Stillmind: Meditation for Busy People!

still mind“One of my Tibetan meditation teachers counselled, “Short moments many times,” as a way to make progress in meditation.” ~ Sharon Salzberg

Stillmind is a blog about finding a place for meditation, yoga, and mindfulness in the midst of a busy life to achieve three things.

  1. Conciseness without over-simplification: We do our utmost to write posts that, whilst being short and practical, are also well-researched and contain genuine insight.
  2. A respect for the spiritual and philosophical basis of meditative practices: We think that the growth of mindfulness and meditation as a tool for relaxation and focus is a wonderful thing, and it’s this practical dimension that we want to explore. There’s always a risk, however, that they become too far removed from their original home. Many of the spiritual ideas that would traditionally be associated with them can be of immense use to us.
  3. Writing that’s rich in stories: The teacher Anthony De Mello said that, “…there are no words in any language so enchanting as, ‘Once upon a time….’” We agree with him.

We have at our disposal tools for creating exceptional mental health. Countless such techniques and practices have originated from the world’s wisdom traditions.

Thanks to the efforts of a great many gifted teachers, information about them is readily available. And the wonderful thing is that they can easily be adapted to a busy schedule without having to make extra time or alter our schedule. If that sounds like an interesting proposition, then carry on reading.

In a rush? Read the summary.

A Reason to Meditate

The need to experience calm in the midst of our daily life is pressing. Perhaps more-so in today’s tumultuous world than ever before. One way of achieving this is to capitalize on the “empty” time we have available to us.

This is the approach that Mark Thornton (an investment-banker turned meditation teacher) takes in his book Meditation In A New York Minute. At the root of his philosophy is the notion that inner stillness, the “deep ocean of calm” as he calls it, already resides within us. Meditation enables us to connect with it. This “connecting” deepens our capacity to feel calm, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance when appropriate.

The aim, he says, is to “meditate” for small periods throughout the day. In the small pockets of time when we’re not really doing anything meaningful. Walking to catch the train, taking a shower, going to the toilet…all potential times for meditation. Added up, these small moments can make a significant difference.

What Are The Benefits?

If we turn our attention to our inner world we find three “parts”. There is our physical body and its accompanying sensory world. We also have our mind, our capacity for thought. Finally, there is our emotional world (the “emotional body” as Eckhart Tolle refers to it), our capacity for emotion. We are connected with these parts of ourselves, we experience them.

Yet there is a fourth part. An aspect of us that is pure stillness. A deep well of ever-present calm, out of which feelings of compassion, forgiveness, and inspiration arise. Meditation offers us the key to this world.

I know this can all sound a bit wishy-washy. The real benefit lies in the felt experience of these inner forces. It’s difficult to describe the subtle elements of our human condition, but practicing will result in an intuitive grasp of them.

Finding Time

Developing any new habit takes time. Yet we can make it easier by making several small adjustments. Try to set yourself as many reminders as possible. Why not change your screensaver to remind yourself to meditate?. Perhaps with an image of someone sitting still or the word “calm” or “breathe.” I have this wallpaper on my Chromebook. Equally, there is software available to download which you can use to set yourself “mindfulness reminders.”

But what about actually finding the time. Here are some suggestions:

  1. As you shower.
  2. As you eat your breakfast and lunch.
  3. As you brush your teeth.
  4. As you walk to the bus, train or your car.
  5. On your daily commute. 
  6. Walking between meetings.

Three Techniques to Try

Try these techniques. As always: approach with gentleness. There’s no right or wrong, no success or failure.

Body-Scan with Tensing

  1. Sitting comfortably, take several calming, relaxing breaths.
  2. On the in-breath, clench your right hand into a fist. On the out-breath relax it completely.
  3. Next, on the in-breath, clench your right fist again but include your whole arm up to your shoulder. On the out-breath, relax completely.
  4. Repeat this process with your left hand and arm.

Breathing Energy (from Super Calm for the Super Busy)

  1. Choose a word that signifies a quality that is meaningful to you. For example: “Jesus, Buddha, happy, laughter, lightness.” Preferably two syllables.
  2. With the in breath, softly whisper the first syllable. With the out-breath, whisper the second. For example, in breath: “light,” out-breath: “ness. ” Repeat this several times.
  3. The next step is to say the word internally, completely silently, with each in and out breath. Continue for as long as you like.

Magnify Heart Energy (from Super Calm for the Super Busy)

  1. Place your hands in a prayer position in front of you.
  2. Notice the sensations at the center of your chest. Remain focused on this point.
  3. Your are placing your attention on the area known as the “heart chakra.” In focusing on this area you are magnifying the energy there. The heart chakra is associated with joy and inner peace.

References & Further Reading