I've been writing this Five Minutes of Bliss column for about three months now. When I first came up with the idea I thought 5 minutes was the minimum time needed to settle, shift into a relaxed mode and have some time to enjoy it but in fact Nirvana may be only a breath away. For years I've been interspersing very short periods of meditative mind with my normal, more generally outward focus. I find these brief, often one minute or less, periods of "contemplation" to be soothing and richly supportive of conscious lifestyle. Plus, I think they prepare me to enjoy longer periods of absorption when I make the time for them or I'm fortunate enough to naturally slip into them.
Source: Fountains of Wayne
Here is a truism I learned from a Sales Manager I had many years ago, during a brief period when I was trying to sell radio time. Very few things I picked up at that time have remained with me, so this really resonated. He told me that the things we do a lot of we become very good at. We enjoy being very good at things. We do things that we enjoy a lot. It is a virtuous cycle. Dropping below surface attention, exploring deeper realms can become an ingrained habit in this way. Do this a lot and you will become very good at it. You will enjoy being very good at it and so you will want to do it a lot. And so on.
You may be wondering, "When do I try these short meditations and how do I fit them into my busy, ultra full life?" Here's some ideas that I have found useful to get you started, hopefully you will find many more.
The concept is to stay in the present moment more of the time by consciously willing your mind to focus on what is happening in the here and now, on the level of first order awareness, the perception of sensations or on revery that is at most one step removed from first order perception, that is, thinking about something you are experiencing. Reactive states that take us away from first order awareness and into judmental thought are avoided here as are thoughts about the past and the future, except in so far as they directly relate to what we are experiencing now.
Well that is a mouthful. Fortunately, like many practices it is easier done than said.
One of the things I often do on autopilot is taking a shower. If I'm not careful, I can enter the shower, bathe completely and leave it barely having felt any of the activity because I was so wrapped up in thinking of what I'd be doing after I was done showering, later in my day or some other time. This "thinking" in the shower was so ingrained for me that it was a perfect time to open up to the beauty of the moment. So now, on a good day, I bring my awareness to the sensations of showering, the warm moist air in the shower chamber, the way it fills my nasal passages and soothes them, the feel of the water driving against various parts of my body, the smell of the soap and smooth touch of it sliding on my skin. And then I notice a scab and I remember cutting myself and then I call my self an idiot for being so careless and then I start worrying that I'll never get the hang of..... And I've washed half my body and I have been anywhere but in the shower, so I take a deep breath and attempt to return to feeling the roughness of the washcloth as I rub the tops of my feet, filling myself with the tingling of the hot streams of water as I rinse the detangling creme from my scalp, the relaxed warmth of my freshened body and so on. Ahhh. I can have my own spa moment before rushing into my day and it is only a turn of thought away.
Source: Regular Joe
The practice of return to focus and letting go of wandering mind is a core meditation practice and can be developed and strengthened in this way. Another place I like to enter the present moment is when brushing my teeth. Again it is a place I habitually think of anything else but what I am doing and it is very rich and pleasurable to stay with first order consciousness during this experience. Our mouths have more nerve endings in them than any other part of our bodies so it is a place rich with sensation and really enjoyable to explore. Just feel the the floss in your hands and between your teeth (since I've started doing this I have begun to look forward to flossing in a big way!), then feel the swish of water as you rinse and smell the minty scent of tooth paste, delighting in the brush as it gently massages your teeth and gums. This can be a wonderful sensory treat. A fun gift you can give yourself that starts your day with joy. Here's a tip to make maintining this gentle focus easier. Switching the hand that you do things with. This helps to slow you down and bring your activity into awareness. It works for brushing hair and teeth, shaving and other things. When something is new or difficult it will naturally hold your attention making it easier to stay with it, so if you are righty use your left hand and if a southpaw give your right hand a try.
Source: Travel and Smile
In this way I've enjoyed picking my clothes out and getting dressed, doing the laundry, putting air in my tires and many other solitary tasks. I've got special strategies for keeping my mind in the car while driving, on my food while dining alone and on my feet and body moving through space while walking.
Being with others complicates the process of single pointed attention and can make the practice even more rewarding. Some time back I was in my office talking to a colleague when I found I was getting anxious for them to finish speaking as they went on and on. I wasn't getting any new information and I felt trapped, wanting to escape and get back to my own work. Then I noticed how smoothly my colleagues corduroy shirt molded around his body, how soft and warm it looked. This lead me to take in the beauty of the hair growing out of his neck and head and the simple humanity of his flow of breath. I sensed his sincere desire to be of service in that moment and was filled with a love for him that transcended my impatience and replaced it with appreciation. I focused on what he was saying with renewed interest, not because it was helpful to me, which it still was not, but because it was an expression of this beautiful human in front of me.
Similarly, staying with sensation when involved with others can give you clues to your own reactions which you can choose to follow or not. You can notice the tension building in tightening muscles or the excited feeling in your stomach and heart or the forward thrust of your head and body when you feel interested and drawn in and so on. Bringing these things into awareness can be clues to how you want to proceed, avoiding, modifying or becoming acclimated to things which make you uncomfortable, seeking, repeating or perhaps saving things you like for later.
Sometimes it is a shock when we let go of habitual thought in the middle of a busy day and come into awareness of physical reality. We may notice how tense we are, how we may have forgotten self care as we notice the dryness of thirst or the pressure of a full bladder and now we can address these things and feel a sense of ease.
One final practice I think may be useful to you as you move through your jam packed life, is to take a short break in between things. Before getting off the bus or getting out of the car, before leaving your desk and going to a meeting, at any point of transition taking a moment to see how the last thing we were doing left us and to note the what anticipatory feelings the next thing coming up brings on. Again, noting first order sensation and what it means to us. This is particularly nice to do when preparing to leave friends or loved ones before going out to face the world. Acknowledging any sadness or anxiety that might be felt as pressure behind the eyes or agitation in the stomach, consciously, can make it easier to express love and happiness even though difficult feelings are rising. Perhaps you will communicate how hard this moment is for you.
As I approach the end of this article I notice that my feet are wrapped around my chair legs and my eyelids feel heavy. I'm feeling ungrounded by not knowing what activity I'll be taking up next and tired. I've put my feet flat on the floor to feel more rooted and I'm considering taking a nap, though if it was not Sunday, I might be considering having a chocolate covered coffee bean. Om Tat Sat.
After you try this, I'd love feedback on how it went. Plus if anyone has some favorite times to "come into the moment" that you'd care to share about, I'd love to hear about that too.