November can be a challenging month for some of us. I can’t count the number of people that have told me lately that they just feel completely exhausted and don’t know why. Well, here are a few possible explanations: a) the busy fall schedule is in full swing, after the gradual ramping up at the end of the summer and early fall; b) our last real holiday dates back a few months now; and c) we lost an hour of sunlight in the evenings, which has an important impact on our energy level and outlook. These challenges make it is more difficult than ever to maintain focus, balance, and clarity of vision. Of course, Mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to cultivate these virtues, but how do we fit the practice in to an already complicated scheduling equation? Here are my top 7 strategies for maintaining a meditation practice in busy times:
Set the intention to practice.
Intentionality doesn’t guarantee rich and regular sitting, but it is an essential first step. Set a realistic goal to practice several times this coming week – even if it’s just for a few minutes each time.
Cultivate an attitude of acceptance.
Even if you set the intention to sit every day this week and don’t get around to doing it once, it’s ok! It happens to all of us. It doesn’t mean that you’re lazy or too disorganized or can’t do it or whatever. That’s just what happened. Let go and begin again.
Get properly equipped.
Invest a few minutes this weekend in putting that audio guide on your iPod, ordering that zafu or bench, and finding that kitchen timer or smart phone app. Once resolved, those logistics will not get in your way again for while, if ever.
You can experiment at first to find the time and place that work for you. But once you figure that stuff out, try to stick to a routine so sitting is automatically part of your day or week. The evidence is clear: that is the best way to develop and maintain a habit.
Treat it like brushing your teeth.
Do you think about whether or not you should brush your teeth (or walk your dog) every day? Probably not. It’s just something you do. Practice can be easily undermined by all that negotiating we do beforehand. Once you’re sitting, it’s so simple. So drop the story about your practice and just do it!
Something is better than nothing.
1 minute is better than no minutes. 5 minutes is better than 1 minute. 10 minutes is better than 5 minutes. 20 minutes is better than 10 minutes… So, do that 1-minute drop-in at work and don’t beat yourself up for not practicing. It still counts!
Maintain informal practice.
Even in the middle of the most chaotic turmoil, there are still plenty of opportunities to practice. You can be Mindful at any moment – in the middle of any activity – simply by asking yourself “Am I awake right now?” That’s an excellent way to maintain your practice even when you feel it is impossible to do formal meditation. What are your favorite strategies for continuing practice?