We’ve hit the magical and all-too-brief lull between back-to-school and the landslide of holidays that begins at Halloween and ends sometime next April. It’s tempting to rev up the to-do list in these quiet(er) few weeks or zip off for the weekend, and if projects and road trips fuel you, then bon voyage! But if your brain and schedule are calling for calm, then let this transitional time of year be an opportunity to infuse a few more breaks into your day. If you add in some meditation, prayer, or just a few designated silent moments to your days now, it will be habit by the time the holiday rush starts.
And think of how lovely it will be to greet the crowds, the credit card charges and the extended-family dinners with some more serenity than usual! Here’s how to find time to meditate today.
On the subway to work
Think how different a 20-minute ride on a crowded train, waiting for a bus or walking a mile to work could be if you directed positive thoughts toward the commuters around you rather than silently cussing at the slow walkers, the guy who keeps bumping into you or the messenger who just cut you off on her bike.
Buddhist monk and author Pema Chodron encourages us to put goodwill out to the world while we are otherwise going about our business. In “No Time to Lose,” she writes:
“The next time you go out in the world, you might try this practice: directing your attention to people—in their cars, on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones—just wish for them all to be happy and well. Without knowing anything about them, they can become very real, by regarding each of them personally and rejoicing in the comforts and pleasures that come their way. Each of us has this soft spot: a capacity for love and tenderness. But if we don’t encourage it, we can get pretty stubborn about remaining sour.”
Choose one day a week or one leg of your daily commute to wish goodness for the people you pass. Plug in any affirmations, podcasts or music that will put you in the frame of mind. Worried a sour mood or lack of caffeine will keep you from following through? Remember that wishing goodwill could put you in a better state of mind, and that you don’t need to already be there to start.
Every time an emergency vehicle passes you by, take a moment to send healing thoughts to the people in need of help, for peace to their families as they stand by in support, to wish safety for the drivers and to ask guidance for the paramedics, doctors and others who will tend to those who are ailing. If you are not the praying kind, center on an image of protection — a soft yellow light, a warm blanket, an armor — or direct your meditation toward an embracing universe rather than a higher power. Extend this meditation as you drive by hospitals, walk past firehouses or see someone pulled over by the police as a nod of gratitude for those who work to keep us safe.
Facebook update meditation
Before social networks, we communicated births, deaths, illnesses and concerns through prayer pages in church bulletins, announcements over the intercom and telephone trees. Today, we see that news every time we refresh Facebook or Twitter. Breathe in and then release the emotion of these updates, sending thoughts of love out as you exhale. Be mindful if you are feeling overwhelmed, and rather than take on the feelings of the friend who has updated, let your anxieties flutter out with your breath. If responding with a momentary meditation adds up to too much for you over the course of the day, reserve one round of inhales and exhales as you log on or log off.
Choose an evening ritual, like putting cream on your face before bed, and turn it into a moment to center yourself. Choose a product or light a candle with a calming scent such as lavender or rose. As you put on your moisturizer, pull your fingertips across your forehead, focusing on gratitude for a wise mind. Gently circle your eyes, with gratitude for eyes that look on with kindness. Cover your cheeks, with thanks for moments of laughter and bliss. Add in your own variations — work lotion into your hardworking hands, run a brush through hair that shines because of plentiful and nutritious food, circle a belly full of stretch marks in gratitude for the babies you’ve born.
Many of us tap away at our keyboards inside cubicles all day, making it uncomfortable to stretch out in downward dog or impossible to head outside for more than a few minutes at lunch time. Find your way around restricted space and time by closing your laptop, doing a few body-adjusting neck stretches and wrist rotations, and then closing your eyes and gently rubbing your temples, scalp, palms of your hands and fingertips. Focus on the blood flowing to these overworked parts of your body. If it is a noisy environment, take note of the sound of the phone and the bells as computers reboot, then return to quieting your mind. Try this for two minutes and if you are able, work your way to more times or more little breaks throughout the day.
How have you found time to make your mind still, even when your body and schedule are moving at a fast pace?