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Committing 40 minutes a day to meditation gave me more time in my busy schedule

The unexpected results of meditation. By doing less, I gained more time to be creative.

That might sound strange, but it’s exactly what happened after I attended a meditation course in London this year. Like many of us, I was feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of daily living. Running a business, family and home can take its toll. Tiredness, exhaustion and that feeling of never-ending to-do lists that never get done. Or if they do, they are hurriedly done just because it makes you feel better psychologically to cross something off your list.

I had often used mindfulness techniques with my clients, but I wanted to be formally trained in transcendental meditation. I had heard it was great for a wide range of health issues such as poor digestion, allergies, insomnia and chronic pain. It is well documented in research that a great benefit is to relieve stress and anxiety. When the teacher asked why I was there I said that I had an overactive mind and couldn’t stop doing. That was it – I needed to spend more time simply ‘being present’ – not always rushing ahead to what I had ‘to do’ next.

The course went well although my tiredness increased – I was assured this was due to my body entering a more restorative place as opposed to fight-or-flight living. That made sense. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d sat down and not looked at my phone or thought about work. At the end of the course, we were instructed to spend 20 minutes every morning and evening meditating. My stress levels were immediately elevated – how could I find 40 minutes a day? I was already pushed to my limits.

But I tried. And once I tried, I wanted more. I started to get up 20 minutes earlier each day. I thought I’d be more tired, as I had always struggled to get up in the mornings, but after a couple of weeks I could wake up before my alarm going off, eager to meditate. I felt refreshed and energised. When I finished my client list each evening, I mediated before starting the evening meal preparation. It transitioned me from work to quality family time.

Something has happened that I can’t really explain. I now find I have more time. Maybe sitting quietly every day makes you appreciate how long 20 minutes is. Maybe your greater sense of calm inside takes away that feeling of panic that you have so much to do. I feel I can achieve more in my day, I have more space to think and be creative. I definitely feel more focused – I spend less time scrolling through my phone, less time for negative thinking and have more headspace.

Setting a boundary that these 40 minutes a day are mine, sacred, essential to my mental and physical health has changed my perspective on time. I don’t give this up for someone else’s demands. It’s non-negotiable self-care. The results have been so far encouraging. I spend more quality time listening and speaking with people I’d otherwise rush by. I have real conversations – I’m not partially somewhere else thinking of what else I should be doing. My relationships are improving in quality as I feel more at ease with my time.

Sometimes the thought of setting boundaries seems impossible. But it’s often our stress that is telling us so. Setting a boundary and sticking to it is the best step towards a calmer lifestyle I’ve made.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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