The Power of Mindful Minute - How To Bring Joy To Your Day
Micro mindfulness may be the answer to your meditation needs
Here’s one of my favorite Zen koans that I throw at people when they tell me they’re too busy to meditate:
“Meditate for an hour every day unless you are too busy. In that case, meditate for two hours.”
Ironically, the busier you are, the more you need to meditate, not less. All of us are constantly doing something. This makes me think we should change the name of our species from human beings to human doings. (Proponents of the hustle culture sure would love that!)
I’ve seen this tendency in people time and time again. The closest example is my mother. She’s always doing something. The moment she’s free, she’ll either reply to messages or start dusting something around the house. I’m sure others have seen their moms doing this. They just can’t sit still.
Now, I know, that she’s doing this for us. That she’s keeping the house clean and she also cooks food every day. And I’m not trying to undermine its importance.
What I’m trying to do, however, is to make her realize how she’s actually doing us a favor by investing in herself to be a better human being.
Okay, back to the problem of not having time to meditate. Even though I meditate for a total of two hours every day, I can empathize with others who are early on in their journey.
So what’s the solution for these A-type, stressed, and driven individuals?
In many ways, micro-mindfulness is the new meditation. Almost all applications have 1-minute meditations to help people come back to the present moment. And as someone who wants the whole world to meditate every day, I’m on board!
The easiest way to do that is to set reminders throughout the day on your phone. Even apart from my daily meditation sessions, I have hourly reminders on my phone to help me be more mindful in every situation.
The alarms start at 8 am and ring every hour till 8 pm. Every time the alarm rings, I take a moment to center myself. Perhaps get up if I’ve been sitting too long. And so when I sit to meditate in the evening, I feel as if I’ve been continuing my morning meditation.
When I talked about this on LinkedIn there were a few folks who lashed out saying that, it’s not real meditation, and that I should, learn meditation from verified sources.
And I can understand the sentiment. They think that ‘real’ practice has to be longer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. (Ironically, when I ask these people how long they meditate for, they don’t have a concrete answer).
I’m a Kriya initiate from Ananda Sangha and that requires a meditation training once a year. But even after meditation every day for more than a year, I use simple things like timers, and mindful minutes to be on track.
That said here are some ways you can use your mindful minutes throughout the day and live more from your center.
One of the greatest gifts of yoga to this world is the connection between the breath and the mind.
Let’s understand that through empirical evidence. When you try to do a task that requires a lot of concentration, like putting a thread through a needle, you naturally hold your breath. Why? Because your breath is a hurdle to your concentration.
Even if you are relaxed and sit still without moving a single body part, your breath will flow in and out, thus preventing you from achieving total concentration and awareness. This is also usually called the state of samadhi or enlightenment — when the breath stops and you no longer need it.
But the question is how to reach that stage? Ironically, by focusing on the breath itself. The more you focus on the breath, the more you relax the mind and the body. And as you relax more deeply, the breath starts to become more shallow.
This cycle continues till you’re so relaxed that you don’t need the breath anymore. Your body doesn’t need any more oxygen to function.
And so if you only have a few minutes, one of the best ways you can use it is to just focus on the breath. Here’s a simple meditation technique that I use. This technique can be done for hours on end if one has the willpower to do so!
As you focus on the breath, you’ll find your attention interiorizing. Mind you, it is difficult. But you can do it with enough practice.
This one is simple. Just close your eyes or keep them open if you’d like. Start listening to the sounds around you. The birds chirping, the sound of the AC, etc. Or if you’re at the workplace, the sound of chatter, printing machines, keyboards clicking.
Once you’ve done this for a few moments, then focus your attention inward. Start listening to the ‘sounds’ in your mind. See how many thoughts you’re having.
Then just observe. Think of the thoughts as the cars on the road and yourself as a person sitting on the sidewalk. The challenge is to not cling to them. Just watch them.
What I like to do immediately after this is to write the thoughts down. Almost always I am reminded of a task that I have to do or a new idea for work pops up. Either way, it’s a great way to keep your mind free of clutter and center yourself.
Chanting is something that seems too spiritual for most people. Yet Yogananda said that chanting is half the battle.
One of the reasons he said that is because chanting is a great tool to get hold of the monkey mind. Plus, a chant put to music, or even repeating a short phrase (like Om) throughout the day can uplift your consciousness.
There are three stages of chanting that you should think about inculcating in your own practice.
