How to Find Time for Meditation and Stick with It Long Enough to Matter
Finding time for meditation is difficult only until you do it regularly.
Of all excuses that I’ve heard from people to not meditate, “I don’t have time” is the most popular one. We can’t find 10–20 minutes a day to meditate but we can easily:
- Sleep-in for an hour
- Check Instagram 20 times a day
- Watch a movie during lunch that stretches to an hour
...and countless other things that we waste time on while still thinking that our meditation excuses have some truth to them.
There’s popular Zen saying that you should meditate for 15 minutes but if you don’t have 15 minutes, you should meditate for an hour. In other words, if your life is so hectic that you can’t find 15 minutes for yourself, maybe you should step back and take a harsh look at your priorities.
It’s a sign that you need to pause and reflect to ask why taking care of your mind and mental health has taken such a backstep.
Often we think being productive and getting more done means being “on” all the time. That the more work you put in, the more you’ll achieve. Yet, it’s true only to some extent. After a point, your productivity drastically declines. At which point you’re just wasting your time pushing forward.
Humans are made to work and pursue meaningful goals. But they’re not made to work all the time. As Stephen Covey will tell you, working too much will blunt the saw and you need time to sharpen it.
So how can you expect to manage the stresses of life when you’re overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions all the time? How can you perform at your best when your mind is not where it needs to be? Further, is life worth living if you get your work done but don’t feel emotionally and spiritually uplifted?
If you sincerely ask these questions, you’ll realize how stupid our excuses are. Psychologists from Harvard University found that people spend almost 47 percent of their waking hours lost in thought. This perennial mind-wandering is the cause of unhappiness. If left to its whims and fancies, the mind ruminates on the past, the future, and the negatives but never on the present or the positives.
Meditation helps you solve all these problems and many more. You can actually rewire your brain to make compassion your second nature and improve decision-making.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because ultimately “I don’t have time to meditate” means “It’s not a priority” which means “I don’t think it’s beneficial.”
To make something a part of your routine, you need to be sold on its merits. And you need to love doing it — which will only happen if you do it regularly.
You need research and testimonials from others to motivate yourself to start meditating. Once you see those results for yourself, you’ll not need anyone else to tell you. I went through the same process myself. And now after 2–3 years of meditation, I don’t care what someone else says about meditation, I know from experience that it works.
Until you know that from experience too, here are the few tips you can use to find time for meditation in your day.
The Best Time to Meditate
There’s not the best time to meditate. Any time is a good time. But, the morning works well for most people I know or have read about.
The mornings are the least distractive and you have the most willpower to sit down for meditation. As the day progresses, things come up and you’re much less likely to meditate. Some people like to do it in the evening (I do it both morning and evening). Yet again, it’s too easy to give it up in the evening owing to tiredness, exhaustion, and a plethora of other reasons.
The Bhagavad Gita says “What all beings consider as day is the night of ignorance for the wise, and what all creatures see as night is the day for the introspective sage.”
The exoteric and crude meaning of this phrase is simply that yogis meditate when the whole world sleeps (late at night or early in the morning) since these are the times of least distraction.
Meditating in the morning is also a remarkable way to start the day. People’s mornings are a blend of restlessness and stress to catch up with the day. This puts them one step behind right from the start. With the calmness you experience in meditation, you can better plan your day and be on top of it being confident to face any challenge.
If mornings don’t work for you, then try to find a time with the least distractions that you’ll know you’ll not skip.
Same Time Same Place
By meditating at the same time in the same place, you make it easier for yourself to establish the habit.
Ralph De La Rosa, author of The Monkey is the Messenger: Meditation and What Your Busy Mind is Trying to Tell You says:
“There are so many obstacles involved with meditation, a dedicated space moves some of them out of the way,” Ralph says. “We know when we engage with a habit with consistency, the brain gets the message and sinks into it more easily. If you sit down in the same place or around the same time, your body and neural network will learn this is when we do that thing where we calm down for a while and go within.”
Creating a meditation space also adds a bit of excitement to the whole process because you look forward to going to it every day. Over time, when you meditate consistently in that space, it will be filled with a meditative mood and suitable vibrations. You’ll find yourself getting calmer automatically as you enter your sacred space.
Have Backup Plans
It’s important to be flexible with your practice to ensure consistency. Life is full of ups and downs and things will happen outside of your plan. In these cases, don’t be tempted to skip your practice thinking “It’s only fair!”
Instead, find other times or places to meditate beforehand. In all my years of practice, there never has been a time when I missed my morning meditation. I might have made it shorter or woke up a little earlier. (Another advantage of meditating in the morning).
But if I had to skip my meditation in the evening for some reason, I know that I can still meditate before bed, even if I sacrifice a little bit of sleep.
Having these alternatives in my mind ensures that I don’t miss my practice at any point in time.
Don’t Have Unrealistic Expectations
Often we enter into meditation with unrealistic expectations thinking that it will melt away all our problems in just a few weeks. Far from it!
Meditation is not mechanical in the result it gives. Some results come rather quickly and others take a long time. Further, the path is different for everyone.
Ergo, having expectations is a recipe for failure. It’s almost certain that your experience will be different from your expectation which can cause you to be dissatisfied and give up altogether.
Don’t judge whether you’re ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because in meditation, we aim to transcend this duality of life. We just are as we are. Take it one day at a time and don’t be discouraged if you’re going through a ‘dry’ period.
Get a Friend or a Community
Find a friend, a meditation group, or a community that teaches meditation. Not only will you learn the right techniques but you’ll also have friends and teachers to keep you accountable.
In the modern world, it can be difficult to continue our meditative practices if no one in our social circle does it. If anything, they’ll try to get you away from it. Thus, it’s crucial to have the right company.
A friend or a community provides much-needed support and lends you an ear when you want to share an experience or ask a question.
Finding time for meditation is difficult only until you do it regularly. Once you’re past the initial phases, it becomes a habit too good to leave.
Many long-time practitioners I know can’t imagine their lives without meditation. It’s indeed a powerful tool. But you have to give it time to do its magic.
Don’t rob it of its effectiveness without giving it a sincere try. And it all starts with finding time to do it every day and sticking with it no matter what.