With its broader acceptance in western culture, meditation is often touted as a cure-all. Stress, anxiety, insomnia, drug-addiction, poor concentration…all eliminated with ten minutes a day.
This attitude, however, may be changing. Whilst few will refute its benefits, there’s been a small backlash against the trendy culture of “mindfulness” that’s emerging. Potential drawbacks have been pointed out, along with the inconsistency of seeing mindfulness as just another performance aid.
I definitely don’t want to advocate another easy wonder-drug in this post, but I do believe that “micro-meditations” can be potent catalysts for happiness at work.
What Is A Micro-Meditation?
“Micro-meditations” are moments of awareness that we bring into our day. I like to think of them as little mindfulness-based exercises that are appropriate for certain situations. It could be something as simple as a minute-long breathing exercise or sending an email with more-than-usual awareness.
Sharon Salzberg, in her book Real Happiness at Work, calls them “stealth meditations.” She writes that they, “…specifically shape our ability to bring mindfulness, concentration, and compassion to our work.”
The point isn’t to “get in” a bit of meditation to reduce stress or increase focus. Rather, doing them represents a commitment to reconnect with ourselves outside of our daily sitting practice. We create the space in which increased concentration, calmness and productivity can happen on their own.
It’s perhaps the difficult moments that provide the best opportunity for micro-meditations. We can become mindful of our emotions during a difficult conversation, for example, or re-energize with our breath when we’re bored.
3 Meditations to Try
Below I’ve outlined three of my favourites. Try one next time you’re at work. See if you feel more connected.
This is taken from the book, The Healing Power of the Breath. The exercise involves lengthening each breath by a count of five, which equates to about five breaths per minute. This rate is known as the “resonant rate,” where, for most people, heart rate variability (a measure of the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system) is at an optimal level. Start at three and build up to five:
Breathing in, two, three.
Breathing out, two, three.
Breathing in, two, three, four.
Breathing out, two, three, four.
Breathing in, two, three, four, five.
Breathing out, two, three, four, five.
Research has shown that naming our emotions can loosen their clutches on us. “Labelling” simply involves naming any negative emotion (or thought) that we’re experiencing.
This achieves two things. First, it immediately creates space between ourselves and the painful experience. This means that the emotion holds less power to trouble us and that we’re less likely to respond reactively. Secondly, it allows us to gauge our level of acceptance, to ask, “Am I fuelling a negative thought-cycle or simply allowing this feeling to pass?”
Next time you’re in an emotionally arduous situation, try labelling your emotions.
Next time you are about to send an email, stop and become aware of your breath for a few moments. Remind yourself that another human being will read what you’ve just written. Try and empathise with them as best you can, how will the tone make them feel? If appropriate, send it to yourself first.
The inspiration for this post came from Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Happiness at Work.
The Healing power of the Breath, Richard P. Brown & Patricia L. Gerbarg.