Build a Calmer Life
One day I sat quietly and watched a raindrop slide down the outside of the window. From the top, slowly, right to the bottom; making brief pauses along the way and collecting other raindrops to slide with it, turning it into a bigger raindrop. My two year old rolled over my legs and climbed on my back; I kept my focus. For a whole minute.
There are so many other things to do that it feels selfish to focus on ourselves, or we start to see it as a waste of precious time.
Another day, there were six minutes between child falling asleep and me having to start work. I wanted to lie on the floor and close my eyes for all of those minutes, but I didn’t. I used four of them to move my body through a surya namaskara b, and felt the edges and the centre of my body for the first time in days.
And a couple of weeks ago I sat at the top of a hill, closed my eyes, and took one very slow, deep breath.
All of the above is meditation. Honest.
Those moments may have been brief, and they may not have caused any huge epiphany, but they were enough to shift my state of mind on those days and remind me where I was (physically and philosophically).
When life gets busy, the things we do just for ourselves are often the first to give. Self-care slips off our radar and it becomes difficult to keep up a regular yoga and meditation practice; there are so many other things to do that it feels selfish to focus on ourselves, or we start to see it as a waste of precious time.
Which, by the way, isn’t true. The practices that keep us steady, healthy, and joyful are not a waste of time.
But over the last three years I’ve learned that life does force you to spread yourself thin sometimes, and there isn’t always time to spend an hour on your yoga mat or sit quietly in meditation, undisturbed. Ideally we’d all be able to prioritise self care and make the time for the things we need or want to do for ourselves; but when we can’t, we can still practice.
In small ways
I don’t want to glorify ‘busyness’. I do want to build a calmer life, with time for things and time for people. I don’t think that being busy or always being in a rush is a sign of success or fulfilment, and I hope I’m slowly working towards something different from that. But as much as I’d like things to move slower, I — and probably you — live and work and am a parent in a society that demands a lot of busyness. Right now, it’s impossible for me to earn enough if I’m not working whenever I’m not with my daughter.
I haven’t quite mastered the art of unapologetically carving out time for my personal practice when other people are relying on me for other things. So while I work on that, I take every meditative moment I can get.
So taking the time to really sink into a long movement or meditation practice is difficult. Even when I do sort of have the time, I feel a bit guilty; because there are always other things that need to be started or finished or cleaned or answered. I haven’t quite mastered the art of unapologetically carving out time for my personal practice when other people are relying on me for other things — so while I work on that, I take every meditative moment I can get.
And I’m writing this to tell you that if you’re in the same place at the moment, without the time to really get deep into your practice on a regular basis, that’s OK. Because really, everything’s yoga, isn’t it? ‘Your practice’ isn’t separate from the rest of your life. It’s not a period of time in day when you become someone different. It’s your life, your growth, your exploration being you and being human.
Sometimes it looks like two hours of asana followed by an hour of silent meditation.
And sometimes, it looks like you being aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and taking a minute or two to just…acknowledge.
Some miniature meditation inspiration for you to use
If you’re still with me and you’re feeling the need to add more tiny moments of meditation to your day-to-day, here are five tried and tested (by me) ideas to get you started.
- Open a door really, really slowly. I know this sounds silly, but try it. Notice every movement involved in opening that door and acknowledge that you are there, making it happen. I like this because I open doors at least a dozen times a day — so that’s 12 opportunities to return to the present.
- Do one sun salutation when you wake up in the morning, before you do anything else.
- Meditate while you wait for students to arrive and settle into the yoga studio. This one feels scary the first few times you do it; but sit quietly on your mat, eyes closed, and notice your breath while everyone trickles in and sits down on their mats. You can say hello to them once they’re all there; and your stillness will set the tone for the class too.
- Hum mantras to yourself while you do mundane tasks.
- Take the first step up the stairs with your non-leading leg, or hold the washing up sponge in your non-dominant hand. Switching things up enhances attention and awareness.
One day soon you’ll have time to enjoy a lovely long yoga or meditation practice without interruption, guilt, or stress. But don’t let not having the time stop you from practising at all.