I keep hearing the phrase: “… is my meditation”.
For the “…” you can insert running, walking, baking, knitting and a myriad of other things. But the hard truth is that unfortunately there really is no substitute for actual meditation.
All of the above things can indeed be meditative, as well as mindful and relaxing, but they are not the same as taking the time to actually meditate. I’m a huge fan of a mix of formal and informal practices, but to get the real benefit of meditation, the formal does need to be part of this.
That said, I also totally appreciate that it can feel difficult to fit meditation in on top of everything else and so non-meditation mindful activities can be a really important route in. But I also want to share a little of my own journey and how I created a place and space in my life for meditation.
My own meditation journey
My own meditation journey hasn’t exactly been in a straight line. As I always say in my meditation sessions, I dipped in and out of meditation for many years. I’d even been exposed to meditation when I was at school so it certainly wasn’t anything foreign – and I even knew it made me feel pretty good.
I also experienced lots of different forms of meditation through years of practising tai chi and qi qong. But this was once a week or so. Even ‘knowing’ I would benefit from daily meditation, it just seemed yet another thing to add to my to do list.
The truth in my own situation is that it was actually a series of things over a period of time that finally convinced me I had to at least give more regular meditation a go, even for a few months. I attended a few different mindfulness and wellbeing events, had recommendations from a therapist, kept reading about the importance of meditation and was experiencing spiralling physical issues with my Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I decided to try some recorded meditations from UCLA that had been suggested, and did this a few times a week. Not long after this I started working for myself; I quickly realised being self-employed can actually be quite stressful so if I wanted to stay on top of things I needed to up my meditation game.
But when was the right time to meditate?
On looking at my days I’d noticed the first thing I often did when I woke up was turn off my phone alarm and start scrolling through emails or news. And this was not something that made me feel good. It therefore seemed a natural time to swap in a little meditation instead. This also meant I wasn’t trying to add mystery time to my day; it was time I already had but wasn’t using very well.
Through trialling this I also realised quite quickly that the morning is the best time for me to meditate as I tend to wake with a head full of to-dos and meditation helped calmed this a little.
That’s now about 5 years ago and my morning meditation is still the first thing I do most mornings without even thinking about it (including whether I want to do it as I don’t even ask myself the question). It’s now a fairly ingrained habit – so much so that I really notice the difference on mornings I don’t meditate.
How to make time for meditation
Making time for meditation of course starts with you deciding you actually want to meditate.
Meditation is not the only thing you can do to look after your health and wellbeing, and you might even decide that you need to start by focussing on your physical health or sleep quality first – and that’s totally okay.
However if you’ve recognised that meditation could help you – or it’s been strongly suggested by a medical professional that you could benefit from it – this is for you.
My first suggestion is to look very honestly at your time from the moment you wake up. You might even like to track it in detail for a few days.
Is your first action, like mine was, to pick up your phone and scroll through social media or email? Right there is an opportunity to meditate.
Do you have a commute where you’re glued to your phone or reading something meaningless? There’s another opportunity to meditate.
Do you have a lunch break? 5 minutes when you get home? Time watching Netflix in the evening? Time before bed when you’re back to phone scrolling?
All of these present an opportunity to try meditation. This is not about adding extra time to your day, but really looking hard at how you’re spending your existing time and seeing where you could create space. Funnily enough when we really want to do other things in life we magically find time for them.
Finding a fairly regular time I could stick to has certainly also been a huge help for me and been a big part of forming a meditation habit. (In my last post I shared the importance of micro-actions in making long term change like this.)
And my final tip is to work towards forming your meditation habit before you think you really need it!
I used to wait until I was totally stressed or unwell before trying to patch myself up. But if you have a meditation practice in place before this happens you might even find the lows are not quite so low or quite as long. Either way, if you already have a habit in place it’s much easier to stick with it when you’d rather just curl up in bed and hide.
I suggest trialling a routine for a couple of months and seeing how it feels for you. This is not about perfection, but relative consistency – and remembering that the only real form of meditation is: meditation!