Good morning, good morning.
Yesterday, my ability to remain mindful (and thus, relatively stress free) was put to the test when my car went into “fail safe” mode on the 401 Expressway. Fortunately, I made it safely and soundly to my destination, however, the journey was far from stress free. At one point, I heard my internal voice going into woe-is-me-mode – “I have so much on my plate” and “Why is this happening now” and “I can’t deal with one more stressful thing”. Perhaps I was the one that needed the “fail safe” mode option.
Yet, after 1-2 minutes spent in woe-is-me-mode I heard another internal voice (and no, I am not suffering from a mental health condition). This voice was powerful. This voice was different, new, and very convincing. This voice siad a number of wonderful things including, “This is not a big deal – money can be found and this can be dealt with” and “I can successfully manage all the stressors in my life if I choose to do so” and lastly, “I am not going to be ruled by stress/emotion/fear”. As you can imagine, I much preferred the second voice to the first.
This second voice, I believe, is the result of focused meditation practice over the past 6 months (amongst a few other things). My reason for sharing this rather personal story is to demonstrate that meditation practice can and does have very positive results. Yet, practice is crucial for success. With more practice, I hope to one day completely obliterate the first voice and remove any and all internal dialogue that is defeating, unproductive, and negative.
OK enough blathering. Here is a 3-minute breathing space technique that you can use anywhere and everywhere to help better manage stressful situations, events, and interactions.
1. Awareness (1 minute)- Sit in a dignified posture, and if you are comfortable close your eyes (you don’t necessarily need to be sitting or have your eyes closed, but it will help you to better focus). Ask yourself, “What is my experience right now…in thoughts…in feelings…and in bodily sensations?” Acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is unwanted.
2. Gathering (1 minute) – Once you have a sense of what is going on with you, redirect your attention to your breath. Feel each inbreath and each outbreath. Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness. If your mind wanders (which it will), come back to your breath.
3. Expanding (1 minute) – Expand your field of awareness around your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole. What is your facial expression? Are you shoulders relaxed? Has your breathing changed?
It’s important to remember that your 3-minute breathing space may vary in length. Don’t worry about hitting the 3-minute mark, the important part is to experience each stage of the brief meditation.
And believe me, this technique has proven itself invaluable to me over the past 6 months. I actually performed this meditation with a group of physicians and staff at a local hospital and it was incredible to experience, as the facilitator, the change in the energy of the room. The energy in the room became more calm, relaxed, and peaceful. Audience members adopted a new posture, and seemed to become more attentive and interested (in my biased opinion). My point? This 3-minute meditation is powerful.
Good luck. I encourage you to try it out at work, home, the grocery store, mall, doctor’s office, etc. As my mindfulness teacher told me, bathrooms are always a good place to go to perform a brief meditation…
Segal, Williams, and Teasdale (2002).