If I said you could change your life if you could spare five minutes every day, would you do it? Five-minute mini meditations are for people who are too busy for anything more. As veterinary professionals, we have ridiculously busy lives; we multitask in our sleep. Everyone is talking about mindfulness for a reason. The benefits are immediate and multiple. It costs nothing. You can do it anywhere, in any clothes, at any time.
What is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn says mindfulness is “paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgementally, as if your life depended on it”.
The simple (note, I didn’t use ‘easy’!) act of pinpointing concentration on the ‘here and now’ can have profound effects on our psyche and can be a very powerful tool. Mindfulness can be taking a moment to appreciate a view, taking a few deep breaths, mini meditations, or full meditation in cross-legged posture for an hour every day. No act is better or worse than the others. What matters is that you choose what works for you.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed to such a degree that you wish you could step off the rapidly revolving world for a few moments for a break and then step back on?
Yoga, pilates and even tennis can be ‘escapism’ from the rollercoaster of life, where we concentrate on our bodies, posture, breathing, etc. This is useful for those of us who find it difficult to concentrate on “nothingness”. While mindfulness is another way of freeing oneself from automatic and unhelpful ways of thinking, it is not a method of avoiding our emotions, or escapism.
Mini meditations are a calming, anxiety-relieving strategy that we can do at any time of the day. While mini meditations are a good place to start, they are essentially “fire brigade treatment” for those of us experiencing a difficult time in our lives; a “band aid” until we make the time to use mindfulness more deeply.
There are thousands of meditation apps available, but proceed with caution. I would suggest instead disappearing somewhere for five minutes without your phone; sit and focus on nothing other than your breathing for five minutes. Toilet cubicles are an obvious place in a busy veterinary hospital. Closing your eyes while on the Tube or walking to work concentrating on only your feet are others.
Deeper meditation is easier than you would think. Start with “guided mindfulness” like “sitting meditation” by Kabat-Zinn on YouTube, where you can learn how to get into that deeper state of consciousness. Then learn to do it by yourself.
Posture is important. Focus entirely on the present moment, your breathing, and clear your mind of all thoughts which are trying to get your attention. Gently push them to one side. Push the past to the left and the future to your right and concentrate fully on the here and now.
Once your mind is clear, reintroduce and observe your emotions, in a direct and open manner one at a time. Face them; give them a description and a name. Be non-judgemental. No thought or emotion is right or wrong. Just accept it as the emotion it is. This is difficult. Once analysed, decide how much you want to hang on to or let go of that emotion, then gently push it aside. You can choose the degree to which you feel that emotion from now on. If it is anger, you may wish to feel it less. If it is joy, you may wish to grow it so that it fills your mind for the day.