Find the Time to Practice - Fitting Meditation In
“But I just cannot sit for more than 5 minutes!”
I’ve heard this a lot, from friends, from clients and I’ve even uttered these words myself plenty of times over the years. I have gone through periods where I couldn’t sit for more than 2 minutes at a time. Please know you are not alone in having a tough time getting started with your meditation practice or continuing with your mediation practice in this specific way.
What I’ve found to be behind this statement is the underlying misconception that having a mindfulness or meditation practice is about clearing one’s mind of thoughts. All of a sudden you’ll just magically be transported to the Land of No Thought. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Our brains, on a base level, are wired for survival. So it is no big surprise that if you intentionally try to quiet your mind it could very well go into hyper vigilance or decide that right now is the best time to rehash the “stupid” thing you said in that meeting last week. Thinking is just what the mind does whether we want it to or not. It is a thinking and doing machine. Asking of it to be a being machine is a whole other ballgame. The goal of establishing a sitting practice is not to clear one’s mind of thought. The fun part is trying to catch yourself even having a thought! A wise teacher once told me to think of my thoughts like a train coming through a station. That train will just keep coming many times a day. My goal is not to stop the train from coming but instead to, when I can, be able to step onto the platform and watch the train (re: thoughts) pass me by. Is this easy? HELL NO. Is it worth the adventure? HELL YES.
As far as Western culture [re: North America] is concerned, sitting and being still is a huge waste of productive time. You could be cleaning, organizing, out with friends, planning a party, getting MORE DONE. Why would anyone CHOOSE to just sit still?! Nobody has time for that.
And here we are back at the trouble with finding time to hone a mindfulness practice. Herein is the key: It is a PRACTICE. There is not necessarily a time when you’ll reach some magical no thought goal and then be done with it. And trust me, you do have time. When you were first learning how to do addition and subtraction did you start with borrowing, carrying and 4 digit numbers? No. You practiced with small numbers until you got it right.
A mindfulness practice is the same way. You start where you are and build. When I first began trying a formal sitting practice I began with one minute.
I’ve fallen off the sitting train PLENTY of times throughout the years. When I do, I come back to 1 minute sits. (Ssssshhhhh don’t tell anybody sometimes I do it while I am lying down and not contorting my legs into a serene lotus position).
There is no shame in doing what you can when you can. Start with a minute for months if you have to and then add another. Set yourself up for success!