There’s a common misconception that when it comes to meditating, you have to get your mind completely void of thought while sitting in a crazy yoga pose, preferably on a rock somewhere high in the Himalayas. For those of you who have avoided meditation for this very reason or because you don’t think you have time, I have good news: You don’t need a rock. You don’t even need to sit down. You can even meditate while walking around your office , and no one will know except you.
1. Concentration-based meditation: “Mini” Breathing Exercise
This technique comes from the Benson Henry Institute. Dr. Benson was the pioneer in discovering the physiological impact of meditation on the body. This meditation is great because you can do this anytime, anywhere, eyes opened or closed. No one has to know you are doing it! You can do this if you are on the phone with a difficult client and find your blood pressure rising, or anywhere else where you feel your stress levels begin to rise.
All you are going to do is anchor your awareness to the counting of your breath.
- Inhale…Exhale say to yourself 1
- Inhale….Exhale, say to yourself 2
- Count all the way to 21. If your mind wanders off to your meetings for the rest of the day, or that lunch meeting you have coming up, no big deal, just start again at 1.
Try and do this at least 3 minutes per day and I promise over time with practice, you will want to do it more and more.
2. Awareness-based Meditation: Sit back and watch your thoughts for awhile
With the mini-meditation above you are anchoring your mind by concentrating on your breath. In awareness-based meditation, you let your mind wander all over the place. Your mind may already do that, of course, but the difference here comes from bringing awareness to where your mind goes. I equate it to sitting back and watching the movie of your mind. Take five minutes out of your day to sit back and do some thought-watching/ awareness-building.
3. Get out of your head and focus on your feet: Walking meditation
So much of the time when we are walking from Point A to Point B, we are “up in our heads,” dwelling on what just happened in our previous conversation or what we are about to say in the next one. Next time you take a walk to the water cooler, get out of your head and focus on your feet! This walking meditation that will do the trick in no time:
- Stand comfortably with eyes open, arms at your sides, settle into your feet, feel each toe, maybe shift your weight to left foot/center/right foot/center, take notice of the sensations, heavy, light.
- Make your own walking mantra: when your foot hits the ground, note to yourself, “Step,” “Step,” “Step.”
- Experiment with pace so you are most mindful of your walking.
- If thoughts arise, see if you can gently let them go and bring your attention back to the sensations in your feet.
- Try and take three Mindful Walking trips per day and notice how you feel after each session!
Note all of the above techniques elicit the relaxation response in the body, which allows us to cope more easily with the “stress” response or “fight or flight” response. In my next post, we will get into this in greater detail.
Please let me know if you tried any of these tactics and what worked best for you!
Stacy Slawitsky turned to yoga and mindfulness as a means to relieve the stress of a demanding job at a Big 4 Accounting Firm. Her passion to share the benefits of these practices with others led her to start ZenConnect. She conducts stress management programs for companies throughout the Boston area.