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In the midst of turmoil, stress, or chaos, do you ever wish you could transport yourself into a peaceful, quiet meditation room? Well, I have good news for you: most of the time you totally can. Even if you are not well-practiced in meditation, you do not have to be a Sufi or a Buddhist monk to bring some mindfulness into your everyday life. Mindfulness meditation practices are used by psychologists and social workers to help treat all kinds of mental illnesses and emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. I will teach you how anyone can reap some benefits taking as little as a minute of your day.
1. During a Traffic Jam
Hands gripped tightly to the steering wheel, foot rested firmly on the break, a few choice swear words welling up in your throat, aching for release… hardly seems a time for a meditative moment, right? Wrong! This is the perfect time to practice mindfulness, especially if you are late for an important event or job interview. Start by paying attention to the gravity pulling your body to the seat. Is it soft? Is it firm? Become aware of your body. What is going on, physically? Are you tense in certain areas? If so, take a moment to breathe into those spots. Breath goes into every part of your body: in the area behind the eyes, in the space between your eyebrows, and down the back of your neck. When thoughts come, think of them as a small child who is walking too close to the road, and gently lead them back to the breath, without judgment. Every time, bring your attention back to the breath, particularly the first part of the inhale. Make your practice simple. Simple and kind. Continue as long as you want. You may find you can only practice for a few minutes at a time, and that is all right. It takes very little time to improve your physical and emotional state, even if you don’t feel you are doing it “right.” There is no “right or wrong way.” When you finally arrive to your destination, you will most likely feel you are more present and prepared than you otherwise would have been.
2. Doing Housework
Clothes piled halfway to the ceiling with pockets filled with gum, change, chapstick, wrappers… You feel your blood begin to boil. Why are there socks on the floor of every room in the house? Why is there a half-eaten sucker under the bed? Again, this is an excellent time to practice meditation. Pay attention to what is going on in your body. Notice your physical presence with a friendly curiosity. If there are areas of tension, again, breath into those areas, remembering oxygen is reaching every cell in your body. It might be helpful to start with a few deep breaths and continue your work. Bring your attention to the noises in the house. Maybe there is running water. Perhaps the television is on. If you live in a busy city, you might hear traffic. Be aware of the noise and try to avoid commentary about it. When your thoughts arise, let them come and go, without judgment. Some of them can be juicy or provocative and you feel as though you need to pay attention to them. Bring yourself gently back to the present moment. Ground yourself by feeling what is in your hands. What is the texture like? Is it warm or cool? How do your feet feel, being pulled to the ground by gravity? Continue in this manner throughout your housework, and you will find the time goes by very quickly.
3. While Eating
I once had a psychology professor who greeted each of her students to her first class of the semester with an orange. As we sat, she asked us to hold the orange in our hands, to feel the texture. She had us do this for what seemed like an eternity as some of us started to glance awkwardly at each other. She then asked us to smell the orange, to take a really deep breath and notice the citrusy scent and how it entered our noses. We were then asked to peel the orange, and as we were doing so, to notice how it felt in our hands, the way it smelled, the temperature… Finally, we were asked to eat the orange. We had to hold it in our mouths and really experience the flavor and feeling of the juice bursting between our teeth and running down our throats.The whole process took the better part of an hour, and at the end, all of us were more intimately involved with an orange than we had ever imagined we could be. She then explained that she would teach clients this process who were over-eating. While you don’t have to spend an hour eating an orange, research has shown a correlation between mindful eating and weight management. Try it the next time you are eating a piece of chocolate. Taking in the full experience of the food, may result in you appreciating it more and eating less of it.
I practice some form of meditation for a half hour a day. I feel that it keeps me grounded and spiritually fit. However, I do not think it is necessary to sit for that long in order to benefit from the principles of meditation. Given a few basic instructions, a little self-kindness, and a few nice breaths, you can gain peace in the present moment during nearly any moment of your day. Long line at the Secretary of State? Meditate. Busy day at the office? Meditate. You can even try these practices while having an argument with your spouse. This may have the bonus side effect of annoying them with your peacefulness.