Don’t have time to meditate? There’s an old parable about the meditation guru directing his acolyte to meditate for an hour. The acolyte responds that he doesn’t have time to meditate for an hour. “Okay,” says the guru. “Then meditate for two hours.” The lesson here is that the moment you’re too busy to meditate is the moment you need it most.
Still don’t think you have ten minutes a day to sit quietly? Try mindful driving. Rather than commuting to work while lost in thoughts, drive while fully aware of what’s happening around you. Turn off the radio and listen to the sounds your car makes over different road surfaces and at different speeds. Notice the make, model, and color of the car in front of you. Pay attention to the dance of your right foot as it presses the gas pedal, then the brake, then the gas again (especially in stop-and-go traffic). Also, be conscious of the emotions you are experiencing in traffic (happy, sad, fearful, angry). If possible, open the windows and get a feel for the smells and sensation of the air.
You can also engage in a mindful commute by bicycle or public transportation. Just stay present to the moment as it unfolds, noticing sounds, vibrations, shifts in weight, air currents, sounds, smells, pressure, and textures.
By the way, a driving meditation is a great way to realize how little you pay attention to the present moment in so much of your life. How many times do you arrive at your destination with zero memory of the drive there? It’s a metaphor for how we live much of our life on autopilot — just going through the motions and not paying attention. If your work commute is an hour and you’re not present for most of the ride, that’s at least two out of 24 hours (8%) or two out of sixteen waking hours (12.5%) of your day lost in thoughts.
The commuting mindfulness exercise is great for those days when you need the benefits of mindfulness and don’t have the time.
- When you practice mindful commuting, what changes for you?
- What did you notice/observe that surprised you or felt different?
- How did you feel when you arrived at work?
- Did you notice any differences in how you felt during the commute and upon arrival?
This post is a short excerpt from Edie Raphael's The Art of Being Present: Mindfulness Meditation for Work and Life. The full book can be purchased here.
[Photo 12-dashboard…] Credit: Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash