It doesn’t sound intuitive, does it?
You need more time. And here I am suggesting you add something else that requires more time to your to-do list.
What’s the catch?
If you are not at all familiar with meditation, there might be a catch, actually, just because you need to get familiar if this is going to work.
But it won’t require much of your time if you can quickly wrap your mind around this concept:
Meditation = mental focus.
Anything you concentrate on you might as well be meditating on….or actually, whatever you concentrate on you are meditating on.
Here is an example. Let’s say you are reading this blog post in the morning and you haven’t had your first cup of coffee yet.
So you keep trying to concentrate on the words in the article. Every other sentence, though, your brain scampers back over to the corner where your K-cups are stored and suggests “coffee?” You refocus your mind on the words. “Coffee?” Refocus. “What about now? Coffee, perhaps?”
Finally you give up and go get some coffee already.
This is meditation.
As an aside, this is also why I personally find it impossible to multitask. For me, anyway, multi-tasking takes way more time than simply focusing intently on one thing at a time and doing that one thing, and then doing the next thing, and then so forth and so on.
That way I get all my energy to do each thing in turn. I’m not fighting with my brain for what to place our attention on.
So now that you fully understand the concept of meditation, how can you use it to make more time for yourself?
After many years of trying, I have only found one approach that actually works.
What I do is repeat to myself, while breathing calmly and slowly, “there is time.”
Here is an example.
I am stuck in traffic. The moment I get to the front of the line, the traffic light turns red. Again. I can feel my frustration building – I am going to be late! Again!
Big deep breath. Refocus. “There is time.”
The light turns green again in the amount of time it took for me to breathe and remember to repeat these words. By then I am already on my way to feeling strangely calmer and the next several lights stay green. I arrive exactly on time.
Here is another example.
I am at the bottom of my stairs, keys in hand, bag over my shoulder, heading for my car. My mind taps me on the shoulder and mentions I forgot to bring my water bottle. I feel super-frustrated. I don’t have time to go back up and get it!
Big deep breath. “Shannon, there is time.”
I head back up the steps, locate and grab my water bottle, head back down the steps and climb into my car feeling like I have everything I need. I notice I feel calmer and like it so I continue to repeat “there is time” to myself as I pull away from the curb and head off towards my destination.
Because I am repeating this phrase and feeling calmer I am also more alert. So when a car unexpectedly stops fast in front of me I react quickly to avoid a collision (talk about saving myself some time!).
Here is yet another example.
I am just about to do my daily online yoga session when the phone rings. I look at the caller ID and realize I need to pick up the call. I feel frustrated. Will I still have time to do yoga before I need to start working? My back really hurts. My neck does too.
I swipe right, breathing in deeply as I greet the person on the other end. I say to myself quietly, “There is time.” This reminds me I have all day to fit in yoga, not just this particular moment. I refocus on the call and feel good about giving my whole attention to the other person.
After the call I pick a shorter yoga lesson, reminding myself it is the quality of my yoga practice that counts, not the quantity. I start working right on time as I had originally planned.
The reason this works is because my mind never thinks it has enough time. But it nearly always does….at least when it is not wasting time worrying about not having enough time.
See, it takes a lot more time and energy to worry about having enough time than it does to simply USE that time in a focused way to tackle one task and then the next and then the next. Then I have all my energy for doing what I want and need to do. I am not burning extra energy (and time) freaking myself out by worrying I don’t have enough time.
But sometimes I actually don’t have enough time.
Here, reminding myself gently “there is time” helps me re-prioritize.
Okay, so I thought I could accomplish more than what is clearly going to be possible to accomplish. Telling myself “there is time” helps me sort out the want-to-dos from the need-to-dos from the should-dos (for more on telling them apart check out this blog post).
In this way, reminding myself “there is time” is the equivalent of saying to myself “there is time to do what really REALLY needs to get done.” With this reminder filling my frame of reference, I can then move along to reprioritize the rest of the day’s time and tasks accordingly so I can get done the things I absolutely need to get done and still get to the end of the day with at least some of my sanity intact.
Otherwise, I can literally make myself crazy. I can tie myself up in so many not-enough-time knots I honestly forget that at the end of my life, I probably won’t be laying there on my death bed thinking “thank god I checked that last item off my to-do list.”
I mean, seriously.
Sometimes I just need to help myself find my way back to that big healthy dose of perspective I need. Otherwise, I forget. I may be 49 and counting. I may truly and honestly know better. But I still forget.
And here is the weirdest thing of all.
Oddly, when I tell myself “there is time,” I swear it does something to the atmosphere around me. I can almost see it, certainly feel it – the little “there is time” ripples spreading out around me into the stratosphere.
It’s like once I put that intention out there – the intention to become aware of the stretchy-spacious quality of each present moment – time itself somehow expands.
I realize this sounds nuts. It does. I get that.
Yet it works. I swear it works. Repeating “there is time” has a calming effect on me, for sure, but it also genuinely seems to have a calming effect on everyone and everything else around me as well.
This makes me think that maybe we are all just rushing around, kind of panicked, on the precipice of exhausted, feeling really little inside even though we know we appear all grown up on the outside, and what we need most is someone we trust to come stand beside us, pat us on the shoulder and whisper….
“There is time.”
With great respect and love,