Informal meditation practice which means taking Relaxation Breaks throughout the day is a great way of complimenting your formal practice. These Relaxation Breaks help you release stress, reduce blood pressure and activate the Relaxation Response at various intervals during the day. Those who are intimidated by the thought of a 20 minute formal practice can choose to reduce the time of formal meditation and pre-select a few intervals or activities during which they can practice mental relaxation. For successful inclusion of Relaxation Breaks in your day, it is important to pre-select the time intervals AND to stick to them as much as possible. The relaxation techniques mentioned here come under the umbrella of mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply a moment to moment awareness practice based on Zen Buddhist meditation techniques.
For those who are unable to sit still for a period of time AND for those who are too sedentary, meditation that involves walking can be a great place to start. You may choose to go for a 10-20 min walk early in the morning or at midday after lunch or in the evening.
Throughout the walk, consciously avoid thinking or if you find yourself caught up in any thoughts simply bring your attention back to your breath. During the walk, systematically focus for two minutes each on the (1) sensations in your feet as you walk, (2) your breath, (3) the sensations of air or wind on your skin, (4) the sounds you hear and (5) the sights you can see. Here we explain this meditation in detail.
Eating: 2 Mindful Bites
Try eating the first two bites of any meal mindfully. For the first two bites, simply focus on the bite - the texture of the food, the aroma, the taste, the appearance, the weight of the spoon or the feeling against the skin of your fingers and the chewing sounds in your mouth. Be mindful of the act of bending your hand at the crook of the elbow, picking up food and raising it to your mouth. Finally, become aware of the simple process of swallowing and all that that is involved with it. The term eating mindfully may seem confusing at first and you may be surrounded by many questions such as - Am I doing it right? What should I be thinking? etc. Simply remember to try NOT to form any words in your mind, just to observe the sensations such as the aroma of food and to let it go. Move on to the next sensation such as the appearance of the food.
Brain Break: One Mindful Moment
In the middle of checking emails - when moving from one email to the next, take a Brain Break. Just as you feel the impulse to grab your phone to check for updates (facebook, twitter, whatsapp, email, games) take a Brain Break. As your computer screen takes time to come up, take a Brain Break. Take a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling fully - paying complete attention to the process of breathing - the movement of your belly, the expansion of the lungs, the cool air going into the nostrils and the reverse process of exhalation, observing fully the contraction of your belly and and chest, the pace of your out breath and the warm air coming out of your nostrils. If you practice this seriously, sincerely and regularly, in a matter of 2 weeks you will notice that you are managing your email in a much more productive way or that the craving to seek diversion through your phone is slightly reduced.
Here are some wonderful guided mini meditations from the Internet that you can try out in these Brain Breaks.One Moment Meditation-1 minute
Three Minute Breathing Space-3 minutes
Coversations: Be Present in your Listening
In the middle of an interaction with another person, take a Listening Break. Become aware of your posture, become aware of your thoughts, judgments, agenda and the already drawn conclusions in your mind. Observe the running commentary going on in your mind as the other person is talking. Observe yourself forming responses to their words and impatiently waiting to blurt them out. Take a Listening Break, straighten your posture, inhale deeply and as you exhale, wipe the slate of your mind. Simply focus on the voice of the other person, their eyes, gestures, body language and words. Try to maintain the blank slate until it is your turn to respond. Take a mindful moment before starting to respond. If practiced in a sincere manner, you will notice that you are able to arrive at mutually benefiting agreements and solutions sooner than usual.
After the conversation is done, make a mental note to see if anything shifted in the exchange when you took a Listening Break.Zoning In vs Zoning Out
An important distinction here is that there is a difference between "being in the zone" versus "zoning out". Examples of being in the zone include being completely involved and totally lost in any activity such as painting, cooking, gardening, singing etc. whereas examples of zoning out include being mindlessly involved and totally blank in activities such as staring at the computer screen or TV. Zoning in involves a physical and mental element of concentration that is simply not there when you are aimlessly clicking around online.
Commute Time: Body Scan Relaxation
Your daily commute presents the best opportunity to practice the Body Scan Relaxation Technique. Try to spend at least the first few minutes being fully involved in the present moment. Observe the feeling of your feet on the floor. Observe the touch of your soles, the weight on your legs and slowly scan your body going up - observing your knees, thighs, trunk, back, shoulders, neck and face. Simply inhale and exhale through each body part, without thinking about them and if any judgments do come up, make a note of them and let them go.
If your commute requires you to pay complete attention (such as driving through traffic or rushing in overcrowded trains and buses), observe yourself stressing up. Observe your body language - you may be clutching the driving wheel tightly or hunching your shoulders while waiting in queue; simply exhale and relax your body. Loosening the body disengages the Fight or Flight Response and reduces blood pressure and breathing rate. Here we explain this meditation in detail.
Chores: Done Mindfully
You can pick any mundane chore and choose to do it mindfully. Such as washing your hands or face or brushing your teeth. Feel the sensations in your hands, face or teeth before your begin. Observe yourself turning the tap on, sound of water rushing, running over your hands, the appearance, fragrance and touch of soap or toothpaste, the bubbles of soap or paste and the sensations of rubbing your hands, face or brushing your teeth and washing them. These chores when done mindfully serve to drive out the boredom of life. As small and insignificant as they seem, when practiced regularly, sincerely and seriously, they infuse a certain freshness and enthusiasm in life.