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Just Sitting or Just Goofing Off?

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?


lifestyleI 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.

5 comments to Just Sitting or Just Goofing Off?

  • steven oldner

    What kind of meditation are you talking about? is a link to an ebook on mindfulness meditation in daily living by Dr. Thynn-Thynn. I use this technique a lot.

  • I was talking about “time management” in general. It applies to any kind of meditation.

  • Phil

    One works in order to survive. If one has no need for work or to work, and then decides to meditate in order to reach Nirvana, then your meditation has become an attachment. So attached, you’ll never achieve it. Lose the “need to meditate” – Drop it like any attachmant, like any bad habit. Once “freed,” you’ll be surprised by what you find.

  • It is important to remember the Buddhas’ advice of “Not too tight and not too loose” or the idea of the Middle way. Each one of us is on the path every moment of every day. We are our own path. This is why attention to the Moment is prescribed as Dharma practice for the day. The ability to focus ones Attention is cultivated in sitting practice. So it is a necessity. When I was in retreat this month with Lama Surya Das. He advised a lady who asked a similar question that many quickies through the day are better than one long one. I took this to mean that it is fine to sit for 10 minutes 3 times a day. When your co-workers are taking a smoke break you can take that time to re-enforce your mindfulness practice. It does take discipline and that is related to the idea of Right Effort in the Noble Eight fold Path.
    Good luck,

  • mr lee

    if you are practicing buddhism/meditation there are not times for meditation and times for work… there is simply meditation within all you do…. working meditation, walking meditation etc.Formal sitting meditation is to teach you to meditate in all you do… soooo no problem…no choice…just meditate.