There is an account in the book Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg that made it easier to start doing this on a more regular basis. It talked about going to a 45 day retreat meant for monks. The person going and those he was with were the only laypeople in attendance. Each day involved getting up early in the morning and then meditating for 50 minutes out of every hour until it was time to go to sleep. There were two meals of rice and vegetables provided through the day, along with one bowl of miso before going to bed. It is a grueling period, and most of the monks will drop out before the end of the retreat.
After they got there, the laypeople found out that in the middle of the retreat there was an unadvertised "week of no sleep." Here they meditated in this pattern around the clock, with a monk walking around with a "stick of compassion" to keep your from dozing off in the middle of meditating. After a day of this the author was ready to go home and didn't see how one could do an entire week without sleeping.
He asked for a consultation with a very old and respected monk who lived at the monastery. The monk was infirm, in his nineties, and had to be moved around on a stretcher. He was not participating, but had participated many times before. The monk assured the author that yes, it was possible to do the week of no sleep, but that he was carrying two burdens.
The first burden was staying awake, the second burden was the thought of staying awake for the entire week. If he wanted to make it through, he needed to only be carrying the burden of staying awake--for each individual moment. Entirely in the present, without worrying about the remainder of the week. He made it through the week of no sleep--though he was hallucinating by the end of it--by just living in each individual moment.
Similarly, if you sit to meditate for 10 minutes--or an hour--it helps not to think of it wondering how much time is left, or worrying about whether you can make it. It also helps to have an audible (or visual, if you are using the Zen-like meditations where your eyes stay open) cue in your environment so that you don't feel the need to check the clock or worry the amount of time remaining.
This has further ramifications in our lives. When practicing kaizen this is essentially the ultimate goal, but one of the ways we practice kaizen is counterproductive to this goal. We set a goal for the week, or the month, and that is the thing we are going to work on. But unless we add the qualifier
just for todayor even
just for this momentit is easy to fall under the trap of "do I have to keep up all of these other things I have done and then this as well for another week?" It becomes an extra burden, rather than a continual process.
Focus on the moment. The moment--that moment--is all that matters.
So it is with our relationship to ourselves and the world around us. You cannot change everything, but maybe you can change one thing, for just this moment.
"Always mindful, the meditator breathes in; mindful, the meditator breathes out."