How to Practice Mindfulness All Day with Short Moments

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By Priscilla Szneke, guest contributor 

Mindfulness meditation is often thought of as an activity that requires one to stop the mind from thinking while sitting absolutely still, usually cross-legged on the floor with the eyes closed for 20 minutes to an hour. This couldn’t be further from the truth. First, thinking is always happening and trying to stop the mind from thinking is like trying to stop the heart from beating. Good luck with that! The creator of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn, explains “mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”

And the choice is yours whether to leave your eyes open or closed and you don’t even need to sit to practice. You can practice sitting, lying down, standing, or walking. Although a “sitting” practice is important, it only occupies a small portion of your day. If we sit (and feel free to sit in a chair) for 30 minutes and sleep for 8, there are 15 ½ hours left in our day. During that 15 ½ hours is where the real practice begins.

Cultivating mindfulness can be done in short moments, repeated many times. We simply pause whatever we are doing and notice where the attention is. Is it in the future? The past? Caught up in an old story? Gently bringing that attention back to what is happening right now is the first step. So, what does that really mean? It means noticing what it feels like to have your feet touching the floor or noticing the sensations of the breath moving into and out of the body because those sensations are what is happening right now. Focus on the sights or sounds that are present around you. If you are eating, notice the taste of what you have in your mouth and the sensations of chewing. Or feel the wind on your face if you are outdoors. As you bring your attention to these sensory experiences, notice how this pause feels in your body, heart and mind.

These “short moments” can be random as described above or you can consciously integrate them into your day. It might be helpful to consider when, where and how you’d like to practice “short moments, repeated many times” because until a habit Is established, it is easy to forget. This intentionality taps into our reward-based system to create a habit using repetition making us successful.

How to take a short moment? Here are a few examples.

  • Use the breath as an anchor by attending to three breaths. Focus on elongating the exhale.
  • Use the STOP practice; 
    • Stop, (or pause),
    • Take a deep breath, 
    • Observe the sensations in the body, and 
    • Proceed (with what you were doing).
  • Bring attention to the sensations of movement such as walking or stretching. 

When is a good time to pause or take a short moment? 

  • When first waking up.
  • Before starting or doing something you know is stressful.
  • Between meetings or tasks.
  • Before hitting send.
  • Walking to or from your car.
  • Can you think of others?

And what might be the benefit of taking a short moment, many times?

  • Allows us to gather up scattered attention.
  • Disengage if we are caught up in automatic reactivity.
  • Stay engaged in a difficult conversation.
  • Experience life more fully.

Our busy lives sometimes make it difficult to establish a sitting practice but the possibility to pause during the day is always available. Another way to cultivate the positive benefits of a mindfulness practice. Try it for yourself. 

When do you take short mindful moments during the day? Please share in comments!

Priscilla Szneke is a mindfulness and meditation teacher who has been teaching MBSR for the last 10 years and mindfulness based practices for 15 years to corporations, universities, groups and individuals. She is a certified MBSR teacher, a certified Mindfulness-based Blood Pressure reduction teacher, and a certified MB-EAT teacher as well as a Habit Change community facilitator and is adjunct faculty at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University’s School of Public Health. She is authorized to teach Insight meditation, which she has been practicing for 15 years and mentors students who are interested in cultivating their meditation practice. Priscilla spent 35 years working in the health care field in a variety of positions and brings her passion of empowering people so that they can care for themselves in a way that allows for greater well-being and joy.

Priscilla is an instructor for our MBSR course. Click here to learn more and view upcoming classes. 

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2 comments

So simple and refreshing! I have been a mindfulness practitioner for over a decade and still enjoy being reminded to pause and just be. Thank you for writing and sharing this. 

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peter germano

I need this for Middle School teaching! I love teaching these kids. Practicing this will make me a better, more effective Teacher.

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