by Maureen McKane, LCSW
Doing nothing can make more time in your life if it is Mindful Meditation.
Instead of resolutions this year, how about something that doesn’t take place in a gym? I’m talking about doing nothing. Officially it is called Mindful Meditation. Really, it is much simpler than its reputation.
Let me tempt you first with why. The one thing no one has enough of is time. Meditation adds time back to your day. It reclaims and adds up the bits of time that we lose by constantly distracting ourselves from the task at hand. After the mind wanders and returns many times we increase the trouble by becoming frustrated. By day’s end, less is acomplished, more expected and we are weary. The whole body feels tense. No wonder we are impatient with traffic or the cries of a toddler.
Meditation, the simple act of emptying the mind, can change that. Just 20 minutes a day can teach the mind and the body to follow a new habit of thinking. One result is better concentration, tasks finished faster.
Here’s how to get started. Sit in a quiet place (phone turned off), a chair is fine, and see how straight you can comfortably sit. Forget yogi positions, that’s for later, if you get enthusiastic. Now slowly pay attention to one thing, your breathing. Don’t control your breath. It’s been finding it’s own pace without your help for a lifetime. As you pay attention to your breathing, start counting. With each exhale count 1 . . . 2 . . . 3. When you reach 10, start at 1 again. Keep going.
Wait! More instructions before you actually start. The point of this is to empty the mind. Most of us, most of the time, are filled with thinking, what some Buddhists call monkey chatter. Did I lock the door? When will that call come in? Don’t forget to pick up the kids. Chatter, chatter. This is what you want to empty out. As you begin to meditate on your breaths you will notice the monkey thoughts come automatically. That is natural, don’t fight them. I like to think of them passing through like butterflies. As each thought arrives, observe it, greet it and let it fly on out. You will see that they gradually come less often. Between them is the space we are seeking to experience. When you wander, simply bring your attention back to breathing, counting. Eventually this will get easy.
That empty space, once you find it, is what it feels like to live in immediate time. No thought linked to the future, no thought of the past. It makes a person notice the smells in the room now, the angle of the light, the temperature of the air and every other present detail. You experience life without judging what is going on. What a relief of tension.
See if you can do this for 5 minutes now. If you come away seeing that it might be possible to calm yourself in this way, then try again tomorrow and see if you can manage 10 minutes. Pretty soon, all you are going to ask of yourself is a daily 20 minutes. People who do this regularly, not for long sittings, but regularly, get improvement in their health as well as their ability to concentrate and have an overall sense of well being.
Give Mindful Meditation a try. In two weeks see if you don’t find it easier to concentrate and be efficient. See if you don’t have less frustration fatigue at day’s end. You can still promise to use the gym. It’s just nice to know that doing nothing can also be an admirable goal.