If You Have Time to Breathe, You Have Time to Meditate
I was recently talking with a friend who is a very successful business woman, and the conversation led to meditation. She asked me if I meditated.
“Yes,” I said, “I have been meditating for years,”
“It sounds like a wonderful practice, but I simply don’t have the time to meditate. I run a business, I travel a lot, and I’m raising two little kids, and I also have to squeeze in my exercise so I can stay fit. So between my business life and my family life I simply don’t have time to sit down and meditate,” she responded.
I found myself saying to her, “If you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate.”
Right there and then, in a busy, loud New York City restaurant, I showed her how simple it is to meditate.
I started quietly guide her in a meditation, “Close your eyes and put your right hand on your heart and left hand on your belly. Sit comfortably and relax. Slow down your breath and breath in on a count of four…1, 2, 3, 4. Hold your breath for a second, and exhale, 4, 3, 2, 1. Repeat — breath in to the count of four, hold for a second, and exhale to the count of four. As thoughts come in of all the things you need to do, just observe them. The only thing your mind has to do for the next few minutes is to observe the inhalation and the exhalation of your breath. Think of a word you love and you resonate with and start repeating it in your mind over and over, it might be something like, “peace,” “love,” “beauty,” “happy” or “calm.” If you like, you can imagine a place that you love, that relaxes you: a sunset, a sunrise, the ocean, or any landscape that brings you calm. Bring that to your mind, and keep observing the inhalation and exhalation of your breath, slowing down the breath.”
My friend did this for five minutes and we stayed quiet for a few moments. When she opened her eyes she was glowing and looked happy and relaxed.
I said to her, “It is as simple as that. The only thing we have to believe is that we are worthy of our own time and are willing to stop the constant doing and activity, to take a few minutes to disconnect from the world and connect back inside. We have to remember, we are human beings, not human doings.”
The argument that busy people don’t have time to meditate is completely erroneous because some of the busiest and most successful people in the world have made meditate a part of their lives. People like George Stephanopoulos, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Dallo, Russell Simmons, Lena Dunham, Ellen DeGeneres, Paul McCartney, Hugh Jackman, Kobe Bryant, my sister Arianna Huffington, Steve Jobs, Jerry Seinfeld, Katy Perry, Tina Turner, LeBron James, Sting, and many other high achievers have said how much they benefit from meditation. You would agree with me that all of these people must be very busy, yet somehow they make time to meditate. This is because they have found value and are smart to practice what enhances their well-being.
Science has shown the incredible and powerful affects from meditation as a performance enhancement, proving that it helps us shift from the idea that we don’t have enough time and instead makes us feel time abundant. It is one of the greatest practices to help us stay focused, live in the present moment, and have more clarity to be able to discern and prioritize.
The greatest myth about meditation is that we have to stop our minds from thoughts, but that’s simply not true. The mind’s job is to produce thoughts and to keep track on all the things on our to do list. So to attempt to stop your mind and its thoughts is like trying to turn the Titanic around single handedly. When meditating, you must give your mind another job to do, which is to follow your breath. What happens when you start to follow your breath is that you begin to disconnect from your identity in the world, from your attachments, your projects, obligations to your family or work, and then gradually you start to draw your energy back to yourself. Now at first this may feel uncomfortable because everything in the world pulls us like a magnet. As you learn to fall back into yourself and you start elevate, you see how your world identity and perspective shifts. The analogy I like to use is like taking off on an airplane, where little by little everything on the ground looks smaller and smaller until you lose visibility. As we master the practice of doing that it is the most magnificent feeling to experience. When we come out of mediation and back into the world we have a much easier flow to move from one thing to the other feeling more centered. I find that instead being constantly effected by what the outside world brings me, I’m able to influence my day in a much more positive direction. As Kobe Bryant has said, “Meditation helps me clear his mind for the day. Otherwise I feel like I’m chasing the day.”
Another myth that we need to dispel is that meditation is hard. You don’t have to go on a retreat, to a monastery or to the top of the Himalayas to withdraw yourself from the world to become a meditator, and you don’t have to become a monk. The challenge people face is that when they sit quietly and do nothing, they start to feel even more insecure and inadequate. Sure, that can happen, but again, the more we keep at it, the more that feeling starts to dissipate, and in its place we find a deeper calmness, richness, and an inner world that we didn’t even know existed. Meditation is the most incredibly powerful tool to enhance the well-being of our lives, free and available like our own breath. However, we have to take the initiative and keep at it, even when we feel we are not gaining anything. The benefits of meditation become evident with daily practice. Like everything else in life, such as learning a new skill or language, beginning an exercise program, or even learning a musical instrument, meditation can feel daunting at first. But with practice and commitment, it becomes a beautiful experience.
I am a very big advocate of guided meditation. One of my favorite things is to lead people in guided meditations because I find when you are being led, your mind has an easier time relaxing and you have an easier time falling into the calmness of yourself. There are many apps these days that you can experiment with to see which one you like best. It might jump start you until you become more comfortable doing it on your own. Each morning before you jump into your devices and your to do list, start your day with a few minutes of meditating by focusing on gratitude, on the appreciation for the gift of your life and reverence for the miracle of life, and bring your heart into it. You will find that these moments of stillness anchor you for the day.
People have different practices of meditation. Some love Transcendental meditation, some practice yogic breathing, or chant Hindu mantras, and some people just observe their breath. Personally I meditate with repeating the Sanskrit word “Hu”, which means God. I often repeat it out loud because it calms my mind. As I exhale, I say “Hu” It seems to work for me. Find out what works for you.
Whatever you choose, make it something that resonates with you and that ultimately makes you feel more connected to yourself. You will know what works for you. It’s like a shoe that fits. Nobody has to tell you this shoe looks good on you or doesn’t, you just know. As you are running around your day doing a million things, let the voice inside your head nudge you and say “Hey, sit down for five minutes and focus on me.” Return to the part of you that is your ally that can give you more time, energy, clarity, productivity, and inner peace. Meditation is the golden key to your inner citadel. It’s your yellow brick road back home to you. If you are breathing, you have time to meditate.
Don’t overthink it. Don’t compare yourself to how meditation should be done. Don’t second guess yourself or judge it. Meditation is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. Sit down and do it right now and let it do you.
AGAPI STASSINOPOULOS is a best-selling author and speaker who inspires audiences around the world. In her last book, Unbinding the Heart: A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, and Unconditional Love, she shares the wisdom she gained from her life’s adventures and experiences. In her new book, Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life, she takes readers on a journey and inspires them to let go of what doesn’t work and instead create the lives they really want. Agapi was trained in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and then moved on to receive her master’s degree in psychology from the University of Santa Monica. Her previous books on the Greek archetypes, Gods and Goddesses in Love and Conversations with the Goddesses, were turned into PBS specials. She is currently conducting workshops for Thrive Global, a company founded by her sister, Arianna Huffington, to help change the way we work and live. She divides her time between New York and Los Angeles and was born and raised in Athens, Greece.
FIND HER online at www.WakeUptotheJoyofYou.com