5 Minute Zen: Put A Ring On It
“Tension is who you think you need to be. Relaxation is who you are.”
~ Chinese proverb
Meditation for busy people with limited attention spans. I can’t be the only one, right?
Look, I am by no means a zen master. Latte fueled disaster on wheels, yes. Zen master? No. I have the attention span of a ten-year old high on jelly beans. I’ve been known to get up and walk out of movies, classes, lectures, etc. in the first 5 minutes because I was bored. I hate sitting still. I hate sitting still. Especially if it’s sitting still cross-legged. So why the flip am I about to tell you how awesome meditation is? How did I even get myself to sit still enough to do it in the first place? The answer is simple. Put a ring on it.
Why even bother? The short answer is that meditation makes me feel like less of a disaster. I’m happier when I mediate. I’m less hard on myself. If I’ve been meditating regularly it’s easier to look at stressful situations and say, “Pssshhh… I got this one.” And get this, it’s kinda fun. When I open up my eyes after meditating, even after only a few minutes. The world looks shiny and new. No matter how shit-tastical the everything around me happens to be at the moment, I enjoy being alive a little more.
OK, so enough with this hippy crap. You people have places to be. How do you do it?
(Disclaimer: I am not a yoga teacher, a meditation teacher or a medical professional of any kind. I’m just reconstituting stuff I’ve learned from other people and repackaged for my own practice in the hope it will benefit somebody else.)
1) Grab your iPhone or other timing device.
2) Step two, find a comfortable, semi-quiet place. Sometimes even locking yourself in the bathroom will do in a pinch. I also do this in my car a lot. (With the car parked, thank you very much!)
3) Find a comfortable position to sit in. You do not need to sit yogi style to do this. All that really matters is that your body is relaxed and your spine is straight. If you are sitting in a chair, uncross your legs and put your feet flat on the floor. If you are sitting on the floor you can stick a cushion or a yoga block under your butt and just straddle it if your hips are tight.
4) Start your timer. Start with 5 minutes, 3 if you’re real antsy.
5) Close your eyes, take some deep breaths. Count your breaths back from 100 on each exhale. If your mind wanders too much doing that, start with sets of 10. The key is not to not have any thoughts. (I think that’s the biggest misconception about meditation.) The key is to be able to release the thoughts that you do have. I like to imagine blowing them away on a puffy cloud. If I’m starting to worry about my to-do list I tell myself that all that crap will be there after the timer goes off, this is my me time, my mini-vaca, whatever you want to call it. Having that timer going allows me to focus on relaxation instead of wondering how much time has gone by. This is especially useful if you have limited time and don’t want to be late.
6) Different people use different ways of staying in the moment. Some people focus on the feeling of the breath leaving the mouth during an exhale. Some people have a relaxing mental picture in their brains. Instead of trying to tune out all noise, I try to notice it but not hold onto it. The ambient noises around me whether it’s crickets, a car passing in the distance, whatever, help me remain in the moment and release my worries about the future. If I start to think too much I remind myself to lie back and let my mind be “cradled” by the practice. In other words, you’re not forcing your brain to do any work, you’re letting it lie back and be supported like a newborn baby.
Aaaannnd…. that’s it.
Work yourself up from 5 minutes to however long you want. Or if you’re pressed for time… just stick with 5 minutes.
I do this in my car in the parking lot at work before I go in for the day.
If I have free time right before my most difficult class, I spend 3-5 minutes meditating right before they come in. It helps me handle the behavioral challenges. I totally do not find anything wrong with a teacher finding 5 minutes during the day to hide somewhere and meditate. As long as you’re not in class or in a meeting then why not? During lunch or prep, turn the lights off in your classroom and lock the door for 5 minutes. Or find a deserted corridor somewhere. (The kids know where all of the good ones are.) It’s just 5 minutes. The kids aren’t going to spontaneously combust. You can return your boss’ email later. The world will not implode. You’ll be a better teacher for it… I promise!
What if I don’t even have 5 minutes?
OK, so unless you are an air traffic controller, everybody has time in their day to just stop and take 3, 5 or 10 deep breaths. If I find myself getting stressed I stop myself and take a few long, slow, inhales and exhales. That usually puts me right back on track.
What if I am an air traffic controller?
Just don’t forget to breathe.
At the heart of all this, you need to believe that this is worth doing. You need to believe that you deserve less stress. You need to understand that stress doesn’t have to be the motivating factor in your success. You can have success without being stressed. In fact, meditation can help you be better at your job if that’s what you want. Most of all, trust yourself. 5 minutes a day of meditation is not going to turn you into some spaced out moon child…I promise.
So… what do you do to bust YOUR stress?