There is a lot of hype around mindfulness and related practices these days; as a result, it’s common for many of us to get excited when we are first introduced to them. We arrive at our first formal meditation practice very hopeful, only to find out how hard it can be. Our minds don’t give us one moment of peace and quiet. Sitting for something that we thought would be calm and peaceful turns out to be a journey into ongoing mind trips. If we stick to it, we realize that the practice gets easier with time, not that the thoughts disappear, but at least we become more aware of them and do have moments when we’re focussed on our anchor or even enjoying a mini-bliss thoughtless second or minute if we’re lucky. Eventually, we managed to establish a formal meditation routine.
It's important to realize that formal meditation practice is not an end by itself but just a means or a tool to control our thoughts and their source, which is our mind. Our ego-centered mind is the main source of our dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and suffering. The first step in controlling our thoughts and emotions is to be aware of them. Only after this first step can we delete them. In other words, we cannot control something if we are not aware of it.
During the day over 100,000 thoughts are bombarding us, but we’re probably aware of less than 1%. In Zen, that’s called sleep day walking or thinking zombies. In addition to formal meditation sessions lasting from 10 to 45 minutes, interspersing mini-meditations throughout the day helps to bring awareness to our monkey minds and support our practice. Plus, they last only 2-3 min, can be done anywhere, anytime, and can be done many times a day.
Like formal meditation, mini-meditations require a focus point or mind anchor. Anything can be used as long you focus on it and remain mindful of incoming thoughts while returning to your focus point. The key is to act as a mirror reflecting your target focus point as it is and not as you want it to be, that is, without a discriminative, analytic, and judgmental mind. So, during a mini-meditation, you can:
Focus on your body:
On your expiration (like during formal meditation).
On your activity: walking, eating, reading, etc.
On your body using upward or downward scanning.
Focus on your mind:
On your current intellectual activity.
On your incoming thoughts.
On your emotional state.
Focus on your environment using your 5 senses:
When you are at home, in a car, at work, anywhere.
When you are with people.
On the present moment.
There are 3 main targets with 3 components each, totaling 9 focal points. Choose any of the 9 and alternate as you wish. The benefits of the practice of meditation are cumulative regardless of its length. Mini-meditations should be regarded as an add-on and not replace formal ones. They also help break our daily routine, halt our current detrimental multitasking behavior, and enjoy the pleasure of not being a zombie all day long.