In a time when our livelihood is centred around work, home, and family, it can be hard, if not impossible, to find time to yourself. While yoga, meditation, and mindfulness reign supreme in health magazines and blogs, finding the time to sit still and clear your mind seems downright impossible for the average working woman. But don’t throw in the towel yet! All you really need is five minutes, a cushion, and a quiet space to achieve your zen.
Practice in a space that is free of distraction. Somewhere without phones, computers, and other people. If you can’t get that kind of space, try a small room with a white noise machine, small fan, or other ambient sound to help you ignore distractions. A porch or patio works as well as any other space if you’ve got headphones to block out street noise.
Investing in a decent zafu, or meditation pillow, will pay dividends in your practice. Pick a cushion that is thick enough to support your bottom by raising it up above your ankles, but comfortable enough to not be a distraction. This is something worth spending money on – you won’t be able to focus if your feet are going numb or if your bum is sore from sitting on a cinderblock. Choose a pillow to reflect your own personality, the options are vast!
Set a time
Meditation and clock-watching don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, so set a timer on your phone or computer. Or pick up a simple egg timer. Ideally, you’ll be setting it for 5 minutes—enough time to take a break without being missed—but the exact length of time is up to you. It doesn’t matter if you meditate for 30 seconds or 5 minutes: just choose a time that feels right. Be sure to use a gentle chime; nobody enjoys being blasted out of meditation by the klaxon of a diving submarine.
Watch your posture
Slouching isn’t known for its revitalising properties, so take a moment to check your posture before you begin. If you’re sitting, try to keep your back as straight as possible, without becoming stiff. Make sure your shoulders, neck and jaw are relaxed, and do a quick scan over the rest of your body to check for any areas of tension.
Meditating is an exercise that is most effective when you are comfortable, either seated or lying down. It doesn’t matter where you choose to do this, as long as the location is comfortable enough for your 5-minute meditation. If you choose to sit, you can either place yourself on the ground cross-legged, or sit on a chair with your feet firmly rooted and in contact with the ground.
The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. You can do this while standing, but ideally you’ll be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or closed, but you may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes. It can help to set aside a designated time for this exercise, but it can also help to practice it when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Experts believe a regular practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do it in difficult situations.
If you’re not immediately able to banish thoughts and maintain focus on your breath, don’t sweat it! It’s called practice for a reason. Allowing yourself to be able to notice a thought, label it as a thought, and let it move on without your attention takes time.
Making space in your life for meditation is a great first step. Even if you only start out by doing it for a minute, or even a few seconds, you’ll begin to notice how it changes your mind and the way you feel. Like a long-neglected muscle, it will get stronger and stronger each time you practice, and you’ll find your meditation sessions becoming longer and easier. Omm!