What’s the secret to leading a productive and fulfilling life?
Do more of nothing.
The practice of doing nothing—otherwise known as meditation—may be the single most powerful game-changer when it comes to finding your edge in the game of life.
It seems counter-intuitive, but research backs up the assertion that meditation—the art of doing nothing—is “productive.” Science substantiates the positive impacts of meditation on social, emotional, physical, and mental health.
Meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve cognitive function and ability to work under stress, heighten creativity, strengthen relationships, enhance sex life, boost the immune system, lower risk of disease, decrease anxiety, increase feelings of empowerment, and even help our brains age better!
A Harvard study showed that short, daily meditation grows the gray matter of the brain in areas impacting self-awareness and compassion, and reduces the gray matter in areas associated with negative stress. Another Yale study illustrated how the brains of regular meditators develop a new default mode, enabling lasting present-centered awareness.
We’re over-medicated for the dis-eases we experience in life, and we perpetually seek external fixes. What if, instead, we could trust and tap our bodies’ internal healing mechanisms and capacity to transform inside-out?
Recommendations for optimal time spent in daily meditation vary, but many people cite lack of time as a reason not to meditate. A Zen proverb states: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” Meditation can be catalytic to positive change, even in micro-doses. Committing to a practice of micro-meditation—short periods of mindfulness in our day—may be our surest path to a transformational, lifelong practice.
Following are three micro-meditations to practice daily—anytime, anywhere, for one minute or longer, when that feels possible:
Practice observing—to access the “seat of self.”
Close your eyes, breathe, and visualize yourself softening back into a place behind your brain, where you can watch your own thoughts. Like dropping to the back row of a movie theatre, find a “seat” where you can observe: thoughts (brain), sensations (body), and emotions (energy-in-motion).
Take about 5 to 10 breaths with this. Anything you can observe is not you. You are not your thoughts, sensations, or emotions—you are the observer. This is the “seat of self,” or the seat of consciousness, the seat of meditation.
“You are the sky. Everything else, it’s just the weather.” ~ Pema Chodron.
Practice compassion—to transform suffering.
Close your eyes, breathe, and start to feel your heart with every breath. Become aware of any suffering in or around your experience (thoughts, sensations, or emotions) and practice doing the opposite of what we normally do when faced with suffering (resist). Instead, practice inviting any suffering in to your heart with every inhale. Feel your heart hold it. Then with every exhale, infuse the suffering with an antidote offering (i.e., offer judgment acceptance, offer pain ease, offer scarcity abundance, offer fear love).
Keep breathing. Keep practicing. Trust the heart’s ability to hold. Feel the heart’s limitless capacity to expand. Feel the heart’s power to transform suffering into healing with this compassion meditation. Keep breathing into your heart.
“When you feel the suffering of every living thing in your own heart, that is consciousness.” ~ Bhagavad Gita.
Practice gratitude—to get out of reaction mode.
When you notice yourself flooded with emotion during a stressful situation (a business meeting, an argument with your partner, a physical challenge), do the following:
>> close your eyes (arrive)
>> breathe (anchor)
>> scan your body (observe)
>> notice all the things that are present, working, or good (choose),
>> or, simply notice one thing that is okay, right here, right now, in this moment.
*Extra credit for moving past “okay” to noticing something amazing you can feel truly grateful for!
Practicing gratitude (or just noticing what is okay) is a meditation hack that short-circuits our primal brain’s automatic fight-or-flight reflex, and can (very quickly, with practice) move us from reaction to response. Practicing gratitude shifts us into a parasympathetic state of homeostasis, where all body systems operate in a more optimal “Zen” state. Anytime you find yourself unwillingly victimized in fight-or-flight: arrive, anchor, observe, and choose. You are always able to be okay.
Micro-meditation practices happen with more ease when supported by the foundation of a longer, deeper, daily meditation practice. To start a habit of longer meditation, begin by designating three essentials:
1. A time: The best time to meditate is whenever you will do it! Designate a time and protect it. Start by committing to five minutes. Increase duration gradually.
2. A space: The best place to meditate is wherever you will do it! Designate a space and mark it visually with something simple—a yoga mat, a pillow, a candle, a small alter. Leave your visual marker out for a few weeks to remind you to practice.
3. A reason: The best reason to meditate is your reason. You’ll likely stick with your new meditation habit if your practice is rooted in a solid, personal, meaningful why.
Engaging in micro-meditations could make you an expert in the art of doing nothing—bringing more being into your doing. Imagine what might come of that.
Author: Lorna Bennett
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis