For the Minute
There is an irony in the fact that, as I am writing about being mindful, the art of being actively engaged in the moment we are living, I have to take a time out. Life is messy and the past week was… well, quite messy. There was simply no time to meditate. We’ve all had those days, right? Where, for each minute, we really need another sixty. So how can we be in the moment when there are so many things vying for our attention?
What if it was possible to be mindful in less than sixty seconds? Dr. Alice Boyles offers some tips of how to practice mindfulness in less than one minute. First, she suggests, as we are eating, we should practice mindfulness but instead of attempting to do mindful eating all the time, “try mindful eating for the first two bites of any meal or snack. For the first two bites of any meal or snack you eat, pay attention to the sensory experiences – the texture, taste, smell, and appearance of the food, and the sounds when you bite into your food. You don’t need to savor per se, you’re just paying attention to your sensory experience in an experiential rather than evaluative way.”
Next she has an idea about something we all do – breathing. “Instead of formal meditation, try paying attention to what one breath feels like. Feel the sensations of one breath flowing into and out from your body. Notice the sensations in your nostrils, your shoulders, your rib cage, your belly etc.” I tried this on an elevator. It was a new elevator and I was only going up four floors but that gave me enough time to pay attention to one breath. It also helped calm my usually jittery feelings about being in an elevator.
Some of her other tips include just being and giving your brain a minute vacation instead of trying to catch up on one’s email. We all tend to take those few minutes of nothing to do just that. Instead, she suggests, we should give our brain a break and simply be in the moment. Trust me, the emails will still be there and you will probably feel more included to answer them later.
Another mindfulness practice in less than one minute is to simply focus on the feeling of air upon our skin. Dr. Boyles explains that this allows one to “practice being in experiential processing mode (as opposed to evaluative “judging” mode, which is our default.” We can also do a mental body scan and think about how we feel. Don’t just focus on the aches and pains, though. Include some positive feelings as well. If you do have some negative feelings, try to soften or improve them. Scanning for feelings of comfort gives one a sense of well-being and that is also calming.
My favorite piece of advice is to practice mindfulness on something you tend to do out of habit, some little something you do every day. For instance, if you take a printed newspaper, slowly and mindfully open it. If you drink a hot beverage in the morning, deliberately think about getting the cup out of the cabinet, pouring the liquid into the cup, smelling the beverage and then slowly sipping it.
Life is far too precious to waste any of it and by practice mindfulness, we are attuned to the beauty of our living. Mindfulness enables us to observe our thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.