Mindfulness is available to each of us, but because our lives are often super busy, we can tend to rush through our days in “survival-mode”.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the days when we’re the busiest, most rushed and most frantic are the days we most need meditation.
Short meditations is better than no meditation! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to meditate for an hour, or even half an hour or even fifteen minutes in order to “really” meditate. If all you can squeeze in is a minute or two, that’s okay.
Especially if you can incorporate these mini-mindfulness sessions multiples times throughout your day, it can make a meaningful difference in your energy, focus, presence and patience.
The following techniques are seven examples of literally hundreds of different meditation techniques out there. See which one resonates with you most and start there. Choose a time of day that works best for you and a place in your home that is clean and inviting.
1. Basic Breath Awareness
This technique works like a charm to keep us centered and present. Our breath is always there for us from birth until death. It is the sole automatic bodily function that we can also choose to control. Breath awareness is the foundation of many meditation techniques—and a calming, ever present friend that we can always return to, no matter what.
You can do this anytime during the day or night and even just a minute or two will make a noticeable difference. Sit in a comfortable position with eyes closed, taking three or four long, deep, cleansing breaths. Then, focus as much attention as possible on the sensations of your inhale going in and exhale going out. Slow the breath down. When you notice that you’ve drifted into thought, kindly and silently say “thinking” and return to the breath.
2. Sleeping Dragon Meditation
Start from one, counting up with each breath cycle. Let your breath be natural. On the inhale, imagine your body filling with darkness. You are breathing in the night sky, pitch black with shining stars.
Make your mind as vast as the sky. Visualize yourself exhaling smoke through your nostrils like a sleeping dragon.
Sit in a relaxed way or lie down on your back, scanning the body and relaxing each muscle from head to toe. Let all your weight and energy o press down into the earth. Relax every part methodically, letting go of as much tension as possible, feeling your body melt into the ground.
Imagine your body is as light as a feather or a cloud. Then, visualize your body as huge and heavy as a mountain.
Allow the tension that is no longer beneficial or necessary to exit your physical body. Visualize it seeping down into the ground, where it can serve as compost for new growth and fresh opportunities.
4. Trains of Thought
Visualize yourself sitting on a bench at a train station, simply watching the trains as they arrive and depart. Your pure, unstained consciousness is the bench. All the mind’s endless activities—thoughts, feelings, sensations, ideas, memories, plans, hopes, worries, etc. are the trains.
Sooner or later, you will forget the meditation and get on one of those trains. Luckily, the moment you realize that you are caught on a train of thought, you can magically transport yourself back to the bench at the station.
Spend a few moment watching the trains without judgment, maintaining an open mind and an open heart.
5. Blessing Meditation
This is a powerful technique for dealing with intense feelings like sadness or anger. The mantra, which comes from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is:
“May you (or I, we, all beings, etc.) be happy and peaceful. May you be free from fear and suffering. May you live with love and compassion. May you fully awaken and be free.”
Try reciting it first thing in the morning. Say the blessing aloud or silently. Direct it toward yourself, your loved ones, anyone you may be in conflict with, those who have harmed you, and, eventually, all sentient beings on the planet.
6. Exploring Sensation
Aches and pains are a natural part of life and aging. Instead of automatically downing a painkiller the next time you have a headache or sore muscles, try this meditation.
Stand, sit or lie down and take a couple of deep breaths. Focus your attention on the pain. Feel it fully, noticing how it subtly or not-so-subtly changes from moment to moment. Observe the location, size, shape, color, texture and any other details of the pain. Soon enough, it will pass.
This may seem counterintuitive when we’ve spent our lives avoiding, resisting and denying pain. However, leaning into the pain and giving it our full awareness can often help it pass more smoothly and rapidly.
7. Body scanning
Body scanning is an excellent mental technique most commonly used for relaxation purposes. To start things of, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. If you have a meditation cushion, that’s excellent, use that to sit upright and relaxed or you can also lie on your back in a comfortable position, such as on a bed or yoga mat.
Begin the meditation by allowing a few breaths to naturally come in and out. Then start the gradual scanning journey throughout the body, where you scan or simply notice body part by body part from the toes up to the head. Focus on what you feel and sense, such as tickling sensations, numbness, heat, cold or even the apparent absence of sensory input. The important thing is not the experiences per say but your attention on your body in the here and now.
Start with the toes on your left foot, then focus on the right. Be aware of both the soles of the feet, then the entire feet, lower legs, shins, calves, knees, thighs, pelvis, abdomen and lower back, chest and upper back. Hands, wrists, elbows, arms, shoulders, neck and the head. Round off the session by being aware of the whole body as an entirety, and finally end the meditation by aligning your awareness with your breath.
No matter what technique you employ, the mind will most likely play games and invent all sorts of reasons for you to avoid, quit or postpone meditating–even for just a minute or two.
When you do find the willpower to sit, alone and quiet, the mind will play more tricks on you. The mind is incredibly sneaky! Emotions can be like powerful waves, knocking you off your feet. Likewise, you can go through periods of boredom and numbness.
The key is to keep practicing, staying open and working with what is, no matter what.
“Meditation is one of the greatest arts in life—perhaps the greatest, and one cannot possibly learn it from anybody, that is the beauty of it. It has no technique and therefore no authority. When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy—if you are aware of all that in yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation.”
– J. Krishnamurti