People often tell me how insanely busy they are. They say, "I have no 'me time' at all!"
They're exhausted. Fed up with responsibilities, everyone and everything else coming first, and needing their attention.
Well, the truth is, no matter who you are, if everyone and everything else is coming first in your life, it's only because you are allowing it. You don't just "find time" for yourself. You have to create it.
Of course there are certain obligations that must be met that mean you have to be here or go there or do that at certain times. But there's a difference between those (e.g. being sure children get to school on time, or you show up to your job etc) and how you fill your other hours (e.g. evenings and weekends).
I spent a lot of years being a single parent. Part of the time it was with five children, while I was juggling five part-time jobs - and serious illness and some other personal issues that placed huge demands on my time and energy. I understand "busy."
In spite of all of that, I made time for myself. It doesn't have to take a lot of minutes to yourself every day to make a big difference in your life, as I tell all these busy people. They seem doubtful at best.
So I tell them about one of my favourite mini-meditations. It involves a very short period of time, preferably first thing when you get up each day. You can get up a few minutes earlier - 15 would be nice but even 5-10 would be better than none.
Now don't tell me you can't manage 5-10 minutes each day for yourself. I'm just not buying it. You can. If you won't, well, now, that's another story.
So - get up a few minutes earlier. Yes, even if you're already getting up at 5 or 5.30. I've been sleep-deprived my entire adult life and I'm still breathing. Some things are just worth it. And sleeping for those few minutes a day won't be anywhere near as helpful as this little trick I'm about to share with you.
I used to get up at 5.00 every day, even on weekends, just so I could spend nearly two hours on yoga, meditating etc. before my children got up because after doing it for a short time, I could see what a massive difference it made to my life. The benefits far outweighed losing a bit of sleep.
Anyway, I'm not suggesting you spend two hours every morning doing yoga and meditation (although if you can, you might want to give it a try!).
What I am going to tell you what I suggest to all of these very busy people who complain that they have zero time to themselves. It's a simple and lovely little thing called a candle meditation.
As soon as you climb out of bed and are still in that lovely half-awake state, find your way to a darkened room if possible.
First, set a timer so you don't have to worry about being late with your morning routine.
Then light a candle. Sit quietly and look at the flame. Just focus on how beautiful it is, how gentle, how peaceful its movements are, softly flickering, dancing... It moves with the air.
Focus on your breathing in a way that is designed to cause as little air movement and flame-flickering as possible. Think "stillness" as you try to keep the flame from moving by taking slow, deep, even breaths.
Or just look at the flame. But don't sit there stewing about your problems and worries. Just look at the flame. Focus on it, watch what it does, see how it moves. Notice colours in it, watch the edges of the candle change shape as the wax slowly melts.
If you're going to think about anything while gazing at your candle, think of gratitude. Think of the blessings in your life. Think of positive things, and only positive things.
Do this candle meditation every morning for a couple of weeks. Or do it before you go to bed but do it consistently; give it a real chance. Don't tell me you haven't got time.
If you think you're unable to give yourself 5 or 10 minutes a day, you're making far too many excuses to sabotage your own life and happiness. If you're so important that you have to get all that other 'stuff' done, then you're important enough to take care of yourself.
So get up (or get ready for bed) a little early. Sit quietly and watch the flame of a candle for a few minutes. You'll enjoy it. You'll begin to look forward to it. You'll want more of this, or some other bit of 'me time' to journal, to read, to do 5-10 mins of yoga - whatever. You'll miss it if you skip a day. So don't.
No more excuses.