I often hear, "I don't have time to meditate." In our society where time equals money, this statement is hard to dispute. The new movie "In Time" takes this concept to the extreme. Time has become the currency. A cup of coffee costs four minutes of one's life.
The very fact that time is precious is the reason we should meditate. I have found that taking time to meditate gives me time -- the same way that exercising takes energy but ultimately helps one have more energy.
#1: We See The Big Picture
When we close our eyes and focus inside, we are able to see get an overview, a broader perspective of our lives. We step away from the minutiae and see the broad-brush strokes that make up our days. Meditation gives us the opportunity to see what is really important. Try this exercise: Imagine a day in which you were very over-scheduled. You felt overwhelmed. (I hope this isn't every day!) Now let your mind float over the activities without trying to judge them. Which stand out as important and/or meaningful? Which could you have done without? Perhaps there were some phone calls you didn't really have to make or a lunch date that could have been postponed.
When we're overwhelmed we have less energy to focus on the important tasks. Sometimes we end up rushing things that need more attention. We may even make mistakes that cost us more time.
Meditation can help you sort out what is important, help you prioritize so that your time is spent where you really want it and not on activities that are less important to you.
#2: Our Perception of Time Is Expanded
When we are busy and engaged, time flies. When we are bored or not where we want to be, time drags. Of course, time doesn't change, it is merely our experience of it that changes. During peak performances athletes describe being in "the zone." This phenomenon also occurs in traumatic events. Time seems to expand, slow down. I stumbled this last spring while playing tennis, going up and back to hit an overhead. The fall that took my head to the concrete probably took a split second, but I had time to think at least a dozen thoughts, including "Is this how my life is going to end?" I had time to break the fall with my hip so my head only bounced off the court causing a moderate concussion. This sensation of time slowing can also happen in meditation. By focusing on our internal sensations, or our breath, our brain waves shift to a slower rhythm allowing the sense of time to expand.
When time seems to slow down, we feel we have time for whatever we want. Our bodies and minds relax and stress is reduced. Not stressing means more time!
#3: We Focus On The Present Moment
Our thoughts, our feelings and our actions happen in the present moment. So why are we so focused on the past and the future? Consider how often you anticipate what is going to happen or worry about something that might happen. Conversely,
how much do you dwell on the past? Obsess about how you should have done something or said something differently. Or how so-and-so did you wrong?
This past or future focus can be a huge drain on our energy and our time. Being in the present moment gives us the chance to channel all our energy on what we're doing, on whom we're with. Meditation can teach you this kind of focus and concentration. One of the things that I've noticed is that I am more efficient, less distracted. The pay off is more time for what's important to me.
There's also a big bonus to keeping your attention in the present moment: Your memory improves. What I've experienced -- granted after many years of a regular meditation practice -- is that I retrieve information more quickly, forget things less often and find misplaced items more easily. All of this translates into more time.
My life is extremely full. Often I'm asked, "How do you do all of it?" My answer is simple. "I meditate."
For more than 20 years, Susan Morales, M.S.W. has explored human behavior through her work as a psychotherapist, and as a student/practitioner of meditation. In addition to using meditation as a device to help clients with issues of anxiety and depression, she offers classes and retreats to women in substance abuse recovery. She developed Be Who You Love Meditation as a method to teach people how to find greater depth of satisfaction in their lives. She blogs on meditation for annarbor.com and Red Room, and was on the editorial board for "The Voice of Social Workers: Poets and Writers," a journal recently published by the Michigan chapter of NASW.