Here's what's less clear: when does a busy entrepreneur have time to seal themself off from the rest of life and meditate for 30 minutes a day?
In our work with busy professionals at my company LifeXT, this has emerged as the central challenge to beginning a mindfulness practice. Many people have been persuaded by the science. They're eager to experience the benefits of meditation, and yet they simply don't have time to do it.
If you are one of those people who doesn't have time to meditate, here's an alternative approach worth considering. It's called "integrated mindfulness." It's the practice of weaving small moments of mind training into the midst of the chaos of everyday life, especially those moments when you're walking from place to place. Think of it as meditation meets your walk to the coffee shop, to a meeting, or to the train station.
And it's worth pointing out that combining walking and meditation isn't some trendy new mindfulness tip. It's one of the classic styles of meditation. It's a way to solve the time challenge of meditation by integrating the practice into those throwaway moments in the workday.
Here's how to do it.
Step 1: Notice that you are walking.
This may sound like a strange tip. But noticing that you are walking -- that you now have a brief space in your day to shift your attention to the present moment -- is the essential first step. It's the inner gong that signals your walking meditation has begun.
Step 2: Slow down to find your natural pace.
The first thing to notice is your pace. If you're like most people, you may notice that you walk from meeting to meeting or event to event like an amateur race walker. It's a hurried pace that matches your rushing mind.
To shift both the speed of your legs and the speed of your thoughts, try slowing down just a little bit. See if you can find a more natural pace, a pace that allows you to pay closer attention to what's happening as you walk, right here, right now.
Step 3: Anchor your attention using the sensations in your feet.
A Zen master once told me that the key to walking meditation is to give the mind an anchor, a resting place in the present moment, a refuge from the endless churning of the mind. His suggestion: pay close attention to the sensations in your feet.
To do this, simply notice the cascade of sensations that arise with each step. Feel the rhythm of your feet, feel the pavement through the soles of your shoes, and notice the subtle qualities of walking.
I realize this sounds absolutely insane. But it has the powerful effect of shifting you from the ordinary habit of mind wandering into the state we're trying to touch in meditation: the present moment.
Step 4: Open all your senses and watch the present moment like a movie.
Paying attention to the sensations in your feet stabilizes the mind. Once this happens, once the mind stops spinning, you can then open up your awareness to everything that's happening right now as you walk: car horns. The siren down the street. The sight of traffic lights changing, cars stopping, and other people walking in front of you.
When you do this right, when your mind gets still and stable in the present moment, it starts to feel like you're watching reality like a movie. The narration of your thinking no longer grabs all of your attention. There's just this: Car horn. Siren. Traffic light. Crosswalk.
Why turn your walk to work, to a meeting, or even from your desk to the bathroom into a meditation? Why not listen to a podcast or check your phone as you saunter down the street?
Two reasons. First, turning walking into mind training can make even the most mundane route fascinating. It allows you to see your world, which often goes by in a blur, through a new, fresher, more current lens.
Second, this practice allows you to alter the very structure of your brain for enhanced focus, resiliency, and productivity. It's a more efficient but no less effective way than seated meditation to carve new neural pathways in your brain. By building the muscle of shifting from mind wandering to the present moment, you're training the skill of attention - a skill that not only makes you happier but also plays a key role in working at peak levels of performance.
And that's a shift that might just change your life.