Creating Time and Space for Just Being.

It has taken me nearly 32 years of living, but I’m finally coming to fully appreciate the importance of stillness. Just being. Doing nothing.

When I start class, students are invited to participate in a mindful breathing meditation.  When I drive home from work now, the radio is turned off. I’ve even begun practicing a simple breathing exercise for 15 minutes a day.

 So far, count me in as someone who believes in the power of mindfulness, which is covered in depth in this story from The Atlantic. For fifteen minutes every day, I lie down and pay attention to my breath. There are times when I’ve gotten restless and don’t quite reach 15 minutes. There are times when I have to gently redirect my thoughts to my breath hundreds of times (or so it seems that way). But more often than not, I feel refreshed, calm, and focused after the practice, even after a stressful day mentoring and teaching my 110 students.

The initial results of structuring this simple, but challenging, contemplative quiet in my life has been overwhelmingly positive: I’m sleeping better, generating more ideas, and feel less busy: for many of us, myself included at times, I’ve fallen into the trap of allowing thoughts of busyness manifest themselves as reality.

Think about the last time you felt like you had too much on your plate: to what extent were your emotions and thoughts causing feelings of being overwhelmed? Right now, maybe you’re skimming this blog post, wanting to read it carefully, but automatically triggered impatience or anxiety causes you to think about the e-mail you must compose. Or what happened yesterday in a frustrating meeting. Or what you’re going to cook for dinner.    

While I do have dozens of items on my “to-do” list most days, it doesn’t feel as overwhelming when you’re truly tackling one thing at a time. Some days, I’m tempted to tell myself I don’t have time for this. But the truth is: if I’m able to be calm and focused with whatever I may be going, I’m more efficient. I’m less worried about what isn’t being done and more in tune with what I am engaged in.

It might seem trite, but the idea of being in the moment, aware of what’s going through your mind, is at the heart of being mindful. It’s certainly easier said than done. The practice is cognitive exercise; if I wanted to run a mini-marathon, it’d take weeks of training for me to simply be in a position to finish the race.   

Liz Kulze concludes in The Atlantic: “The practice may have great potential, but its advocates are quick to note that it will only do for people as much as they decide to put into it…Like fitness of any sort, seeing benefit from meditation takes time, discipline, and dedication.”

Readers, do you have any experience with meditation? How’d it go? If not, are you intrigued?


  1. I learnt transcendental meditation back in the mid-80s and while I don’t strictly follow that mantra style of meditation now, I am grateful to have come across the technique so many years ago as it has been a great basis for my current patchwork version. It took me a while to accept that there would always be challenges. In surrendering to that, I’m definitely on the journey rather than grasping for the destination. Mindfulness is the best thing to enter our collective vocabulary for some time.

  2. Being still is a surprising hard thing to do. But like most things, one learns by practicing and getting better than it. I’m still at the beginning stages myself, but I’m glad to be on the road.

  3. I did an 8 day silent retreat in July 2011. It included morning meditation. The first few days were difficult but by the end I missed it. I don’t meditate per se but I do try to make time to just sit in silence alone.

  4. I’ve found that it’s helpful to release any judgment or expectations about how any given session should go, or how I should feel afterwards. Thanks for reading!

  5. Geoff, thanks for stopping by. Your dedication is impressive. As someone who also operates in a hyperconnective state at times, it feels even more important to drop everything–I think you can pull it off! I’ll have to check out Thomas Keating’s books. I’ve been reading Full Catastophe Living by J. Kabat Zinn.

  6. Yers, in the last 2 years, I’ve gone from never meditating, to finding it almost critical to keeping sanity. I *do* choose to live life hyperconnected throgh email, social media, and general busyness. I feel I can pull it off (hopefully not delusional). However, “uni-tasking”, focusing on one thing at one time, is now critical for me in ways I hadn’t before considered. Meditative practice (preferably two sessions – early morning and before sleeping in 20 min sessions) is something I continue to go deeper into. It has many benefits. In particular, Thomas Keating’s several books and lectures (much available on YouTube) have been a rich guide.

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