Want To Be More Mindful All Day Long? Try A Micro-Meditation

Written by Daniel Zandt
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If we're sincere about living connectedly, where we can truly feel the joy of our positive feelings and open-heartedly accept our negative ones, we need a way of taking mindfulness from the meditation cushion into the everyday. We can use "micro-meditations" to achieve this.

A "micro-meditation" is a small period of awareness we can integrate into our daily lives. It might be a mindfulness-based exercise, a breathing technique or a short meditation. When we find ourselves in unpleasant situations, we can temper our reactivity by approaching difficulty with mindfulness. When we're bored we can re-energize and re-engage. And when we're happy we can experience that joy all the more fully.

Mindfulness isn't just another self-help aid. When we see it solely as a means to attain a desired result, whether that's reduced stress, better concentration, or as a way of overcoming boredom, we miss the greater point.

The "micro-meditation" approach asks, "What if you are a naturally compassionate, creative being, and it's actually the tension of constantly striving for more that causes problems?"

We don't want to "build" concentration or calm. We want to tend to the underlying circumstances in which they can spontaneously arise. The aim isn't to squeeze in a bit of mindfulness into your busy life, as you might a session at the gym. It's bring presence into the rush of your day-to-day life a way of deepening the habit of returning to our true selves.

Try these four micro-meditation exercises to help cultivate mindfulness into your day, every day:

1. Loving-Kindness

Best for: Alleviating feelings of anger toward others.

"Metta bhavana" is a term from the Pali language that translates to the "cultivation of loving-kindness," in the non-romantic sense. Some benefits include a more restful sleep with the absence of nightmares, and better concentration and clarity.

  • Seated comfortably, take a few deep, centering breaths
  • With each exhalation, feel yourself loosening.
  • Say to yourself, "May I be happy, may I be well, may I be loved"
  • On an inhalation, feel yourself swelling with feelings of soft loving-kindness
  • Picture someone with whom you are struggling at the moment
  • Say to that person, "May you be happy, may you be well, may you be loved"
  • Imagine rays of loving-kindness flowing towards them

2. Body Scan

Best for: Releasing feelings of tension and frustration.

When you're at odds with your mind, this is one of the fastest ways to bring your awareness to your body. If you're at work and feeling particularly frustrated, spend a few moments with this practice of scanning your body to find relaxation.

  • Begin with your feet flat on the ground
  • Feel them relax and loosen
  • Focus on your shins and calves
  • Feel them relax and loosen
  • Focus on your thighs
  • Feel them relax and loosen
  • Focus on your buttocks
  • Feel them relax and loosen
  • Focus on your belly
  • Feel it relax and loosen
  • Focus on your chest
  • Feel it relax and loosen
  • Focus on your shoulders
  • Feel them relax and loosen
  • Focus on your arms and hands
  • Feel them relax and loosen
  • Focus on your neck
  • Feel it relax and loosen
  • Finally, focus on your face: your lips, nose, eyelids and forehead.
  • Feel them all relax and loosen

3. Mindful Communication

Best for: Having difficult conversations.

In her book Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg suggests doing these three things whenever we get caught in tough conversation:

  • Become aware of our bodies: This allows us to evaluate our body-language and the things we might inadvertently be communicating through it. It also means that we can gauge the emotions we're experiencing.
  • Use the "I" language: When we talk using the expression, "I feel….", we are making it difficult for the other person to argue with us, and dissipating conflict.
  • Be fully aware of what the other person is saying: When we are more relaxed, this becomes easier. When listening with full awareness, the subtext of what we're hearing will often become apparent.

4. Belly Breathing

Best for: Handling difficult emotions.

Belly breathing is great for dealing with negative emotions. The next time you're feeling upset, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. You're attempting to breathe, unforced, in a way that limits the movement of the hand on your chest so that it's just your belly that is doing the rising and falling.

So there you have it, four of my favorite little techniques for fostering calm throughout the day. Give them a go and let me know what you think!

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