by Michael W. Taft
You may think that you are too busy to practice meditation. But there is nobody who doesn’t have a spare minute here or there to be mindful right now. Even in the midst of a crazy workday, focusing on sensory events now and then is a powerful way to banish stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and depression.
Here are six easy suggestions. Try them one at a time, for at least one full minute each.
1. Feel the bottoms of your feet. This may come as a surprise, but under your desk, there are a pair of legs. You ignore them all day long, but they’re there. At the end of those legs, encased in leather boxes, are some of the most sensitive organs in your entire body: your feet. Remember those? Take a minute now to close your eyes, and feel your feet. Really feel the skin of each toe, and notice the sensations there. Let go of mental images of your feet and just let awareness fill up with physical sensations from the toes. Careful. You may never want to come back.
2. Breathe in, breathe out. This one is easy. Close your eyes and breathe. Feel your lungs expanding and contracting. Pay close attention to the sensation of the air going in and out of your nostrils, or touching the back of your throat. Don’t try to breathe any special way; just surrender to your body breathing how it wants to breathe. No right, no wrong. And again. And again.
3. Tune into your skin. Your entire body is sheathed in a soft, supple covering that is rich with nerves. It’s called your skin. Close your eyes and feel your skin right now. Start in one small area and gradually expand to feel the entire flesh sack you’re sitting in. Resist any urges to scratch, move, or change anything. Just keep feeling your skin, the sensations of hot and cold, the sensations of clothing, the sensations of the chair pressing on your skin. Relax.
4. Turn off all media. Hear that music in the background? Shut it off. Looking at websites? Turn them off. That cell phone in your pocket? Silence it completely. Get rid of every visual or auditory distraction in your environment, until you’re down to just one: whatever you are actually supposed to be doing. Just do that, with full attention. If it is writing, write. Digging, dig. Driving, drive. Pay attention to that one thing with your full awareness.
5. Notice good feelings. Here’s a hint about how to feel better. At any time, you are experiencing dozens of emotions. Some are just more obvious than others. Tune in to your body right now, and feel around for some emotional flavor that is positive or pleasant. It might be very, very tiny, but even if you are having a bad day, there will be some little bit of a good feeling in there somewhere. When you find one, no matter how small, give it your full attention. Really feel it in your body and feel gratitude and joy that there is a good feeling somewhere among all the difficult ones. You’ll be surprised how much this can shift your mood, even after just one minute.
6. Let go of all doing. That’s it. Stop doing anything. At all. Stop thinking anything you can stop thinking. But if you’re trying to stop thinking, stop that. Stop doing everything. Let go. Now let go of letting go. Don’t try to feel anything special. Don’t try to do anything special. Don’t try to focus your mind. Just stop doing things. If your mind tries to rev up, don’t fight it, but don’t follow it either. For one minute, just be. This one is a little tougher at first, but once you get used to it, it’s much easier than the others.
Make a break in your work day to do one of these one-minute practices. You’ll notice that you feel less scattered and crazy right away.
photo by Michael Taft