A brief mindfulness exercise

MeditationThere are significant benefits that come from brief periods of mindfulness in the day. Sometimes it is thought that to reap the rewards of contemplation one must be practicing for long periods. Undoubtedly, to meditate for 20-30 minutes each day is a very potent exercise for healthy mind and hence body, but a short intervention during a busy day will make a difference.

Just breathe

The simplest approach is to focus gently upon your breathing. Notice the entry of the air at the tip of the nose and how the chest expands as you inhale. Then be aware of the chest falling and muscle tension easing in the body.

It is likely that at some point in the exercise you will be interrupted by a thought or a sensation in the body. This is quite normal and you cannot stop this from happening. What you can do is become increasingly aware and return your light attention to the breath. You may ‘to and fro’ quite a bit in the early stages but will find that gradually you will attend to the breathing for longer, uninterrupted periods.

Follow this simple guide two or three times a day and you will start to notice a change, often quite quickly. Tension eases, the way in which you respond to your own thoughts and situations changes and the sandbags around the neck can dissolve. As you become aware, reduce the judgement of your thoughts and notice the present moment, clarity emerges.

Mindfulness is about being present, aware and non-judgmental. We are often on autopilot, responding automatically to situations and thinking. Changing these habits that can often lead to tension, feelings of anxiety and stress is hugely empowering and possible.

So, start today. Develop an awareness of the present moment to change your experience and how you interact with life. Be in the now rather than feeling anxious about the past that has gone or being fearful of the future that has not come. Our brains have the unique ability to predict the future and allow us to plan and expect. This can be extremely useful if we are in control. If not, the negative thinking can dominate and be characterised by rumination. Keep thinking about the same things? Playing the video tape over and over? Mindfulness is a way forward to stop this process and permit freedom of living.

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