Random opportunities can bring peace and harmony.
Story: Lynne Everatt, MBA
Do you want to meditate but never seem to be able to find the time? Don’t give up. Meditation’s many benefits are worth pursuing, even if you have to use your time popcorn: those small, free moments, such as waiting in line, that pop up randomly throughout the day and make us instinctively reach for a distraction.
There are so many reasons to meditate. The workplace has become a breeding ground for an epidemic of SADness—stress, anxiety and depression—three afflictions that meditation can ease. Smartphones have shrunk our attention spans to sub-goldfish levels, and meditation can help us focus at least as well as an amphibian. And meditation can make pain feel less painful, help us sleep better, control impulsive reactions and improve our relationships. But most of all, meditation helps us live our lives as they’re happening, not as background music to thoughts of the past and imaginings of the future.
Here are five easy yet powerful meditative moments that anyone, no matter how busy, can fit into his or her day.
1. Stoplight = Breathe + Delight. Do you ever feel the urge to reach for your phone at a stoplight to scan your email? Where I live, one of the toughest jurisdictions for distracted driving in the world, even touching your phone to turn off an alarm while your car is on the road can result in a fine of up to $1,000 for a first-time offense. A ticket also brings a three-day driving suspension and demerit points. Rather than reach for your phone, take a deep breath and scan your environment for something pleasing to look at, or double-up on the meditative impact by combining it with the next meditative moment …
2. The Happiness Wish. This simple practice has resulted in countless cases of “my best day at work in years.” Whenever you encounter someone, say to yourself, “I want this person to be happy.” Not only will you short-circuit a kneejerk reaction to view others with a critical mind, but with each person you encounter, you’ll be cultivating an aura of kindness that, if they’re attentive, they’ll be able to sense. If you can wish happiness for everyone you see in a day, you will get the same mood-elevating benefits as a formal meditation session in compassion where you imagine a wider and wider circle of humanity and wish them all well. Compassion meditation always begins with yourself, so while you’re wishing happiness for others, be sure to take a moment to wish for your own happiness.
3. Wake up and smell the coffee. Do you remember tasting anything today, or did you scarf down your food and drink while you were busy doing something else? Food is a pleasure that deserves to be savored. You’re eating anyway, so why not take a moment to smell, taste and feel the sensations that your food gives you. Savoring your food counts as meditation.
4. What’s happening in your left hand? “He lived at a little distance from his body” began James Joyce’s “A Painful Case,” the tragic story of Mr. Duffy, a man who never paid attention to the world around and within him. Many of us are like Mr. Duffy because we prefer orderly minds without nuisance bodies that repeatedly impose their needs on us and interrupt our productivity.
But when we cut ourselves off from our bodies, we cut ourselves off from what Joyce called “life’s feast,” so reconnect with your body now and sporadically throughout the day. What’s happening with your left hand? It’s not an insignificant question. To begin to inhabit the body takes you out of inhabiting only the mind. If you can feel your left hand, you can also start inhabiting other parts of the body. Feel the aliveness in your left hand and, if you have time, travel up your arm and around your shoulders down to your right hand. You may discover that your body is a welcoming place of mental rest.
5. Just breathe. The simplest and most portable tip, “just breathe” is a meditation that you can do anywhere, anytime. Take a deep breath into your belly and let your attention follow your breath as you feel your belly rise and fall as you breathe out. It takes only a few breaths to signal your body to relax, recharge and energize.
Try one of these meditative moments, notice how it makes you feel and soon you’ll be seeking opportunities for more meditative moments that, sown together over the course of a day, will have a positive effect on your well-being. And if you ever decide that you have five minutes or more to sit quietly and just breathe, your meditative moment will have become the bridge to building a meditative habit.
About the writer → Lynne Everatt is a recovering MBA, LinkedIn Top Voice in management and culture and author of “E-mails from the Edge,” a novel with the theme of workplace mental health. Lynne is a certified personal trainer and an ardent advocate for mental health through physical fitness.