Ten minutes to mindfulness

Mindfulness training and meditation have many benefits, but finding the time to fit them into busy schedules can be hard.

With this in mind, mindfulness meditation teacher Dr Elise Bialylew created a month-long challenge starting on May 1, called Mindful in May.

And all you need is 10 minutes a day.

"Mindfulness meditation has gotten a huge amount of media over recent years. But the challenge still remains: how do we actually bring the practice into our hectic lives in a sustained way? That's why I created Mindful in May," says Bialylew.

"The aim is to support and inspire people to practice for only 10 minutes a day. It's hard to come up with a reason why you can't commit to something when it only takes 10 minutes."

While the Mindful in May challenge is mainly a way of introducing time-poor people to mindfulness practices, it also raises money to provide developing nations access to clean water.

Mindfulness courses are becoming more commonplace as Australians become more stressed than ever – with our jobs often being one of the biggest causes.

A survey by the Australian Psychological Society last year found that almost half of working Australians named the workplace as a major source of stress.

Even big companies like Google have acknowledged the benefits of mindfulness training, providing meditation sessions for staff members.

Elizabeth Granger says she certainly felt the benefit of practicing meditation in her 14 years as a practicing lawyer, which led her to developing a mindfulness program aimed directly at the corporate environment.

"Mindfulness training can be of real benefit to those working in demanding corporate environments," says Granger, whose meditation course starts next week in Sydney’s CBD, "particularly in terms of cultivating resilience and the ability to perform well even in stressful circumstances."

What is mindfulness?

"When you make space for your mind, there is more room for creativity and innovation. That's probably why Google has started bringing mindfulness meditation into their workplace," says Bialylew.

"The brain is responsive to where we put our attention, so mindfulness can literally transform the brain."

Granger says mindfulness increases your presence, both at work and at home, which means you can live life "in a much more satisfying way".

"[It] has shown to lead to deeper levels of engagement in the workforce and in life generally," says Granger.

Importantly, both Granger and Bialylew point to the importance of mindfulness for regulating and noticing emotions, which can help with stress – if you can identify your emotions, you'll be much better equipped at dealing with them.

Becoming 'Mindful'

Bialylew, who began practicing meditation more seriously about nine years ago, says the pactice is simple but not easy.

"It can be as simple as training your attention to stay with the breath, or choosing an object to focus your attention on," says Bialylew.

"It isn't a complicated practice, but it's difficult because it's not in the nature of the mind to be present. It's simple but challenging."

Granger and Bialylew both say you really need either a teacher or a course in the beginning, so you have the opportunity to ask questions and develop a good practice.

Granger says one of the hardest parts of mindfulness is making the time for it in your daily life.

"It is a bit like wanting to be physically fit – it won't happen unless you spend some time going to the gym and lifting the weights," says Granger.

"You need to give it some priority so as to establish it as a habit."

She says 10 minutes of practice a day is better than one hour once a week, but the more time you dedicate to it the more beneficial it will be.

If mindfulness sounds great but you want to get something physical out of your limited time as well: well, there’s an app for that too.

Tai chi, quigong and yoga instructor Fiona Patterson has developed an app, Salute the Desk, which gives you mini yoga or meditation sessions that can be done at work.

Tips for making mindfulness part of daily life

"Anything can be done mindfully," says Granger, adding formal mindfulness practice will make it easier for you to bring it into everyday life.

Here are some tips, given by both Granger and Bialylew, which should help you start or maintain your own mindfulness practice.

1. At any point in your day, pay attention to your breath.

Simply taking five or 10 minutes out of your day to sit and do the best you can to focus your attention on your breath is a great way to exercise your meditation muscle.

"This allows you to unhook, and stop worrying about the future and the past," says Bialylew.

2. Practice while you eat.

"When we eat we are generally doing other things and we're rushing, we're not in the present, so mindful eating is about bringing awareness to the experience," says Bialylew.

She says concentrate on all the senses – the colours, the sensations of chewing and of course the flavour and smell.

3. Pay attention to "transitions".

Granger says try making a conscious effort to be present during travel or between tasks.

"These are all great opportunities for deliberately shifting gears so that we can wisely choose how we engage with the new context," says Granger.

4. Have a mindful shower.

Bialylew suggests paying attention to the sensation of the water, the temperature, as well as the sound of the water when you take a shower.

5. Turn off.

As hard as it might be to turn away from the television or computer screen or to put down your phone or iPad, Granger says it's important to switch off from technology at least once a day.

"Listen to the ordinary sounds that are present in your environment, rather than always being 'plugged in'," says Granger.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/money-and-careers/ten-minutes-to-mindfulness-20140429-37ey4.html#ixzz30QHzxMkp

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