Since school resumed earlier this month, many of us have been dealing with an added challenge of juggling work responsibilities while helping our kids navigate digital learning. As we are called to answer multiple demands, how do we stay present and respond in the best possible way, without becoming stressed out or reactive?
We may think we are too busy to practice mindfulness, but, in fact, the more busy we are, the more we need it! There is a story about a Zen teacher who instructed his students to meditate for an hour a day. One of the students responded that he didn’t have enough time to spend an hour meditating. “Then you should meditate for two hours,” responded the teacher. The answer seems paradoxical, but the truth is, that the more busy and stressed out we get, the more important it is to take time for self care. Relaxing by watching a favourite Netflix show is great, but, in addition, we need the type of self care that can make us more mindful and aware of our habitual reactions. And it may only take a few minutes and still be effective.
Here are some simple steps you can take to be more present throughout your day, and maintain a sense of calm, no matter how hectic life gets.
Mindful pause: Set your alarm three times during the day to take a 3-minute mindful pause. Put your work aside and silence your phone, then sit upright with your eyes closed or half closed. Take three slow breaths, noticing how your body moves with the breath. Then bring awareness into your body, noticing physical sensations such as coolness, warmth, pressure, etc., not interpreting them but simply experiencing sensations. After a few moments bring your awareness to the sounds in your space, experiencing them simply as sounds, without analyzing or thinking about them. Then bring awareness to your sense of sight, noticing light coming in through the eyelids, and any other shapes or colors that are in your field of vision, simply observing them as visual sensations. After a few moments, conclude the practice by taking three more long slow breaths while focusing on sensations of the breath in the body.
Three mindful breaths: This is an even shorter practice that you can do any time. Throughout your day, whenever you notice that you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, pause and take three mindful breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly, while focusing on sensations of the breath in the body.
These short pauses that we can take throughout the day will help us face our everyday challenges and stressful moments with more mindfulness and less reactivity.