If you can create a small gap in your day, this meditation workout will help you discover inner peace and cope better with life’s challenges.
Mindfulness guides are everywhere. Learn how to be calm, learn to be present, learn to be mindful. But of course, this is easier said than done and many people battle to find the time to learn how to master it. But a new book, Ten to Zen, says it can be done in just 10 minutes. And if you
consider there are 1440 minutes in every day, it can’t be that difficult to set aside 10 of them for me-time, the author says. British psychotherapist Owen O’Kane believes taking a short break every day to do his meditation “workout” can help you learn to manage difficult emotions and live life in a calmer, happier way. And at this time of year, when end-of year holidays are far away and daily life feels super-stressed, it’s worth a try.
Minute 1 Stop
This first step of your workout involves just sitting with your eyes closed with two intentions: Ask yourself how you’re doing today. However, you’re feeling today, accept completely that this is fine.
As simple as it sounds, turning towards the self in this first minute can bring an almost immediate sense of relief and calm. You instantly create a sense of space between yourself and your emotions. It’s a space to breathe and make sense of the moment.
Minute 2 and 3 Time for your calm space
Your next stage is to find the Zen-like, or calm, space in your mind. Take a few moments to identify in your mind an image of a place that represents peace, calm and relaxation. It can be real or imagined.
Common choices are beaches, mountains, countryside’s and lakes. Once you’ve identified your calm space, close your eyes and sit in stillness within this place, noticing what you see and feel the colours, smells, sensations and sounds.
Let this absorb you for a moment and simply enjoy the sense of escape and freedom it might bring. This is your time, your space.
Notice where you feel any warm sensations or feelings in your body. Now simply breathe into these sensations and feelings. Slowly enjoy the sense of ease and calm you’re feeling then gently open your eyes.
Minutes 4 and 5 Time to breathe
The next two minutes further assist the process of quieting down your mind. Breath is something we have access to every moment we’re alive. Connecting to it is one of the most amazing and life- affirming means of anchoring ourselves in the present.
First minute with eyes closed, simply observe first how you’re breathing by observing your in-breath and your out-breath. After this, breathe in a rhythmic manner for a count of four seconds, slowly; then breathe out for a count of four seconds, slowly. Repeat this for about one minute.
Notice if you become distracted by thoughts or anything else during this focused breathing and, if so, simply acknowledge the distraction and return to focus on the breath.
Second minute Again with eyes closed, keep focusing on your breath but now allow it to follow its natural flow. During this next minute you’re observing your body while breathing and simply noticing whatever you find there.
This action will automatically release tension from your body, so allow this to happen without trying too hard to make changes. Let the breath and the power of awareness do the work for you.
Minutes 6 and 7 Time to tame your thoughts
Within these two minutes you’ll recall your unhelpful thought patterns, with no judgment, then learn the art of observing them and letting them drift by.
First minute Deliberately recall your challenging thought patterns, such as being self-critical or imagining the worst will happen, and welcome them in, almost like guests.
TIME TO BREATHE TIME TO TAME YOUR THOUGHTS Minutes 4 & 5 Minutes 6& 7 By bringing unhelpful thought patterns into present- moment awareness you’ll discharge some of their power. If your thought patterns start to play out the familiar old themes, you can decide to simply observe and let go. Almost watch them fade away.
You’ll create a new relationship with your thoughts, and they’ll become less scary and intimidating. Second minute Simply sit with your thoughts generally and observe them as if you were watching a movie or observing clouds in the sky coming and going, not engaging with them, not thinking them over or trying to change them. Simply observing
Minutes 8 and 9 Time to be mindful
During these two minutes you have a number of choices in terms of what you decide to focus on. For example, your breath or body. Breath Observing your in-breath and out-breath. Not trying to change it. Simply observing it wherever you notice it most in your body.
In this act of mindfulness, your mind might become distracted, but each time your mind drifts, simply return to focus on the breath without criticism or judgment. Body Observing generally what you notice in your body. No doubt your attention will be directed to certain areas. You’re not aiming to change anything but simply to observe what’s going on any sensations, discomfort, pain, relaxed areas or areas of tension.
If you do notice any areas of discomfort, you can simply observe, breathe into that area and then let go. Sound Observing sounds you hear. Allowing the sounds to come and go but not creating stories around the sounds.
Emotions If you do notice a particular emotional state, such as anger, sadness, calm or frustration, you may decide to allow your awareness to move towards the emotional state and simply stay present with the emotion and breathe normally, not aiming to think through the emotion or change the feeling
Minute 10 Time to embody your 10 to zen principles
I developed the idea of a “mental cloak” for the closing section of Ten to Zen. Each day in the final minute of your workout you’ll visualise mentally putting on this cloak and focus on three key principles that embody the essence of this workout: Compassion To myself, to all I meet and particularly to those I struggle with. Each day, when you put on your imaginary cloak, ask these questions: How am I going to practise compassion to myself today? How am I going to practise compassion to others today?
Acceptance It is what it is. This too will become a memory. Accept that certain things can’t be changed and just allow things to be. Accept what each moment brings. Authenticity I aim simply to try to be the best version of me, and when I can’t, I try again.
Consider what parts of yourself you find difficult to accept. With a compassionate, open mind try to understand why you reject these aspects of yourself. Make today the day you decide to stop the rejection. As you return to your day, I can promise you’ll feel a greater sense of stillness, control and perspective.