We have busy lives and it can be hard to find the time even for important things. Call it self-care (or Self-care?), putting God first, or anything else — we each have a need for deeper inner peace, and it is one all-too-easily neglected.
With a pre-schooler, and a second baby on the way, this is something I think about and also struggle with — how do I find the time to seek that peace?
Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful on how to carve out the time in your life for meditation. They’ll be useful whether you are just starting to meditate or looking to bring an established practice to a new level.
Make sure also to read through to the comments to see what tips others may have.
Set a minimum… and an absolute minimum
A friend once gave me the good advice to always have a minimum amount of meditation, something I won’t do less than. However, for a long time the flag of that minimum flew in tatters on the wind of parenting. Only now am I really putting a new minimum into place again.
Even so, I don’t think I’ve ever completely missed a day of meditation. That’s because I have an absolute minimum — the least amount I will allow myself to do. It’s still something, enough to keep the spark alive until the next day, or the next longer meditation, and to hold the place for the habit of meditation.
What’s the minimum amount that you’d like to do every day? A nice thing about having one is that if you notice that you haven’t hit it for (say) three days in a row, it’s a sign that something probably needs to change. You can use that opportunity to do some re-thinking and make more time in your day.
Meditate every day at the same bat-time, same bat-place
When I was a kid, I used to love the Batman TV show with Adam West. At the end of every episode, the narrator would say, “Join us again next time at the same bat-time, same bat-channel!” Same time and place, in other words. Well, those are two of the key ingredients for creating patterns in our lives. The Batman show was helping impressionable young minds develop questionable habits, but we can use the same approach to make it easier to meditate more.
Set aside a time for meditation. This helps us naturally feel like meditating when that time rolls around. And having a consistent place — ideally a separate room or a screened-off portion of one — means that we have somewhere for the peaceful vibration of meditation to build up.
Without a set time and place, it is more difficult to have a dynamic daily practice. So, spend a few minutes thinking about the best time in your schedule. See what other routines you have that you can stack the habit on top of (probably in the morning or evening, or before mealtimes).
Take a class and (re-)energize your practice with attention to the basics
One of the things that I appreciate about the way we share meditation at Ananda — the way Paramhansa Yogananda shared it — is that there are a lot of supporting exercises that, while not themselves meditation techniques, make deep meditation easier to do. And like so many things, if it’s easier and more rewarding, it’s easier to find the time for it.
A few examples are:
- Practicing the Energization Exercises before meditation (it takes energy to meditate well)
- Using the right index finger in the beginning of the Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration
- Taking a few minutes for pranayama before the meditation techniques
There are many others as well. If you aren’t familiar with them, may I recommend the 10-week online class Ananda Course in Meditation.
Or if you’ve been meditating a long time, teach a class. That’s what I’m doing these days, and it’s very helpful. You get to be reminded not only of the fine points and the supporting practices but also motivated by the interest and enthusiasm of the students. (If you want training in how to teach meditation, we have an excellent Meditation Teacher Training program.)
Meditate longer once a week
This is a bit of a cheat code for when you don’t have time for long meditations each day. If you just have one day a week when you meditate longer — say, at least twice as long as normal — you’ll get some of the benefits of that longer, deeper, meditation time throughout the week. Your soul will remember what it feels like to be closer to God.
In this, I’m reminded of what Swami Kriyananda said, “The more you meditate, the more you will want to meditate.” I’ve experienced that so many times in my own life.
It can be harder, of course, to find a large block of time for meditation. This is an example of when finding time isn’t enough — we have to make the time. Add it to your calendar in advance and protect it from the weeds of encroaching commitments. Longer times of meditation and seclusion are precious opportunities to be more with God — they are a gift we give ourselves.
Meditation makes time for itself
I don’t know exactly how this works, but it does work! One of the interesting things about meditation is that when you meditate more, the non-essentials in life — what Paramhansa Yogananda called “fillers” — tend to fall away, and you find that you are more productive with your time. Because of this, meditation has a way of making time for itself; it’s not just another thing on top of everything else.
If your schedule is not opening up of its own accord, however, it may mean that you have to put out the concentrated energy to carve out the time. The simplest thing I suppose would be to wake up a bit earlier in the morning or stay up a bit later at night, but you may have to get more creative than that. Take advantage, as Swami Kriyananda has recommended, of tuning into the silent times between activities. Take even just a few minutes to relax and practice a technique or simply appreciate the miracle of the breath.
Never give up
I saved the most important thing for last: Never give up. The more you try, the more you will succeed. Even if you take just one suggestion from this blog post and apply it, even if you only commit to trying it for a single month, that is a step forward. Do what you can. Meditation is the best investment you can make in your future.
We all have dry periods, and sometimes have to be creative with how to keep lit the lamp of divine aspiration. For a time we may emphasize devotion, chanting, and uplifting music — or perhaps we focus more on spiritual reading, or on service, while still keeping some time for meditation each day. There is always something we can try. As Paramhansa Yogananda said, “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” Don’t let more time go by without making a deeper commitment to your higher Self.
What do you do to help you find more time to meditate? What would you like to try next? We’d love to hear your comments and ideas below, and I’m sure others would find it helpful, too.