Pros: Balanced approach; “timeouts”; makes meditation simple, easy, non-threatening
Cons: Well, it isn’t exactly an in-depth treatise, now is it? But then that’s the point…
Rating: 5 out of 5
First published 5/2/2003
Things have been so hectic for the last half-year that it’s been hard to relax. I’m barely starting to take up a little yoga again. Sort of. I’ve always thought it might be handy to try a little meditation, and could really use the stress-relief angle of it right now, but it seems like exactly the wrong time for it. Then, on a half.com buying binge (I’m so ashamed!), I stumbled across Dawn Groves’ “Meditation for Busy People: 60 Seconds to Serenity” for just a dollar or two. It’s amazing what I’ll buy when I can say, “it’s only one dollar!” (And oh, god, do I get nailed by those checkout pages of “people with your tastes also bought…” recommendations. Save me, please!)
I admit, I was worried it would be all hype-ful. I anticipated something infomercial-like: “Meditate for just one minute a day, and you too can experience True Serenity!” Blissfully, that’s exactly what I didn’t get!
Can’t spare ten minutes? Then five minutes is okay. Can’t spare five minutes? How about sixty seconds of serenity–using deep, focused breathing?
‘Wait a minute,’ you say. ‘This can’t be right, it’s too lenient.’ Well, it may be lenient, but it leaves very little room for excuses.”
You know, Ms. Groves has a point. When you know that you can meditate as you walk to your meeting or wait for your bus; when you know that you can meditate for a quick minute before going to lunch–then there’s nothing left to stop you, is there? It’s really hard to keep saying you don’t have the time to meditate. And that’s her single, brilliant point. Sure, it isn’t going to do you as much good as an hour or half-hour a day. But it’s a heck of a lot better than nothing, right?
Frankly, you could just read the 42-page Getting Started chapter (and I must note that these are small pages with reasonably large type, so reading a chapter is no chore) and be off and running. That one chapter tells you what you can get out of meditation, how it can help you as a busy person, the basics of meditation, and a few details about how long you should meditate for and what kind of environment you should meditate in. That’s it. You don’t need to read anything else if you don’t want to. You can start there and read further as time allows.
Beyond Getting Started overs further details such as various meditation styles, as well as mental states before, during, and after your meditation. Staying Motivated covers, obviously, ways to keep yourself going with your practice, including props, ritual, scheduling, groups, teachers, and retreats. More importantly, though, it strongly encourages you not to beat yourself up if you miss your practice. It reminds you that you simply won’t meditate if it becomes a chore that you feel obligated to do.
Finally, Practical Use goes into all of the practical ways in which meditation can affect your life. This is where Ms. Groves gets into “timeouts:”
Unlike the standard form of… meditation, timeouts serve one primary function: They pull you out of automatic reaction and center you in the moment. They give you back your power. What you do with it is entirely up to you. You see, your true power doesn’t rest in what you did in the past or what you plan to do in the future. The past won’t change and the future hasn’t happened yet. Your power for change is in the immediate moment, the now. Every moment is an opportunity to turn a new corner, try a new response, reinforce a new habit… [O]ur ticket to the present is a timeout sitting. When practiced, timeouts bring us back into the immediate situation and reconnect us to our power, our moment of choice.
Given how much we all tend to react from emotion (and how many bad things this can lead to), I think this is a fantastic idea. She doesn’t claim that this method somehow magically allows you to make all of your decisions logically and dispassionately (or even that this would necessarily be a great thing), but she does point out that it can help you to at least get a better handle on which emotions are driving you and why.
There’s also a section of references at the end, in case you’d like to learn more about meditation.
The “MBP method” (Meditation for Busy People) consists of three basic steps: relaxation, centering, and release. There’s an optional extra step that fits between centering and release, called “enhancement.” This extra step is where you can do things like visualizing goals, focusing on patience or forgiveness, etc. As Ms. Groves says: “Simple, but not necessarily easy.” Thankfully she presents more information, in succinct yet clear form, to help us achieve these steps.
Simple, and also effective. Not to mention non-threatening. When meditation is distilled down to such a simple formula, it just sounds easier, which is important when you’re trying to convince busy, stressed-out people to try it.
“Meditation for Busy People” is no thick treatise on meditation. If you’re already familiar with meditation practice, then the only thing that might even remotely be new to you in here is the timeout practice. This book isn’t meant for the experienced practitioner (unless, of course, you’re having trouble fitting your practice into your schedule). It’s meant for folks who could really benefit from a few moments of serenity, yet have been unable to attain it on their own. And in that, it does a fantastic job.