“Nick, I really feel that daily meditation would benefit me, but I’m just so busy, it’s impossible for me to fit it into the day.”
This is, hands down, the most common reason I hear people give for why they don’t meditate.
Believe me, I get it. I’ve got 3 young kids, a business, and I do a lot of volunteer work. I know where you’re coming from!
But if you get a little creative, you’ll find that it’s actually quite easy to fit a lot of mindfulness into an impossibly busy day. The trick is to divide your mindfulness practice into two categories: sitting practice and non-sitting practice.
Sitting practice is when you create as ideal conditions as possible for your meditation. You find a private spot where you won’t be disturbed that’s relatively quiet and where you can sit reasonably comfortably for an uninterrupted chunk of time. It’s a great way to both learn and practice mindfulness because distractions are kept to a minimum and you’ve set aside time specifically to do the practice.
If you are new to mindfulness meditation, I recommend you start with just 15 minutes a day, either in the morning or in the evening.
But, if you’re super busy and can’t spare 15 minutes, try for 10, or even 5. If that’s still impossible, perhaps because you don’t have the privacy or other conditions needed, it’s time to use some guerrilla tactics!
Guerrilla Mindfulness for Sitting Practice
You can squeeze in some meditation time by using what I call Guerrilla Mindfulness. Guerrilla Mindfulness is when you incorporate mindfulness practice into your daily activities.
Examples of Guerrilla Mindfulness (Sitting):
- when you get in the car, take a few minutes and meditate before starting the engine. You can also do this after parking your car
- when you go to the bathroom, whether it’s at home or at work, meditate for a couple of minutes before you leave the stall
- when you lie down in bed, meditate until you fall asleep. This will also help you get a better sleep!
The trick to making this kind of practice work is to go for quality over quantity. Imagine that the two minutes you are meditating in your car are the only two minutes you will get all day to practice, so make them count! Really pay attention!
The great thing about short practice sessions is that it’s easier to maintain high standards for the entire practice time than it is for longer sessions, like 30 min or 45 min or longer. And, if you can do a bunch of short sessions like this a few times a day, it keeps you on a more even keel during the day and builds a bit of momentum that makes the next meditation session easier.
When my son, Kai, was still in afternoon pre-school, I used to take him to Arts Umbrella on Granville Island (Vancouver, BC, Canada) a couple of times a week in the morning for his art class. After dropping him off, I’d walk over to the Emily Carr University Library, which was close by, find a quiet spot deep in the stacks, and meditate for 15 to 20 minutes before picking him up and taking him to school. For about a year, that was how I squeezed in my main practice time of the day.
Mindfulness meditation isn’t limited to sitting on your butt with your eyes closed for 15 min (or however long you want to sit). Being mindful is also about taking it to the streets! Making it part of your regular life. This is the other category of mindfulness practice I mentioned earlier: non-sitting practice.
Really, every moment of every day is the right time to be mindful. You don’t need special conditions or a defined time.
In fact, one of the surest ways to dramatically transform your life for the better, is to be continuously mindful during every moment throughout the day. Mindful of every action, every thought, every word, every intention, every feeling, and so on.
Obviously, that’s a tall order for mere mortals like us!
But, there is an easy way to start moving toward this ideal and start getting some of the benefits of this type of practice, without being completely overwhelmed by the task.
Guerrilla Mindfulness for Non-Sitting Practice
Choose something that you do every day that is already part of your normal routine, that you usually do by yourself, silently.
In other words, you want an activity where you are not usually talking with someone or needing to listen to someone while doing it.
Examples of Guerrilla Mindfulness (Non-Sitting):
- whenever you find yourself waiting in line for something, be mindful of the sensations in your feet. Feel how they contact the ground, any sensations of warmth or coolness, and any sensations of pressure. See if you can notice how those sensations change over time, both while standing and while taking a step
- whenever you find yourself walking somewhere, pay attention to the sensations of pressure, temperature and movement in your feet as you walk
- whenever you take out your phone, be mindful of the sensations in your hands and fingers as you hold and operate the phone. Feel the sensations of pressure, the coolness of the smooth surface of the phone as you swipe it with your fingers, and any other tactile sensations as you use the phone
- whenever you are using a computer, feel the sensations in your hands and fingers as your fingers move to press the keys. Feel each finger extending, feel your fingertips as they contact the keys, notice the texture and temperature of the keyboard, and notice the sensations in the fingers and hands when you pause your typing for a moment. Feel the sensations as your arm extends and your hand grasps the mouse and moves the mouse around. Feel the tactile sensations while clicking and scrolling with the mouse
- whenever you sit down in a chair, notice the sensations in your body as you lower yourself onto the seat of the chair: the contraction in your quads and the stretching in your glutes. Notice the feeling of pressure as your body weight settles onto the seat of the chair
- every time you stand up, notice the sensations in your body, such as the feelings of pressure as you push with your hands and arms, the contraction in your quads and calf muscles, and the extension of your legs as you get up from a seated position
Here’s some other activities that are great for Guerrilla Mindfulness:
- brushing your teeth
- washing your hands
- having a shower
- filling up with gas
- waiting for a red light to turn green
- preparing meals
- taking out the garbage
- doing the dishes
- cleaning the house
- getting dressed
You get the idea! The main thing is to drop into the body when you do the activity. Pay attention to the sensations of pressure, heat and movement in different parts of your body while engaged in the activity.
Sitting + Non-Sitting = Positive Feedback Loop
When you combine sitting and non-sitting practice during your day, you’ll find that they mutually support and enhance each other: you’ve created a positive feedback loop.
Mindfulness is a skill, and like any skill, the more you practice it, the better you get at it and the easier it gets. So, use whatever guerrilla tactics are necessary to squeeze in some practice time each day. Once you start noticing the benefits, and it won’t take long, you’ll see the value of the practice in a new light, and you’ll naturally start making more time for it.
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