Imagine a bucket filled with water. Now add some sand into it and stir it around. The water looks all cloudy and agitated. Allow the bucket to sit and be still for awhile and the sand settles to the bottom leaving you with clear water. Clarity.
My dear friend Allison Corrigan, a holistic health counselor and mother extraordinaire, once told me this wonderful analogy for what meditation does for the mind. Its simplicity struck me and has stayed with me.
The constant chatter going on in our minds causes us to miss out on what is going on in our present lives. We tend to either live in the past or in the future in our minds, constantly planning for events that have yet to occur or reliving events long gone by. When we make a habit of investing the time to quiet these thoughts and practice being present, we can think more clearly, be more productive throughout the day, and approach our tasks from a place of inner wisdom and mindfulness.
Living mindfully means living in harmony with yourself and the rest of the world—waking up and paying attention to the present moment. If we are not fully present, we risk watching our life slip on by unnoticed, failing to live up to our full potential. Mindfulness is basically the direct opposite of taking your life for granted. Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are, explains “to cultivate mindfulness, you may have to remember over and over again to be awake and aware”.
Meditation needn’t involve sitting like a Buddha in your living room burning incense and chanting OHM for an hour every morning—it can if you’d like, but let’s be realistic here. Start off small. Commit to five minutes out of your day. Sit quietly, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and just be present in your body, in the moment. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
I don’t care how busy you are…we can all spare 5 minutes for something that enhances our well being. I find the best time to practice meditation is first thing in the morning upon waking. Otherwise, life tends to get in the way. If you absolutely cannot fathom sitting still for 5 minutes, make it a moving meditation. Take your dog out for a walk and instead of running through your to do list in your mind, reliving an argument with your spouse, or composing your next blog article, clear your mind and focus on your breathing. Thoughts will pop in…that’s normal. Just acknowledge them, release them, and re-focus on your breath and being present.
Once you have mastered the 5 minutes, add in another 5 minutes, eventually trying to work your way to 20 minutes each day. It will help you to get a restful night’s sleep and feel more peaceful and calm despite the chaos going on all around you.