Thirty one years ago I learned to meditate. I remember my first attempt. It was supposed to be for twenty minutes and I lasted for one. But I’ll never forget the thrill of that first minute. It was amazing. To actually stop and be. Meditating even for one minute shifted my world view. I thought I had the attention span of a flea, and so even one minute was something I never thought possible.
I soon was meditating for twenty minutes twice a day, and I have kept this up, more or less, since then. My practice absolutely helped me in the work I did for twenty years at The Hunger Project. The pressure and travel demands were intense, as was time away from family. I kept in good health, happily married and not burning out in a large part because of this foundation. It also helped me be more effective and compassionate – for myself as well as for others.
Mindfulness is in the popular lexicon now for good reasons:
- It increases our experience of time and spaciousness, which I think is very cool. It’s like a magician’s trick! We think we don’t have enough time to do it, and yet in doing it we find we have the experience of more time!
- It is a decompression mechanism. We often feel crammed and jammed with our busy lives. Like a bellows filing up with air, when we take even a small amount of time to meditate, we are recharged with energy.
- It can help us use the time we do have more productively. Research shows we make better decisions, are more emotionally resilient, and less reactive to what is happening around us when we meditate. This is in part because it increases our prefrontal cortex, giving us more capacity to plan things ahead, and make better choices.
Mindfulness is the tool I speak to my clients the most about. It helps them live and lead better. To be a leader, we first need to lead our self, and we can’t do that if we’re not bringing awareness to our inner state.
We might think we have to be a Zen master, or have lots of time to be able to meditate. We set these hurdles, but as I discovered 31 years ago, one minute is a great place to start. I want to support you in practising one minute of mindfulness (OMM) each day, so let’s begin by doing, shall we?
- Find some place to be comfortable. Silence your phone. Make sure you won’t be disturbed. Set your timer for 1 minute.
- Close your eyes and relax. Breathe through your nose. Settle in.
- In a relaxed way bring your awareness to your breathing. Feel the in breath. Feel the out breath. Feel the pause. Feel the next in breath. Don’t try to change your breathing or try and do it better.
- When you notice that you’re thinking of other things, (and you will), go back to focusing on your breath.
- Open your eyes when the timer goes off. That’s it!
Notice how did you felt. What feelings or sensations? Perhaps you felt how exhausted you are. Mindfulness helps us bring awareness to what’s going on for us right now.
A word on distractions: they are inevitable. It doesn’t mean you’re not doing it right. I remember in the beginning for me I’d be down a certain train of thought for minutes before realising, and then a moment later again be thinking of something else. Or I’d fall asleep! It’s all fine!
Start off with one minute twice a day, and play with increasing it by 30 seconds at a time. Ideally, aim for at least 10 minutes per day.
Bonus exercise! Practice mindfulness in any situation that requires ‘waiting’ (like standing in a queue, or at the bag carousel). Keep your eyes open and bring awareness to your physical state: the feeling of your feet on the floor, your shoulders in your shirt, the breathing in your chest, the smells around you. Instead of scrolling on your phone, try this next time you are standing in line. It will be more energising.
I’d love to hear how your one minute mindfulness is going for you.