Here is a short (3-mins) meditation practice for busy folks. This technique was adopted from the book “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression” by Segal et al. You can use it as a coping meditation during times of stress or daily practice. Try doing it several times a day. It is a very powerful technique for beginners and seasoned meditators alike.
Step 1: Becoming aware of this moment as it is
Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?
- What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events.
- What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.
- What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.
Step 2: Gathering and Focusing Attention
Now, redirecting the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.
Step 3: Expanding Attention
Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression as if the whole body was breathing. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right into the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations. In this, you are helping to explore the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way. If they stop pulling for your attention, return to sitting, aware of the whole body, moment by moment.
The Hourglass Shape of the Breathing Space
It is helpful to view your awareness during the Breathing Space as forming the shape of an hourglass. The wide opening at the top of an hourglass is like the first step of the Breathing Space. In this, you open your attention and gently acknowledge whatever is entering and leaving awareness.
The second step of the Breathing Space is like the narrowing of the hourglass’s neck. It’s where you focus your attention on the breath in the lower abdomen. You focus on the physical sensations of breathing, gently coaxing the mind back to the breath when it wanders away. This helps to anchor the mind – grounding you back in the present moment.
The third step of the Breathing Space is like the broadening base of an hourglass. In this, you open your awareness. In this opening, you are opening to life as it is, preparing yourself for your day’s next moments. Here you are, gently but firmly, reaffirming a sense that you have a place in the world – your whole mind-body, just as it is, in all its peace, dignity, and completeness.