“I really should meditate every day,” a friend told me over coffee recently. “But I’m just too busy!”
She went on to explain how, with a toddler at home and a busy life at work, she can’t find the time to light the incense, center herself and spend an hour on the cushion every day. So, she admitted guiltily, she wasn’t meditating at all.
I get it, I really do. We put such pressure on ourselves, and we don’t have to. Meditation doesn’t have to be a big production. Sure, it’s nice to have a big chunk of time in a quiet, peaceful place to sit and meditate, but that’s not always possible. So exhale, relax, and do what is possible.
3 Quick-and-Easy Techniques to Bring Meditation
into Your Day, Every Day
1. Short Times, Many Times
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist lama, a meditation master and the bestselling author of The Joy of Living and Joyful Wisdom. Mingyur Rinpoche encourages us to make use of the many opportunities we have throughout the day to meditate.
He says “short times, many times” can be the goal, rather than one long, uninterrupted practice. This allows us to integrate mindfulness into even the busiest of days.
Taking a shower, driving to work, waiting in line at the grocery store – these are perfect times for daily meditation! All you need is awareness of the present moment. Slow down. Breathe. Even for just a few moments, bring your awareness inward.
Watch your breath. In, out … in, out. See if you can watch your breath for ten cycles. While you’re doing this, your mind might be racing with thoughts: “don’t forget to go the bank tomorrow … my toe hurts from where I stubbed it the other day … must prepare for this important presentation at work … why is it snowing in May? … that guy over there reminds me of my flute instructor in elementary school … I’m hungry for macadamia nuts …” and on and on and on, your mind churning out thoughts.
Don’t worry about making your mind quiet. Just watch. Don’t chase after your thoughts, just let them come and go. The part of you that’s watching quietly? That’s meditation.
The more you do this “short times, many times” practice, the easier it will be to find that quiet space within yourself — a refuge that’s always waiting for you during a busy day.
2. Relax Into Essence Love
Mingyur Rinpoche’s brother, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, is also a renowned Buddhist teacher and bestselling author. His latest book, Open Heart, Open Mind, invites us to focus on the transformative power of “essence love.”
“Do you want to experience a taste of essence love?” Tsoknyi Rinpoche asks. “Just close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. What is it you wish for? Don’t think about it, just feel it. Chances are you feel a wish to return to a period of peace, calmness and well-being . . . . Relax . . . Relax . . . until you sense some small spark of well-being, or what might be called ‘okayness.’”
As you relax and breathe, pay attention to your chest (you may feel a warmth in your heart) and to your forehead (you may feel a gentle loosening of tension there). This is a taste of essence love: a small, bright experience of okayness.
This simple practice takes just a minute or two. It’s especially helpful when you’re having a difficult day.
3. Take a Straight Look
Pema Chodron is another bestselling author and beloved meditation guide, teaching in the Shambhala tradition. In When Things Fall Apart, Chodron writes about how we must “take a straight look” at our negative emotions.
Usually, we turn away from our own negativity. We’re desperate to escape those nasty feelings and move on to a happier moment. It’s totally understandable. But it doesn’t work. “We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there,” Chodron writes. “It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our basic sanity arises.”
Chodron suggests this approach: “Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do.”
So the next time you’re sad or angry or anxious, rather than pushing those emotions away, simply sit with them. Look at them. Breathe.
If you’re really hurting, consider exploring tonglen meditation: the practice of compassion.
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