What If I Don’t Have Time for Meditation?

The benefits of a regular meditation practice are now widely recognized, thanks to pioneering studies by Harvard researchers and others. Even so, people often ask, “But what if I don’t have time to meditate?” This is such a common concern that it really deserves to be resolved. 

If we take this question on its own terms then quite literally, we are accepting that there is no possible solution. There is simply no time to meditate!

But what if we challenge the presupposition here? — If we don’t automatically accept that there is “no time” or “not enough time” to meditate,, then we can easily recognize that the situation isn’t hopeless. Consider these perspectives:

•  Whether we have “enough time” for anything is a function of how we choose to spend our time. Every day we make choices about what to spend our time doing, and what we will not spend time doing.

•  If we’re not meditating, then clearly we simply are not valuing the choice to spend time meditating over other activities. Let’s meditate on this for a moment.

I “Should” Be Meditating

Are you being influenced by “should’s” and “have to’s”? Do you think you should meditate  to please someone else and not yourself? Without a genuine interest (in anything!) you won’t get very far.

Mindfulness and meditation are trending, with social media fanning public interest in practicing these mind training exercises. Is your motivation for meditating only to join the crowd??

Or, have you tried meditation and decided you can’t do it? I often hear people say, “I couldn’t stop thinking — in fact, my wild thinking seemed to get even  worse while I was meditating!” If so, it’s important to consider . . .

Like many people, you may have learned a mistaken or incomplete notion of what meditation is. First, meditation is not about stopping yourself from thinking, or attaining some special experience that proves you are OK or even “saved.” People new to meditation practice often think that meditation is making them have more thoughts. In reality, being quiet and still — and paying attention to your body, breath and mind — simply makes you more aware of how many thoughts you’ve been having all along! The fact that you have a multitude of thoughts is nothing new. What’s new is that, when you meditate, you notice these thoughts flowing through your mind.

The Myth of “Good Meditation”

Most meditators have had this thought many times during a single session: Am I doing it right?”But there is no “right” experience of meditation. We want to “succeed” at being a “good meditator.” But real meditation is just “meeting” yourself (“Hello” with a smile) and being with yourself just as you are, moment by moment. 

Real meditation is practice, not perfection. It’s about staying with a felt sense of yourself instead of  going off into distracted thinking and daydreams. And when you notice you have gone off, you simply come back –– no harm, no foul. Just come back to yourself in a friendly way . . . and renew your interest in the experience of breathing and being alive, moment by moment.

There is no such thing as an objectively “good” or “bad” meditation. You might enjoy some sessions more than others, but no meditation is “better” than another. 

Meditation Is Taking Time for a Miracle

It is truly a miracle that you exist at all. What are the odds? Meditation is simply taking time to be interested in this fact –– not as an intellectual speculation, but as a growing felt-sense awareness of literally being birthed by life.  

Isn’t it amazing? Moment by moment, breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat . . .  it’s all a gift! Meditation is getting interested in how you relate to the miracle that you exist.

As you meditate, you begin to appreciate more and more that this miraculous gift of life and conscious intelligence forms the basis of everything else in your life as well. You naturally become more interested in gaining a stronger and stronger appreciation of the gift of life. You also grow less and less interested in being distracted by, and wasting time on, superficial thoughts.

What kind of thought is a superficial time-waster? Any thought that prevents you from experiencing the sweetness of contacting your aliveness, simply and directly. 

You start to notice, the more you meditate, that this simple contact with yourself makes you feel better emotionally, clearer mentally, and more energized physically. Then you can easily choose to make time to meditate because you want to continue unfolding your experience of the benefits of being with yourself.

3 Ways to Make Time for Meditation

Of course, we’re not really talking about “making time” That’s a little silly. Time is a mental construct, so essentially we can “make” as much of it as we want! But here are some ways you can make time to meditate. They will help you choose  your own good times for meditation.

1. Meditate for a few moments when you first wake up and just before you go to bed. These are great times to meditate because they tend to be gaps when you are more relaxed and not fully engaged in speedy, distracted mind states.

2. Stop often during the day, for 30 seconds or so, to relax as best you can and breathe and feel your body. This counts as meditation! Try doing this on the hour every hour –– it will change your whole experience of your day.

3. Pick a regular special place in your home for regular daily meditation. You can start with short sessions, maybe 10 or 20 minutes, and build up from there as your body and mind become familiar with meditation practice.

It is easy to make time to meditate. All you have to do is give up a little of the time and energy you usually put into creating distractions, worries and drama in your life! Relax, breathe, and consider the miracle that you exist, that everything exists along with you, and that all of this is taking place in endless variety and with such brilliant qualities. Enjoy!