Phoned in question:
In Buddhism you are supposed to avoid clinging. I want to meditate right now, but I have work to do. Is it better to meditate now and let the work go, or do the work and let meditation slide for now? Is wanting to meditate instead of working a form of clinging?
I would rather meditate than work too. The real question is whether or not you want to eat and pay your bills. Simple, huh? No, of course not. Nothing is ever simple or cut and dried with these things.
Which is more important or more immediate, earning an income or escaping the cycle of rebirth and finding Nirvana? The trick is obviously to find a balance. In the East, at least in the past, one could give up worldly things and go live in the monastery or wander in the wilderness for a few years. For most of us in the West, and most in the East as well today, this is simply no longer an option. We have bills to pay, families to feed, and work that must be done. In most cases, it is the meditation that gets shoved off to the side or skipped when time gets short.
In fact, the single most common complaint I hear is “I just don’t have time to meditate.” I hear myself saying it sometimes, and you know what? It’s not true when I say it, and it’s probably not true for you either. No, you shouldn’t skip work to meditate, but I bet you could fit in a few minutes for meditation on a break or at lunchtime if you wanted. There are even more ways to fit Buddhism and meditation into a busy schedule at home. Skip that next episode of “American Idol” and meditate. TV is a choice, not a requirement. If you find yourself watching a lot of TV, you can save an hour a day by recording your shows and fast-forwarding through the commercials. Listen to podcasts (mine and others) in your car instead of music. The iPod has tripled the number of books I “read” every year by letting me hear audiobooks anywhere, and I used to read quite a lot even before that. There are hundreds of books on time management, and it’s not that hard to learn how to fit in something that you care about if you really want to do it.
I think the real problem is that many of us see “just sitting” as the same as “just goofing off.” This is not the case. Meditation is useful, healthy, and makes the rest of your life more mindful and more productive by helping to take out the mental garbage. MAKE time, you won’t regret missing an hour of TV once you get into the routine.