We have all had times when we say yes to someone but really want to say no. It’s often difficult to say no because of the desire to be loved: we want to be helpful, we want to show we care, but we may have little to give, are tired, over worked, or need alone time. Do you feel that if you aren’t there for someone they may reject you? Or, that you’re somehow obliged to help as it makes you a ‘good’ person, parent or friend? Do you ever feel validated by being needed?
It’s easy to believe that any time you take to relax or meditate is time that could be used elsewhere. But taking time out doesn’t mean it is selfish or even wasted time. Think about what happens when your day is spent constantly caring for others. Do you get resentful, irritated, or even angry? Do you find stress building up? Does the quality of care that you offer become affected by that inner tension? Or are you so used to being this way that it seems impossible to imagine being any other way? You may even think you’re not the relaxing type, or that if you do relax you won’t be able to cope with all the things you have to do.
However, by taking time for yourself, by lowering your blood pressure and releasing stress, you are immediately creating a more harmonious environment that can only benefit all those around you. When you take time out to be quiet it means you don’t get so angry, resentful, or frustrated; instead you connect with who you really are. Then what you share with others is coming from that peaceful space. When you are energized and feeling good you will be able to do far more than if you are dragging yourself through your day with little energy or in a bad mood.
So, rather than being selfish, such activity is actually the least selfish thing you could do! This is when saying no to others means you are affirming yourself. The power of saying no is that you are empowered!
Our yoga master, Sri Swami Satchidananda, said, “Never compromise your peace, whether it be to your children, parents, husband, wife or friends.” Unless you are at peace, what you give to others is your stress or anxiety. Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has a telephone meditation where he teaches that, when the telephone rings, just wait, breathe in and out and slowly walk to the phone, so you are at ease when you answer. Then the person at the other end will feel your peace.
No one can make time. No one can change our habits or routine. For meditation to have any effect in our lives, we need to make an agreement to honor ourselves by doing it. This is actually a commitment to our own sanity and freedom. It is not to anyone else—not to a teacher or even to our family—but to living. That choice has to be made by each one of us. We can change the way we look, where we live, even who we live with, but unless we connect with who we are inside then none of those external changes will make much difference. Remember, happiness is an inside job!
Entering into the Quiet
Taking time to meditate is not the same as going for a walk or quietly listening to music. These are wonderfully relaxing activities, but they do not have the same effect as simply being still. Even just ten minutes a day will help you and all those around you. Others will find it easier to communicate with you, will enjoy being with you, and will even be motivated to help themselves more. As peace is contagious, let’s start an epidemic!
There is a great beauty and joy that is our birthright, and we find this when we let go of resistance and stress and reconnect with that quiet space within; when we discover our essence rather than focusing on the content. A stressed mind sees life as a burden or constraint, while a relaxed mind meets life with dignity and fearlessness.
Sit comfortably with your back straight. Take a deep breath and let it go. Eyes are closed; breathe normally. Begin to silently count at the end of each out breath: Inhale… exhale… count one; inhale… exhale… two; inhale… exhale… three. Count to five, then start at one again. Just five breaths, and back to one. Simply following each breath in and silently counting. So simple.