“The affairs of the world will go on forever. Do not delay the practice of meditation.” ~ Milarepa (Tibet, 1052-1135)
See? Even in 11th century Tibet, people were complaining that they couldn’t meditate, because…. they were too busy. Even without smart phones, wifi, or Netflix.
Milarepa is the wild yogi poet of ancient Tibet. His luminous poems are among the most revered of literary treasures in Tibet. But he started out as one bad mother – after some family infighting, his mother convinced him to dabble in black magic and he killed a lot of people. He repented, found a teacher, and practiced the Dharma with diligence and reached total awakening. In his later years, he subsisted on nettle tea (giving his skin a greenish tinge) and lived out his days in deep practice.
Don’t think that he just sat in that famous cave of his all day in deep states of meditation. Milarepa was a busy guy. Before his teacher Marpa would even begin to instruct him, he had Milarepa build a 9 storey tower. Then Marpa told him to pull it down. Then build it again. Oh, and pull that one down, too. Milarepa built the tower 4 times in all. Yet, somehow, he still found the time to meditate.
So before you start thinking that you are facing insurmountable obstacles in your pursuit of finding (or making) the time to meditate, remember that its not a new problem, unique to our crazy, modern lives. The affairs of the world were already going on in 11th century Tibet. And they are still going on today in the 21st century. It doesn’t look like they are going to stop anytime soon either. If we waited til things slowed down, til our affairs were all tickety-boo, til conditions were perfect – well, we’d never get anywhere. We would just stay stuck and unhappy. As my own teacher once chided me, “so, what – you’re not going to do the practice?”
As our environment becomes increasingly distractable, meditation may well become a survival mechanism. If we want to stay sane and healthy, we won’t be able to afford not to meditate. You don’t have to look far in the mainstream media these days to read about the evidence of meditation’s benefits – increased happiness, improved neuroplasticity and brain health, lower blood pressure and improved immunity, to name a few.
So – just do it. Decide to become a good meditator. Experience the benefits for yourself.
- Start with 3 minutes a day. You cannot reasonably tell me that you can not find 3 minutes in your day – that’s one less cat video on Youtube. I had been meditating for a few years, but still hadn’t managed to make it a daily event. I joined a “meditation challenge” where I committed to meditate for a minimum of 3 minutes a day. That was the thing that pushed me over. More often than not, the days that I said to myself, “I just have to sit down for THREE minutes”, those 3 minutes invariably turned into 5 or 10 or even 15 minutes. So right here, right now – I challenge YOU to 3 minutes of meditation. Starting now. Every. Single. Day.
- Meditate first thing in the morning. Just get it out of the way, before it becomes filled up with the affairs of the day. If possible, go straight from a gentle waking to your meditation session, with minimal activity in between. Brush your teeth, take a drink of water, and skip checking email or Facebook.
- If you fall off the wagon, just start over again. And again. And again. Meditation teaches us to start from here, now, where we are, over and over again.
- Find a teacher. While there are countless wonderful books, CDs and Youtube videos on meditation, nothing replaces the guidance of an experienced teacher. If you wanted to master any skill – playing the concert piano, fixing a motorcycle, woodworking – there are some intangible things that you will only learn at the side of a living, breathing being who’s already mastered what you want to do. A good meditation teacher can inspire you when your practice is dry, help you through roadblocks, and keep you from wasting precious time with ineffective methods or concepts – and potentially much, much more.