When You Don’t Have Time to Meditate

I used to meditate all the time in bed. That was when I was raising my daughter, and I’d get her up and off to school, and then I would go back to bed and meditate. And then I would do the same in the evening, and that was very good for that period because I had so many things to juggle as a single mother.
– Alice Walker


Everywhere I go, I still have time to meditate. People think meditating is sitting there, nobody bothering you, but you can even talk and still meditate.
– Jet Li

No doubt, there are obstacles to meditation practice. From not having time to not having discipline enough to stop all of the activity and make time, to actually stopping, sitting, and then falling asleep rather than meditating.

No need to worry.

Our formal practice, that being the time we spend purposefully cultivating the skills that take us into mindful awareness of the present moment, informs daily life. That’s part of its purpose. Even if we haven’t found time for daily practice, we can make use of any moment for developing awareness.

If your thoughts are not where your physical body is, it’s likely that your attention is either in the past or the future. Bring your attention to this moment with a few quick steps:

Quick Steps to Meditating When You Don’t Have Time

1) Notice Where Your Body Is

Keep this simple. Notice if you’re inside or outside. Notice your location relative to other things. Are you at home or at work? Notice the shape your body makes at this moment. Are you sitting, standing, or lying down?

2) Briefly Notice Thoughts or Emotional Qualities

Very simply notice what is here right now. Maybe there is a feeling happiness or sadness, or a mix of these. Perhaps there are thoughts about work or family, or something else. Remember that nothing is turned away or dubbed as “bad” for the purposes of this mindfulness practice. Anything that surfaces is worthy of brief mindful attention.

3) Choose a Point of Focus

Choose a point of focus for just a few seconds or a few minutes. You don’t even need to set a timer. For this practice, stay with each point of focus as long as it’s interesting to you. You could focus on the sunshine on your face or the sensations of your fingers on a keyboard. You could feel each step as you walk, or tune into the sounds around you. Choose something sensory rather than intellectual. One point of focus isn’t better than another so again keep it simple and just tune in.

Why bother?

This exercise interrupts usual habits of being that take us out of our lives and into frenetic and stressed states. When we stop what we are doing and notice what exists around us and within us, our sense of time changes, and our relationship to the activity or point of focus we’re engaging with changes as well.

Like sincerely holding someone rather than doing so while thinking about how we’re late and have to get out the door, the experience of life in that moment is entirely different depending on how we attend to it. And it will be different each time we tune into it, no matter how many times we’ve been there before or may go there again.

So practice interrupting your autopilot self and offer yourself the gift of dropping into the present moment, allowing everything to exist, pushing nothing away, but rather choosing for just a few moments to know what it is to live with presence.

Monica MaurinMonica Maurin has studied mindfulness and Yoga internationally with Sarah Powers of the Insight Yoga Institute, Mindful Schools USA, Sananda Yoga Toronto, and at the University of Toronto. Along with teaching both corporately and in the community, she curates articles for slow + sense and is the director of Mindfulness Training Toronto’s online resources. She develops meditation programs, resources, and CDs, including Mindfulness for the Workday.