Mindfulness for Busy People

Friends always tell me that they really want to learn to meditate, but they don’t have the time. I’m writing this post to say – make the time. If you’re feeling the desire to meditate that is usually a good sign that you need to find some way to create stillness in your life and quiet down. But I get how impossible it can feel to carve out 20 minutes a day to sit on a cushion, so here are a couple of ways to “meditate” that don’t require any new entries on your calendar.

1. Use your mp3 player – most of us spend some time each day in transit. Whether you are in a car, bus or train, use that time to practice mindfulness by listening to guided meditations or an audiobook by a favorite teacher. My iPod is loaded with Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle, and some meditative yoga chants.  It’s the best way I have found to get a quick infusion of some needed mindfulness into my life.

2. Breathe during transitions – throughout your day pause to notice just two or three deep breaths as you transition from one activity to the next. It only takes a few moments to mindfully breathe before you get out of your car, while you are waiting for the elevator, when you are on hold with the cable company . . . You get the drill. Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, suggests allowing the phone to ring three times before you answer. With each ring you have another opportunity to practice mindful breathing.

3. Listen while you walk – whether it is down the hallway or down the street, as you walk try to gently let go of the running stream of thoughts in your mind and focus your attention on the sounds around you. As you listen, notice if the sounds are generating any thoughts, any likes or dislikes, and sweetly bring your attention back to the immediate listening experience. You might be surprised how beautiful a jackhammer can sound when you listen this way.

4. Mindful eating – make your first bite at every meal an opportunity to practice being present. Before you start eating pause and really look at your plate. Notice if you can smell your food. Maybe you are already salivating. Take a moment to just feel the food on your tongue. Can you already taste it? Chew slowly and pay attention to the texture and taste. See if anything changes as you continue to chew. Make the next bite mindful. Or dig in. It’s up to you.

And don’t give yourself a hard time if this is all you can do. Or maybe you can only do one of these things. Only some of the time. Know that the brain works like a muscle. Every time you bring your intention back to mindfulness it’s like doing another rep at the gym. So think of these practices as interval training and know that whatever you can do – it’s all good.

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