I’d Meditate…if I Only Had The Time
The most common thing people say to me when the topic of meditation comes up is, “I know I should, but…” The excuses pour out until the logical part of their brain kicks in and the realization occurs that the only thing keeping one from meditating is oneself. It is easy to give excuses, and the number one excuse to not do anything, especially to meditate, is time — or lack there of.
I learned the technique of Transcendental meditation in March of 2011, when my boss at the time gifted me the training. As I recall his words were, “you have a stressful job, Shane! You should meditate”. I appreciated his awareness and thought it ironic: yes my job was stressful and that was largely due to said boss. However, I had always wanted to learn to meditate and found the mysticism and history behind the practice fascinating.
I learned Transcendental Meditation through the David Lynch Foundation by an unbelievably gentle, passionate and nurturing meditation teacher named Donielle “Puki” Freeberg. Over the course of the four day training she taught me the background, the uses, and the actual practice of Transcendental Meditation — a surprisingly simple and easy process of sitting in silence and repeating a mantra to oneself for twenty minutes, twice a day.
I began meditating somewhat regularly. Somewhat. Not twice a day, but usually at least once. Daily became weekly, and weekly became whenever I could fit it in or whenever I felt like cooling off and enjoying some stillness. Instead of it becoming a daily habit like brushing my teeth, it became more of a trip to the beach — something too many of us Los Angeles folk do on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, even though we live just a few minutes from the ocean. Another example of perceived lack of time, keeping us from the dipping our toes into serenity.
Three years after learning the TM method, my world was turned upside down, and my sense of security and stability were in disarray. It was as if I were walking through an action movie with elements of the life I knew crashing down around me. My parents had decided to split up after thirty years of marriage (building toppling over), my boss who had gifted me my meditation course decided to move the company and my job to London (a loose car tire flinging by my head), me and my girlfriend of four plus years were going through a tricky breakup (a fallen helicopter chopping into the ground before me), and I was left alone. No apartment, no job, no partner, no place or sense of purpose. I was as lost as lost as could be, standing before the ruins of the destroyed cityscape that had once been my controlled reality.
So one day, on a friend’s couch that I was using as a bed, I sat down, set my timer to twenty minutes, closed my eyes in a comfortable seated position, breathed lightly and began to repeat my mantra in my head. Twenty minutes later the timer went off and I slowly opened my eyes.
I know you are probably waiting for the moment where I saw God, the epic “a-ha” once I opened my eyes. That was not the case. Instead, I simply felt calm. I noticed the silence. I noticed the clarity and crisp presence of the room and everything around me. There was a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt amongst the chaos of my life, and here it was — so simple, so easy, and so attainable. All I needed to tap into it was 1) a place to sit and 2) twenty minutes of time. From that moment on I began to make meditation — and the time to meditate — a priority, and it has changed my life in the most beautiful way I could have imagined.
Meditation is like physical exercise. Sometimes you go to a spin class and you barely break a sweat. It feels like you “didn’t get a good workout”. Other days you go to a light yoga class and you’re sore for days. The point is that not one class or one hour of exercise will make you healthy, in shape, or lose weight. It is about the cumulative effect. Over time, you will get stronger, healthier, and more connected to your body. The same is true with meditation. Some meditation sessions will give you a glimpse of what has been described as pure consciousness. Other times you are simply sitting with your eyes closed reciting all the crappy things that have happened to you that week on a loop. But both experiences are building toward the cumulative. It’s a practice, after all.
If the benefits are so powerful as well as attainable, why is it that so many people simply “cannot” meditate?
A little over a year ago I interviewed for a job. It was an office job, very nice salary, at an influential and esteemed company. During each round of interviews I told the person who was interviewing me, “I want to let you know that every afternoon at some point I will need to take twenty minutes to meditate.” I offered to stay twenty minutes later at the end of each day to make up the time, but remained firm in my conviction.
While some of you might assume an employer would not only oppose this request, but that the request itself would interfere with getting hired, in fact the opposite occurred. I was met with intrigue from the curious minds of human beings who, like many, were interested in meditation. I got the job.
Over the course of my employment for that company, not only did I keep to my daily meditations (finding my sanctuary in any vacant office, conference room, bathroom or closet I could find) but I even had several other employees join me on occasion to get their own time for peace.
Meditation does not change or fix everything, nor does it make us happy-go-lucky 24/7. But it helps, and just as the more often you lift the weights, the stronger the muscles become. The more you meditate, the greater the cumulative benefits. One of the strongest of those benefits is that in the remainder of your day you will be more alert, more focused, and more present.
All this to say: You have the time. Yes, you! If you don’t have the time now, you can make the time. Wake up twenty minutes earlier! Meditation gives us a deep rest that is comparable, and sometimes deeper than deep sleep. Another time-hack is to take the twenty minutes you would spend scrolling social media, browsing Netflix, watching strangers’ dogs and babies on YouTube or procrastinating at work and implement a meditation practice. One will reward you much greater than the other.
Bridgewater CEO and self-made billionaire, Ray Dalio, once said in a Q&A — “I meditate for twenty minutes a day. Unless I have a busy day, [then] I meditate for forty minutes.” The return on investment you receive from that time spent is insurmountable.
I urge you to make YOU a priority. Your mind, your sense of being, your awareness — it is the most important thing you have. It is the essence of your existence. Treat it with the respect and attention it deserves. Physical exercise is important. Brushing your teeth is important. Taking care of your brain is essential.
More excuses may be pouring out after this read — “My boss would never go for this!” Try them. Ask. You may get the answer you are looking for. And if you don’t, be creative. Instead of sitting on the toilet for those extra minutes and killing time looking on Instagram, take even five minutes to meditate in the bathroom. There are tons of apps like Headspace, or Calm, or Buddhify where you can be guided through how to meditate. Or there are books like Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton or Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, filled with dozens of easy and accessible meditations that you could do in the front seat of your parked car or at your desk.
The funny thing about time is that when you are wasting it, you never feel as though it’s in jeopardy. And when you want more of it, you worry about its limit. Make the most of your being, of your consciousness, of your experience living this life by infusing it with the beauty of time. Take a little to gain a lot. Twenty minutes to give you an even better twenty-three-hours-and-forty-minute day.