeling that internal sense of pressure around everything I had to accomplish. I knew that what I needed most in that moment was to take some time to slow down, to sit still, but everything in my body was telling me to hurry up, get going with things—responding to emails, finishing notes, writing my blog, updating my books, creating this ecourse, researching iphones and EMFs, etc. You know the feeling, right? And honestly, many times this impulse to get started ‘doing’ wins out. But not on this day.
So I paused and set my laptop aside, set my timer for 10 minutes (20 minutes felt like a little more time than I could relinquish that afternoon!) and pressed start.
I sat there and wriggled around trying to get comfortable for the first few minutes. I crumpled up the pillow to stuff it lower behind my back. I took some deep breaths. I started to think about what I might write about in my blog this month—there is part of me that is so good at using time productively. Then I noticed I was thinking so I took a breath and set that down, let that thought go. A few minutes later I found myself caught up in thoughts about my blog again and then set those down too. Much of my practice that afternoon was spent getting caught up in thoughts for a few seconds, and then setting them down and waiting for the next thought. As time went by, though, I began to notice more space between the thoughts. Something had begun to shift. I no longer felt that sense of pressure. I was no longer thinking about my blog or what I had to accomplish that day. I felt a sense of inner spaciousness.
Shortly thereafter the meditation bell sounded and I noticed I just wanted to stay, I didn’t want to leave this still place. I sat there for a few more moments just taking in the experience—how different I felt from 10 minutes prior when I couldn’t get comfortable, couldn’t sit still.
So the reason I’m telling you this story is twofold: a) because I think sometimes we have the idea that meditation is like this Zen thing where we create a comfy space and sit down and feel at peace. But sometimes it’s the exact opposite, we sit down and are squirming around internally the whole freakin’ time and sometimes we don’t even get to that still place. Sometimes it’s really hard. But the practice is not just about getting to the still place. It’s also about staying on the cushion even when it’s hard. And b) to illustrate that it IS possible to find that still place amidst all of the activity and pressure. We don’t have to wait until xy and z are taken care of to rest. We can build this ability of dropping into a sense of spaciousness in any moment. It’s a practice though.
For those of you new to meditation, here are a few basic instructions:
- Find a comfortable seated position (could be on a cushion or in a chair—whatever is most comfortable)
- You can choose a focus point for your attention like a mantra or your breath or you can simply notice what’s present, e.g., sensations, emotions, sensory awareness (Vipassana)
- Watch your breath or present moment experience as if you’re standing on the bank of a river watching leaves float by
- When you notice you’ve gotten caught up in a thought process, e.g., thinking about your plans for the day, simply set those thoughts down and notice what’s present again (or return to your breath or mantra)
There are some great apps with timers and guided practices out there. Here are several that I like/have heard good things about: Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace.
I’ve found that when I’m meditating regularly, it’s easier for me to create space in other ways in my day. For example, it’s easier to choose to go on a walk during my break rather than scrolling facebook. I’m more apt to make eye contact and connect with others throughout the day. I rush less. I set healthier boundaries. I take time to pause and notice my surroundings. I’m more efficient. I’m more engaged and present with my family. So even if your practice itself doesn’t seem to drop you into that resting place, it will have a ripple effect. Because each time you sit, notice a thought, and then let it go (even if it only happens once!), you are intentionally stepping out of the current. You are aligning yourself with the idea that stillness is important. And in those magic moments, you actually drop into that still place and find peace.
Invitation: Sit for 10minutes/day for the next week. Notice any differences in your choices, interactions, mood, energy, and thoughts throughout the day and especially towards the end of the week. Record what you notice so that you can remind yourself. Regardless of whether you notice any differences, congratulate yourself for making the choice to get out of the current each day.
Affirmation: I value stillness (as much as productivity).