Meditation for Busy Women Series: Part I – Shifting
My favorite professor in college once said to me, ‘The best skill you can develop in life is how to shift gears.’ She had just walked into a conference with me, after bidding farewell to her toddler and babysitter on the campus lawn outside. At the time, she was juggling a full teaching schedule, two young children, a book project, and her tenure review process. I didn’t really know what she meant then, but I do now, as do most women juggling family, career, friends, volunteer projects, and countless other activities. Sometimes life feels like one big ‘Survivor’ challenge – we sprint up the rope ladder, leap over the log hurdle, crawl through the tube tunnel, and think we’re done…only to be confronted by a 200-yard swim across a lake.
I meet many women who want to incorporate some type of contemplation or meditation into their lives, but simply feel they do not have the time, and I can definately relate (found this cute post on trying to meditate with a baby recently – definately deja vu for me.) So I’ve decided to put together a series of five posts on meditation techniques for busy women, especially moms.
The theme for this first one is SHIFTING! I think it’s a mistake to think that meditation is mostly about quieting or calming your mind. More than anything it is about shifting your attention, instantly and completely, when you need to. And you probably already do this to some extent, as research shows women are actually better at this than men (see my post on Multitasking for some info on this.) You can shift from a conference call, to comforting your three-year old after a fall, and back to your conference call, without batting an eye. You probably engage in shifting of this type dozens of times throughout your day.
Meditation is simply using your shifting abilities to connect to something greater than yourself, outside of your normal everyday awareness. And doing this for even a few moments at key points throughout your day can really make a difference. Here’s a few shifting/meditation techniques you can incorporate into any day:
1) Parking Lot Moment: Anytime you are walking to or from your car in a parking lot (or to and from a bus stop, subway stop, etc.) focus on the feeling of the sun as it hits your face or body. If the sun is not out, focus on any breeze you can feel. The elements of nature are classic meditation foci, and anytime you get your awareness out of your busy head and into some natural element of your surroundings, you will shift. The sun and air are with you everywhere and they are vastly bigger than you are, so connecting to them instantly expands your awareness beyond yourself.
2) Bathroom Vacation: Memory is incredibly powerful, and research has shown that each time we recall a memory, we rewrite it to our brain with new emotional content, potentially making it more and more powerful over time. Pick a favorite vacation moment that you have had, particularly one that represents a relaxed and happy feeling. Everytime you go to the bathroom, close your eyes for just a few seconds after you are done and imagine yourself back in that moment. Develop the scene in your head visually. Make every potty break a chance to revitalize!
3) Shoe-Changing Thank-Yous: Gratitude is a universal spiritual theme. Connect to it at least twice every day by using the acts of putting on or taking off your shoes as opportunities to say thank you. Everytime you take a shoe on or off, think of one thing you are grateful for. Don’t get too high-falutin here – keep it simple (and if all you can be grateful for is that this day will be over eventually, that’s fine!)
Of course, any of these can be expanded into longer, more formal sitting meditations if you have the time. Just try and seclude yourself in a quiet spot for 10-15 minutes (at first – you can go longer if you like later on.) Sit up straight anywhere you are comfortable, take a few deep breaths, and then commence with one of the techniques from above. If your mind begins to clear, you can drop your visualization and simply float in the sensation you have. When your mind wanders, just pull it back. Don’t get frustrated – each time you pull your mind back, you are doing a meditation ‘push-up’, and you will benefit, whether you realize it or not!
If you are interested in a more formal, sitting meditation practice, try the Types of Meditation post. Or, the other posts in this series, which also include meditation techniques you can incorporate into your day, are on Symbols, Love, and Belief.
Of, if you are interested in posts on motherhood, try the Spirituality and Motherhood posts.