Awaken the conscious mind
First, chant loudly. Not at the top of your lungs, but in a firm voice. This is the first part where you get the mind to focus on the sound. When you’re going through your day immersed in a hundred different thoughts, it’s difficult to meditate or practice mindfulness.
Chanting solves that problem.
Awaken the subconscious mind
The next step is to bring the chant from a loud voice to a whisper. Once you’ve caught hold of the monkey mind, you can finally let the chant sink in deeper into your subconscious mind.
Awaken the superconscious mind
Finally, focus on the point between the eyebrows, often known as the Spiritual Eye, and chant mentally at that point. It is said that if you receive a diving response here, you would have ‘spiritualized’ a chant. From then on, singing that chant again will pull you into the superconscious, as if on a magic carpet.
Here in India, there’s a strong tradition of chanting, mostly to show your love and longing for oneness with God. I haven’t seen or heard of such a strong pull towards chanting in the West. But that’s changing as more people realize the spiritual power of a chant.
So the next time you have five minutes, try picking up a chant and repeating it at the three levels mentioned above. You’ll find your energy uplifted almost instantly and heightened awareness will come to you naturally.
Think of a Higher Reality
What do you think when you look at this picture of the Universe.
We live in a vast Universe. To give you an idea, if you took the Universe to be the size of the Earth, then our planet would be a billionth the size of a pinhead in comparison! (or a millionth the size of a grain of sand).
I hope that puts things into perspective. The Universe is unbelievably large and complex.
Once you think about this, you realize how petty you are.
We are bacteria to the universe. We’re basically monkeys on a small rock orbiting a small backwards star in a huge galaxy, which is in an absolutely staggeringly gigantic universe, which itself may be part of a gigantic multiverse. — Naval Ravikant
When you meditate on such supernal realities, you can’t help but notice the pettiness of your life and your issues.
The issues that trouble you, that seem so real you get upset about them, are just cosmic dust. Not only that, but your existence itself likely doesn’t matter.
You’re just one person on a planet of 7 billion people. Billions have died before you and billions will die after you. In fact, 1.8 humans die per second — you can check this counter right now in real-time.
The Stoics call this taking a view from the above. We all have had such experiences. When we look back on our problems, we can’t understand why we were so worried about them in the first place.
Perhaps we all can benefit from taking this view every few hours. Put a picture of the Universe on your desktop and realize how small you are.
Suddenly, you’ll find yourself expanding your mental limits and finding yourself at one with the people around you. It’s a spiritual remedy. It calms your soul, and as a result, your body and mind follow. And funnily enough, whatever problem you have in front of you, seems to vanish.
Pray for Others
Praying for others is a great way to uplift your consciousness. To do this, follow any of the techniques mentioned above. Perhaps focus on your breath for some time.
As your concentration deepens, think about the person whom you want to pray for. Visualize them clearly at the point between the eyebrows — the esoteric center of concentration.
See them filled with light, with great joy, wonderful health, and living happily. Then, if you’d like, you can run your hands and chant ‘om’ three times to bless the people you’re praying for.
Paramahansa Yogananda said that the instrument is blessed with the power that flows through it. As you bless others, you are also in turn blessed.
The condition of most people around the world is such that they are stressed, but they don’t even know about it.
You might be tired of sitting on your chair for hours and your butt cheeks may be pleading to stretch. But you don’t notice it since you’re too preoccupied with other things.
That is what a body scan helps to cure. While there are tons of guided body scan meditations that you can pick from, I prefer this simple routine:
Close your eyes and sit comfortably. It’s also good to lie down if you’d like. (Caution: You may fall asleep if you’re tired or sleep-deprived)
Take a couple of deep breaths
Then stop controlling the breath and just watch it for a few seconds
Next, imagine space entering your body from the tip of your toe. As space enters your body, it is relaxing the body part, healing it of any minor stress that it’s carrying. Continue till space fills up your whole body.
By now, you’ll have a good idea of which body parts are aching, if any. If you do find such parts, concentrate on them specifically and relax them
Do this for as long as you like and you’ll wake up feeling twice as relaxed and refreshed.
Being mindful doesn’t only include meditation. It includes exercise as well. But not just any kind of exercise. A special set of exercises that Paramahansa Yogananda taught to energize the body before meditation in a much more mindful manner.
Here’s a video to guide you through it.
