One of the biggest objections I get from people when I encourage them to try mindfulness meditation is that it’s something they’d love to do, but they just don’t have time for it. Well, I’ve been there. I used to say that. But your mindfulness meditation sessions don’t have to take very long. In fact, introducing more mindfulness into your daily life doesn’t have to take much time at all! How would you feel if I told you that you can squeeze mindfulness meditations in 5 minutes or under?
“What natural breaks in my day?! I don’t have any”, I hear you say.
Yep, I’ve been there too. I used to say that too. But I do. And you do too.
So here’s a short collection of 5 mindfulness meditations, all taken from the book Mindfulness for Mothers, that you can do in 5 minutes or under. If you want to know a little more about Rebecca and her book and find out how it can help you, I’ve also written a longer and more detailed blog post about this.
Ready, Steady, Calm – 1 minute (breath awareness)
Rebecca suggests that you can do this in the presence of your child(ren), so the excuse “I have children – I don’t have time to meditate” doesn’t stand. (And yes, I’ve tried that one too).
This technique is beneficial for slowing yourself down (something I’ve VERY passionate about) and can be handy to help you remember things as well.
When do you do it? Whenever you’re in between activities – Rebecca gives the example of when you grab your keys to leave the house or start your car. I also do it in the morning when I put the coffee machine on and wait for it to warm up. It stops me from doing a million other things in between and (ahem) forgetting that I put the machine on in the first place.
How do you do it? It’s this simple. You close your eyes, inhale through nose, exhale a sigh through parted lips and repeat for 3 times. If you want, you can count to 3 when you inhale and count to 4 when you exhale. That’s it! And yes, this counts as mindful meditation!
Baby gazing – 5 minutes (gazing steadily at a fixed point)
This is based on a traditional external focus and concentration technique called trataka, as I learnt from Mindfulness for Mothers. The idea is that you focus your attention and senses onto something, or, in this case, someone, and feel more connected to them.
You can do this when your child sleeps or is busy playing. How? You sit comfortably, focus on your child and hold your gaze steady. Allow any background objects to blur. Blink as little as possible. And as thoughts and feelings come to the surface, try and observe them and let them go. Return your full attention on gazing.
To-do list: be. here. now. – 10 seconds (mantra and breath)
This is amazing right? How many 10-second meditation sessions can you squeeze in a day if you want to? This technique matches mantra with breath and can help you to be more present by clearing and focusing the mind. So this is a great one you can do every time you’re about to do something that needs your full attention or focus.
How do you do it? Simply, you sit or stand with a naturally straight spine, with arms and shoulders relaxed. You close your eyes and sigh 3 times. Inhale and say to yourself: “Be”. You exhale and say to yourself: “Here”. You pause after each exhale and with empty lungs you say to yourself: “Now”. And you repeat this for 3 breaths. Open your eyes, pause and take your time before you get on with your activity.
How easy is this?
3am again – 3 minutes (counting mantra and breath)
Another simple technique that can help you calm the mind. Rebecca recommends it for when you wake up in the middle of the night with lots on your mind and find it hard to go back to sleep. Effectively you want to give your mind a breath-counting focus that can’t be done automatically (counting backwards is a little harder and requires more focus than counting normally, right?)
So how do you do it? If you’re hoping to go back to sleep, you can do it lying down in bed. Make sure your body is relaxed. You close your eyes and sigh out your breath 3 times. With awareness of your next exhale, you count silently: “Now I’m breathing in 27”. You pause. “Now I’m breathing out 27” and you continue to count backwards until you get to 1. If you need to, repeat again, starting from 27.
Stop and hear the roses – 5 minutes (sense-awareness based on open listening)
With this meditation you use open listening as the anchor to the present moment. It’s a fantastic stilling technique (again, I’m a big fan) to create spaciousness and calm. You can do it anywhere really, so close your eyes if you can, or keep them open if you need to or prefer to, depending on where you are and what you’re doing.
How do you do it? Sit down with your spine naturally straight. Come to your breath, inhaling and exhaling at your nostrils, not changing your breath but noticing its flow. Take your awareness to your ears and feel any coolness or warmth. Notice how your ears feel. You then take your awareness to your sense of hearing, and allow your hearing to go as far as it can, moving from one sound to the next, for about a minute.
Then you allow nearer sounds to come to you and stay with that for about a minute. And finally, you bring your hearing really close to your body and hear the sounds of your own breath. Stay with that for about 2 minutes.
To finish, let go of the listening, return awareness to your breathing and notice the natural flow of your breath.
I hope this helps you see how many tiny breaks you can introduce in your day. Getting into the habit of doing these short meditations regularly can really help slow your day down. And you’ll feel calmer and more focused for it. Yet, you will have hardly ‘wasted’ any time. How does that sound? Worth a try?
You can find a wider range of meditations and techniques in Mindfulness for Mothers (currently only available on Kindle in the UK).
So, were you familiar with these techniques? Have you or would you try them? If you’ve tried them, what works for you?
* With massive thanks to Rebecca Ryan for gifting me a Kindle copy of her book Mindfulness for Mothers, which has helped me a great deal in noticing and making good use of the natural pauses in my (busy) days.