Many people think meditation is complicated or difficult, but it’s not. It’s literally as simple as breathing, and a good place to begin meditating is with a one-minute meditation repeated throughout the day.
At a retreat I attended years ago, I was introduced to the one-minute meditation through the tolling of the Mindfulness Bell.
At random times throughout each day, when someone sounded a bell, we all had to stop what we were doing and take three slow, abdominal breaths.
Whenever the bell rang during the retreat, we halted in mid-sentence, mid-stride, mid-chew, as if we were in a big game of freeze tag. At first this interruption annoyed me. I was in the midst of spiritual evolution, damn it! But by the time the retreat ended, I’d embraced these “interruptions.”
When you take an abdominal breath, your belly goes out when you inhale and in when you exhale, the opposite of how many of us breathe. The result is slower, deeper, more concentrated, more efficient respiration. The popular term for it is belly breathing.
If you’re unfamiliar with belly breathing, you can practice by lying down on a bed or couch and putting one hand on your belly. Close your eyes and breathe naturally. Notice how your belly rises with each intake of breath and falls as you breathe out. This is the way babies breathe.
At the retreat, each time the bell sounded, I was able to stop what I was doing, saying, or thinking. Then I could do a reset. With each slow breath, I asked myself, Do I need to be thinking or feeling what I’m thinking and feeling? Do I want to do what I am about to do? Learning to be still in the midst of life, even briefly, helped me reevaluate these choices.
I have often recommended this three-breath meditation to clients, suggesting that they use any interrupting sound, such as a car horn or a phone’s ringing, as a substitute for the Mindfulness Bell.The effects of this simple change can be revolutionary. Click To Tweet
One client whose life was ruled by chaos found this practice to be more valuable than anything else we’d done in therapy. At a street corner on the way to work, hearing the Mindfulness Bell of a car horn, she could think, “I don’t really want to waste my time partying tonight.” About to leave for a bar, pausing on the first ring of her cell phone, she could see how the evening would play out and decide, “Not this time.” Hearing a siren blare in the midst of pangs of guilt or shame, she could choose to forgive herself.
An anxious client found a Mindfulness Bell app for his smartphone and programmed it to sound a gong randomly throughout the day. He was often on the road for his job, and while driving, his mind inevitably went to worrying. When the gong sounded, he took three breaths and allowed himself to return to a more centered place. Over time, not only did his anxiety lessen, but he started to tune in to his true desires and made major positive changes in his career and relationships.
I also continue this practice. When I step into my office and turn on my computer, I hear its Mindfulness Bell beep, reminding me to pause for a moment and assume my best self. Brief meditations throughout the day help me shift gears between clients, return to center, and reinhabit that best self again and again.
David J. Bookbinder
P.S. This content is now part of my new book The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World.
The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World at Cabot Street Books in Beverly, MA
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