Although it’s taken me several entries to describe the why’s of this one-minute meditation (see here and here), it is really very simple to do and in fact takes less than a minute.
First of all, at the moment when you remember to do this one-minute meditation (more on ‘remembering’ later), make a note of what you are thinking about and give it a simple label, such as “what’s for dinner,” “last night’s argument,” “worrying about the kids,” etc. Keep it simple and don’t add further comments like “what the hell am I still thinking about that for – I should let it go!” No judgements, just observing what is in your mind at that moment.
Then, take a deep breath, feeling your belly expand. It is surprisingly difficult to take a deep breath correctly. Because stress is held in our bodies in an almost chronic continuity, our diaphragms and bellies are really very tight, which restricts our breathing. Here’s a tip to check if you are really taking a full deep breath: if you feel your shoulders rise as you breathe in, you are only breathing into the top of your lungs; whereas if you place your hands on your belly and feel your belly extend softly as you breathe in then you’re on the right track, as well as a sensation that your lower ribs are expanding as well, as your diaphragm expands. This is especially difficult for women because we are always being made conscious of our tummies and trying to suck it in all the time – so let it all hang out, baby!
This first deep breath works to switch off the flight-fight triggers of your autonomic nervous system, which keeps us in a constant state of stress. Take another deep breath and let out a sigh as you breathe out. You will feel your body respond almost immediately as your whole body joins in that feeling of letting go.
Next, do a scan of your body from head to toe: check your head – is it tight, is your scalp tingling; does your head feel heavy or light; is your forehead tight; how do the little muscles around your eyes feel; are you eyes dry or moist; where is tongue resting; is your mouth dry or moist. Then move down to check your breathing – are you breathing fast or slow; does your chest feel tight. What about your stomach – does it feel full or is it gurgling with hunger… and so on down your whole body, until you reach your toes. It may surprise you to know that many people who are stressed actually cannot feel their feet and this realisation can be a little distressing, so if it that happens to you, don’t worry about it – just register it as a simple observation.
The key to this exercise is just to check your vitals in very clinical way and not to make mental interpretations such as “Oh no, my shoulders are so stiff – I should be more relaxed.” Imagine that you are a doctor in a white lab coat with a clip board, objectively taking your own vital signs; that is, treat this scan as just a simple checking exercise, without any judgement about what your body should or shouldn’t be experiencing.
When you get to your toes, take three deep breaths, deep into your belly, and feel your whole body sighing with each out breath. Enjoy the sensation of your body letting go even for just a moment – it is delicious!
Then just go back to whatever you were doing… until you remember again to do this one-minute meditation, which would ideally will be at least several times a day.
What you are doing in this deceptively simple exercise is to create a space of deep and healing rest in the midst of your everyday busyness. It momentarily breaks the stress cycle by stopping the tapes that constantly go on in your mind which contribute to this ongoing chronic state of stress because there is never a chance to switch them off and simply ‘take a breath’. This moment of respite helps you to experience the ongoing impact of your thoughts upon your body by creating a deep connection between your mind and your body, which will in turn help your whole being to come back into natural synch.
It is very important to note that no judgement is taking place, there mustn’t be a critical voice going over the top pointing out all the things that are ‘wrong’ with either what you are thinking about or what state your body is in; it is more important to develop a balanced and objective awareness that places no strain on you and this simply allows your body and mind to find a space of deep relaxed peace. After a while, you will notice that you feel so much more relaxed in a general way, have more energy, and I guarantee that this will also improve your sex life! So, ENJOY!
Next time, I’ll share some tips on how to keep remembering to do this simple one-minute meditation.