What can you do in one minute? The truth is you can do a lot. A minute is longer than you think. If you have a spare minute, try it right now. Set a timer, close your eyes and just breathe.
Were you surprised by how long a minute actually is? When I teach meditation, especially to beginners, showing them ‘mindful minutes’ is a core exercise I love to use because it helps students see the benefits of meditation in the context of their daily lives.
When people learn different types of meditation, the basic practice involves setting time aside from your usual day-to-day activities for a quiet period of 20 minutes or more. And, it’s true, this devoted time to go deep into a practice is essential to learning what meditation is actually about.
However, if this is your only practice, what often happens is a kind of disconnection. Insights or perspectives you have on the meditation cushion stay there. They don’t flow into your work stresses or disagreements with your loved ones. You feel and react as usual, maybe a little disappointed in yourself or in meditation.
Mindful minutes are the medicine for disconnection. The benefits of your mindful minutes of breath practice, relaxation or loving-kindness, for example, flow into whatever you do next.
Stop for a moment to fully embrace your surroundings shutterstock/mimagephotography
Want to give mindful minutes a try? Here’s all you need to do:
If you find yourself thinking about something else during your mindful minute, that’s OK. Do not beat yourself up! If you have a bit more time, start again. If you don’t, just notice – kindly, please – that it was difficult for you to focus for one minute. It’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? What would be different if you could focus for longer? Just a question, no judgement.
Don’t let your mind talk you out of doing the practices. You may tell yourself, “This is stupid. What’s this going to do?” Decide ahead of time to ignore this kind of criticism. The exercises in this article are simple, but they all have direct roots in traditional meditation practices that have been used for hundreds of years.
Incorporate some of these ten mindful moments into your daily routine and start to feel the benefits soon.
Breathing exercises are one of the oldest meditation practices. They are powerful tools for relaxing both your body and mind. For five breaths, pay attention to the sensations of your full breath cycle: the inhale, slight pause, exhale, slight pause. Don’t strain, hold your breath or try to change your breath in any way. Just do your best to focus on the sensations of your breath in your nose, throat, belly or wherever it’s easiest for you to pay attention.
Eating is something we all sometimes do in a rush or without fully experiencing or enjoying. As you prepare and eat your breakfast, for example, pay attention to the vibrations as you grind your coffee, the smell of the bread toasting, and the taste of the orange juice in your mouth. When you become distracted or start thinking about what’s next in your day, do your best to be aware and simply come back to your moment-to-moment experience of eating mindfully.
Eat mindfully, enjoying every moment of food shutterstock/Dean Drobot
Is there someone in your life that is struggling or in a painful situation? Or maybe this describes you right now. Open your heart by practising loving-kindness. Close your eyes and see the person or yourself in your mind’s eye. Feel compassion and loving kindness for what they’re going through, and repeat silently, “May they be happy, may they be safe, may they be loved.” Or, “May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be loved.”
Has someone done something to irritate you, upsetting your mood? Try feeling empathy during a minute of mindfulness. Imagine what that person who upset you might be thinking or feeling. Could they be under a lot of pressure at work or have a troubling situation at home? If you can find a way to “see the person” even a little, your feelings and thoughts about the situation will change.
“Mindful minutes are the medicine for disconnection. The benefits of your mindful minutes of breath practice, relaxation or loving-kindness, for example, flow into whatever you do next.”
My favourite time to practise this mindful minute is when someone annoys me in traffic. One day when this happened to me, I felt angry (as usual) and conjured up stories about how inconsiderate they were. For some reason, I then thought: “How would I feel if that was my niece in the car (who I adore)?” The stories disappeared immediately, along with the anger. If it was her, I thought, she would just be rushing to get home to her kids or be a bit distracted by her work. Now, I use that practice consciously when I’m in traffic. It’s a great lesson: to see it’s the stories (my thoughts) that upset me, not the person’s behaviour.
The body scan is a classic meditation practice that can be done anywhere, any time, and for any length of time – even for just a mindful minute. Starting with your hands, feel the sensations in your body – tingling, warmth or pressure. Then, let your attention move progressively through your body, noticing as much as you can about sensations whether they are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
The idea of this practice is to stay as close to the direct physical sensations as you can, rather than thoughts, feelings or perceptions you may be having. Follow a simple yet effective ten-minute body scan meditation script here.
This meditation is a way to listen to your emotions, with kind attention, instead of perhaps resisting them or wanting to distract yourself from them. When you feel an uncomfortable emotion, big or small, see if you can notice with kind, curious attention how the emotion is showing up in your mind and body. Is it triggering thoughts of blame or anger? Is it creating tension in your neck or stomach? Notice as much as you can, not getting stuck in any one place. Notice, be kind, move on. Rinse and repeat.
This is a powerful anxiety-soothing exercise you can do almost anywhere. The object is to be mindful of the information coming in through your five senses. Pay attention to each sense: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. With each one, notice as much as you can as precisely as you can and try not to interpret anything. Simple labels can help you stay focused on your senses, like “warm” or “red” or “ringing.”
This practice is based on a foundation skill of meditation: acceptance or allowing things to be as they are. There are many things in a day that you might resist or feel are wrong. We all do this sometimes, but if it’s something we can’t change, like having a cold, for example, the resistance only makes us more unhappy.
Saying “OK” is a way to practise acceptance in little moments in your day. So, when you get a cold, say to yourself “OK” and try to let go. Or, when your teenager is late for dinner again, say to yourself “OK” and try to let go. You’re not saying you like it. You’re only acknowledging what is happening and letting go of the struggle or the wish for it to “not be so.”
Who doesn’t try and multi-task sometimes? However, productivity experts, as well as people who study happiness, have found that, first, you may not get as much done as you think and, second, that multitasking is stressful!
“The body scan is a classic meditation practice that can be done anywhere, any time, and for any length of time – even for just a mindful minute.”
Choose an everyday activity and try to focus on just that one thing while you’re doing it. If you’re like most of us, you’ll start to add in more things “you can do at the same time.” Just watch for this habit and bring your attention back to your focus. Honour what you’re doing, in this moment. Give it your undivided attention and notice if anything changes for you.
How many of your thoughts are true? What happens when you believe your thoughts are true, even when they hurt you or others around you? Practising some objectivity with your thoughts is another foundational skill of meditation. You can practise this any time by simply noticing and naming your thoughts, like this: “Oh, I was thinking about that problem at work again.” Leave it at that and notice the next thought.
Creating some space helps you notice how many thoughts you have, how consistent they are or are not, and how they affect how you feel and what you do. Spiritual teacher Byron Katie has built a whole system of meditation starting with the simple question about our thoughts, “Is it true?” Discover more.
Don’t underestimate the power of these little practices! I really encourage you to try one or two of these mindful minutes for a week or so: don’t try to do too more practices at once in the beginning.
Each one of them has the ability to create just a bit of perspective if you’re feeling angry, or a bit of relaxation if you’re stressed, or a bit of self-compassion if you’re feeling hurt. Don’t let your mind tell you they probably won’t do anything. Try them and see for yourself, then try a couple more.
And if you find that some of these mindful minute practices really work well for you, you can try doing periods of sitting meditation using the same focus or technique to deepen your experience and understanding. •
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Ann Vrlak is Founder of OneSelf Meditation and a meditation practitioner for over 25 years. She’s a Certified Meditation Teacher for adults and for children (the best job ever!). She loves to share how the perspective and practice of meditation can support people with their everyday stresses and on their journey of self-discovery.
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