Yogananda explained that we draw prana (energy) in our bodies through the food we eat, as well as through oxygen and sunlight. Using the above exercises you can use the power of concentration, will, and breath to direct the flow of energy to various body parts.
One of the important goals of these exercises is to be aware of the flow of energy in your body and develop the ability to guide that flow.
One particular devotee used this ability to heal her sprained ankle in a matter of minutes during a hike. By consciously energizing her ankle, she was able to heal it faster than any medicine.
I do these exercises every morning right after I get up. On the days I don’t do them, I feel there are cobwebs in my body. Once you start practicing this, you’d be wondering how you were living without them for so long!
Correct Your Posture by Checking Your Spine
Most of us spend a lot of our time sitting in front of a computer. In that case, it makes sense to analyze and perfect your posture. Yet, this exercise does not have to be limited to sitting. You should be intentional about your posture every moment of your life.
Ask yourself what your posture represents. Tense? Relaxed? Irritated? Sleepy? And then ask yourself what is the quality of your attention when you sit in a particular posture.
For instance, slouching immediately induces a sense of sleepiness and fatigue. Whereas sitting with a straight spine conveys dignity and wakefulness. Further, it allows you to have a relaxed concentration.
If you’re sitting right now, then try to keep your spine straight and feet flat on the ground. How do you feel? Much more energized, I’d assume.
These and other poses like this are often known as power poses. This was popularized by Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk.
Here’s what you need to know — poses like these bring about favorable hormonal changes in your body — mostly an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol.
Being aware of your posture is a great way to be more mindful of what you’re doing every moment and increase your focus, alertness, and confidence in a matter of seconds.
Gratitude is the antidote to fear, anxiety, hatred, and many other negative virtues. Many successful people like Tony Robbins swear by the power of gratitude and preach it as their number one tool for success.
I’m guessing this, being a reader of self-help articles, you already know what gratitude can do for you. You just don’t do it, right?
Well, here’s a simple technique to get you started — count five things you’re grateful for on your fingers. The finger element seems like a joke but it’s a crucial reminder that you can do this practice anywhere and any time.
Kiss the Earth With Your Feet
Thich Nhat Hanh was the originator of the phrase — walk as if kissing the earth with your feet.
Since I’ve heard this, I’ve stolen this line and often refer to this when I’m talking about walking meditation.
The whole goal of this mindfulness exercise is to be intentional about things that you do automatically throughout the day — such as walking. Perhaps, walking is the most automatic thing that you do.
We talk, eat, read, and sometimes do all of them together while walking. Needless to say, we don’t know how it feels to walk intentionally and touch the ground with our feet.
To remedy that, pick a place in your home or office where you can walk roughly ten steps back and forth. Keep in mind that you may want a relatively private place to do this since it can seem weird to a lot of people.
Start walking slowly. Feel every sensation you can as you walk. The heel of the front foot touching the ground, then the mid-foot and then the fingers. As you do this also be aware of the back foot lifting off the ground. If you have trouble feeling these sensations, it will help to walk barefoot.
Keep your hands as you like. You can lock them behind you, or let them hang.
Finally, like any other mindfulness exercise, if your mind wanders, bring it back to feeling the sensations of walking.
Walking meditation, like dark chocolate, is an acquired taste. The more you do it, the better you’ll feel. So stick with this practice for ten days or so before you decide to switch to something else!
Mindfully Drink Water (or Eat a Nut)
Since we’re talking about bringing awareness to every moment of our lives, let’s pick up another action that we do without thinking — eating and drinking.
No matter how much we cringe about not having time for meditation, we all have time to eat and drink. So let’s carry our mindfulness into our meals.
There’s no set routine I have for this. Instead, attempt to be aware of the things you usually ignore while eating — the smell of the ingredients, the composition, how many times you chew, etc.
This will automatically draw you into a deeper sense of awareness that you would cherish. Resist the urge to distract yourself with your phone or the television.
It’s a beautiful experience if you stick with it!
Don’t underestimate the power of these small steps. If you’ve been struggling to meditate, then give at least one of them a try.
The biggest hurdle in meditation is getting started. Once people have a habit, they start enjoying their meditation sessions and see all the benefits. Paramahansa Yogananda said,
“The more you meditate, the more you’d want to meditate.”
It’s a snowball effect. But you need to get the momentum going.
So let these small mindful minutes act as a push to give you traction and build the confidence you need to start a longer, more traditional meditation practice.
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