M is for Meditation – how do I find time?

Buddhists meditate, everyone knows that. People will say, ‘I couldn’t be a Buddhist, I can’t keep quiet’, or ‘I couldn’t find time to meditate’. But ‘You don’t have to sit on the floor’ and you don’t have to be silent for long periods, or at all – some Buddhists chant, noisily, instead.

Quakers are observed to keep quiet too, and to sit still, but you don’t have to be good at those things in order to be a Quaker.

On the other hand, meditation can be a helpful tool, and sitting quietly to practise can be helpful too. It may be that everything goes better when I find time for meditation practise. But it may be that when things are going better, I find time to meditate. Or both.

So why don’t I do it more often? That is my question, but I hear the same, or similar, from other people. So maybe it would help to share some of our answers and the ways we’ve found to help overcome them.

log across path

So why don’t I practise meditation more often? Lots of reasons/ excuses:


I forget.

I procrastinate, although sometimes meditating is procrastinating …

I’m contrasuggestible, so much so that sometimes I rebel against what I’m told to do, even when I’m telling myself!

Things happen that interrupt me, the phone rings, someone comes to the door.

I feel I can’t sit still, or that I’ll be too aware of my aches and pains. Breathing mindfully is a lot harder with a cold when each breath hurts.

I decide something else is more important, which may or may not be true.

Changes in locations/routines that remove the ‘opportunities’ I’ve previously identified. For instance, when my walking becomes very difficult (as it sometimes does with my MS) suddenly the opportunity to step out of the house and walk mindfully to work has gone.

 meditation 2

And what helps me to practise meditation more often?


Knowing that other people are practising too.

Going to sangha meetings (at least occasionally) and practising with others.

Having time on my own, so that I don’t have to explain to anyone that I’m meditating (although all my family are quite understanding and respectful, and sometimes even join in).

Not allowing myself to meditate for too long (stopping while I’m still enjoying it).

Something to provide an indication of the passage of time so that I don’t clock-watch. A joss-stick burning is one way, another is to start when the clock will strike in about 15 minutes. I know to stop when the clock strikes. Or I might even use the timer on the cooker …

Remembering that I don’t have to sit on the floor, that doing what I’m doing mindfully is as good as, possibly better than, just sitting. Simpler tasks seem to be best – walking, preparing vegetables, sweeping, weeding. Someone once said to me ‘Woodbrooke is full of opportunities to practice – stairs everywhere.’ I realised that my (then) workplace was similarly endowed. I’ve since moved to a different office,where the full disabled access has many advantages, but the frequent opportunities to climb the stairs mindfully have gone, replaced by an opportunity to walk down the corridor mindfully.

Keeping it simple. I don’t have a special place, though sitting on my cushion on the floor helps, and sometimes I improvise a ‘shrine’ by putting eg a Buddha statue and/or a flower and/or a joss stick on a small table.

 dandelion clocks

What helps you?

L is for Heart of London Sangha

In 2010 at a retreat in Nottingham I formally received the five mindfulness trainings. Listening to the dharma talk later that morning I heard Thay speak of the importance of belonging to a sangha to support us in our practice. I heard the request that if we didn’t live within reach of a sangha we should start one.

‘In 2013’ I silently replied.

2013 because I knew that I was heavily committed as co-clerk of my local Quaker meeting until the end of 2012.

In the meantime I did look to see if there were Community of Interbeing sanghas meeting within reach of my home, and think about how possible it would be to start one in Watford, who might join it, what it would involve. At Nottingham in 2012 I inquired about other groups and also tried to contact others practising in the same tradition in my locality. The only people living near me seemed to be those I’d travelled to the retreat with. They were not looking to join a sangha in Watford at that time.

Of the groups meeting near to my home, the most accessible to me was Heart of London Sangha, meeting at Westminster Quaker meeting house on Saturday mornings. The timing and the accessibility by public transport made this more practical for me than other groups apparently nearer.

So it was in the back of my mind that come 2013 I might go there, perhaps to join, perhaps just to learn more about what setting up and running a local sangha may involve.

Then a facebook friend posted in his status that he’d been to the Heart of London sangha at Westminster meeting house, so I responded ‘that’s where I want to go’. A conversation ensued resulting in an agreement that we’d both go on an agreed day, and then have lunch together afterwards. This was a classic case of refinding a friend via social media, we hadn’t met for about thirty years. It was also the motivation I needed to actually make the journey into central London on a Saturday morning for the sangha meeting.

The re-establishment of the friendship has been a great delight, but that is not the point of this blog post.

This post is about my relationship with the Heart of London sangha.

I had looked at the website beforehand; I’d been to weekends at Woodbrooke led by a dharma teacher from the Community of Interbeing; I’d been on retreats led by Thay and monastics from Plum village; I’d tried to keep up some of the practise on my own; as a Quaker I’d even been to Westminster meeting House before (though a very long time before). So little in the morning of mindfulness was totally unfamiliar, though describing how I felt that morning using the weather as a metaphor was a little unusual.

On the whole I liked it. I was happy to go back another morning. I resolved to about once a month if I could (the sangha meets every week). Sometimes I would meet my friend, but my attendance at sangha meetings did not depend on that friendship.

Part of me really wants to get more involved, to get to know people a bit more. The logistics make it difficult. I am not good at standing around to drink tea and talk. By 1pm I am hungry and if I don’t eat fairly soon I get ratty and irritable. Part of me itches to learn to be a facilitator in this tradition (I do a lot of that sort of thing as a Quaker). My health limits how much commitment I can make, how reliable I can be. Some Saturdays when I don’t go, I feel a desire to be there and I may sit on my cushion to join the meditation for a while, to have the effect of being part of the sangha although I am not physically there. It is remarkably supportive. Other Saturdays I am busy with Quaker commitments and I am enjoying what I’m doing, fully involved in that and don’t miss the sangha meeting much at all.

So I remain a bit uncertain about my relationship with the Heart of London sangha. That isn’t meant as criticism, it’s just me trying to honestly explore my own position.

L is for Love and Letting go

‘… it [love] keeps no record of wrongs.’ 1 Corinthians 13:5 New International Version


I’ve always counted things, ever since I learnt to count (which was definitely before I went to school). Since I learnt to write, I’ve tended to write down what I’ve counted. How much money I have, how many jars of marmalade I’ve made, what I’ve sown in the allotment, what I’ve harvested from the allotment. I’m not very concerned about the size of the answer, I just like to know how much, how many.

I was at a wedding recently and 1 Corinthians 13 was read (as it so often is at weddings). It is beautiful (in part) and incomprehensible, or at least hard to understand, (in part).

On this occasion a modern translation (New International Version) was used and the phrase above leapt out at me and has stayed with me.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

It says to me: Don’t count the wrongs against you. Don’t write them down. You don’t need to know how many there are. Let them go. Forgive.

When truly I love another person, I don’t count their wrongs, real or perceived. And we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves. So I don’t count others’ wrongs, others’ mistakes, and I don’t count mine either.

God loves us and doesn’t keep a record of our wrongs. That is forgiveness.

This is also letting go and non-attachment. If I truly let go, I need no record of what I let go. If I am truly not attached, I need no record of what I not attached to.