Take a moment to dwell on the two life scenarios below:
When visiting a new city during a vacation, recall how we try to notice everything new and exciting about that place. Furthermore, even when we’re back home, we remember most of the things that we saw and felt there. Do we experience that same level of excitement in our routine life? Are we as attentive of our surroundings in our hometown?
With time, we get used to things. We are wired to get inattentive to repeated sights, sounds, smells, and thoughts.
Ask a child when he can recall being very happy. We will most likely receive an anecdote of how he was praised the day before by his teacher or how he had laughed hard, after pushing his friend into the pool that morning. Ask yourself the same question. In my observance, most adults recall an event that took place months or years ago.
Children always seem so joyful and jubilant because they live in the present. They worry less about the future. This is true, even for older persons. Since they have lived most of their lives, their life and ideals are sorted out, which keeps them more at peace than their sons and daughters.
Hence, the only time we suffocate ourselves with useless worry is during our youth.
“Worrying is the misuse of the imagination.”
So, if we want to reclaim our memory and cognition, our peace of mind and happiness, we need to make a change. And this change need not be one that shuffles our schedule. It is one tiny change.
I call it the Two-minute Shift.
I have also come across this practice in the Buddhist style of mindful living, or simply, mindfulness.
Mindfulness is defined as being present in the moment, mentally, physically and emotionally. The Two-minute shift is, shifting your focus from the purpose and outcome of the task to the task itself. It is all about being insightful of your present.
We all slip into the habit of performing routine tasks mindlessly, like preparing our children’s snack for school or walking to the grocery store, or even practicing yoga. Paying attention to what we are doing, how we are doing it and what we are feeling while doing that task is what it means to be mindful.
So, as you pack that lunch box, stop and pause, and feel all the love and affection associated with making that lunch. I’m sure this will bring a smile on your lips.
Next time when you step out of your house to buy groceries, then do not start making a list of what you’ll buy. Just momentarily close your eyes and take a deep breath to smell the fresh air. While on your way, pay attention to the sounds, smells, trees, and other sights on your route.
Use that little walk to restore your peace of mind.
At the store, look closely at the vegetables and fruits and try to soak in their vibrant colors and fragrance, as though buying groceries is the sole purpose of your life. Trust me, this activity will actually help you restore your sanity.
Open Eye Mindfulness
This activity can be done while you are sitting in your office cabin. You have a pen. Notice it.
Hold it in your hands and feel its little weight on your palm. Look at its tip and smell the ink. Notice the build of the pen, its color, then close your eyes and feel the texture of its surface.
If you have a family picture, look gently at it and notice what everybody is wearing, what they were saying when the picture was clicked. Recall those beautiful memories.
Benefits: Increased memory, cognition, attention to detail, recall and concentration.
Closed Eye Mindfulness
Here, your object of mindfulness will be your breath, something that most closely defines now, something that is happening right now.
Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and start focusing on the movement of your breath. Notice it expanding your lungs when inhaling and contracting them while exhaling. If you can follow a rhythmic pattern of pranayama, it’s good. However, it’s equally good if you just focus on your normal breath.
If you’re doing this while you wait for someone in your car, having coffee, showering, or strolling in a garden, try to inhale as many smells as possible.
Benefits: Enhanced ability to space out thoughts, clearer mindset, better sleep; relief from insomnia, stress, and mood swings.
In the above two techniques, your object of attention was something physically noticeable. In thoughtful mindfulness, also known as loving-kindness meditation, your object would be your inner thoughts and this is how you would do it:
This activity is a study of the self. It will make us realize how quick we are to judge people
Benefits: Influx of positivity, inner stability, peace, and non-reactivity of mind.
Though all these activities have their own separate benefits, performing any of them will leave your head lighter and your breath relaxed. This is because you have calmed down your body’s sympathetic nervous system, the system that is activated in stressful situations.
When we are angry, excited or tense, our breath becomes fast and shallow; while in a state of peace, our breathing slows down. The little-known fact is that if our emotions can dominate our breathing, we can also use our breath to tame our emotions.
This is the reason we find our yoga sessions to be so rejuvenating. Concentrating on movements and breath takes our focus away from thoughts and sets it on our feelings.
The modern fast-paced life that we live keeps our body in a continuous state of stress. We’re always in some kind of a rush. So, our sympathetic system never really shuts down. And that’s the primary reason why we need that “ Two-minutes Shift “ on our schedule to bring our body’s systems to harmony.
Nothing! Let them come and go in a non-judgemental way. Even if your attention diverts towards them for a few seconds, do not spend the rest of the two minutes beating yourself up. Instead of calling your thoughts happy, sad, depressing, stressful, or irritating, just let them stay for a moment, feel them and then, move on to continue your practice.
Gradually, you will notice that you are able to ward off these interfering thoughts during your practice of the Two-minutes Shift.
It is said that if you are worried then you are living in the future; if you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. And if you’re at peace , you’re living in the present.
Worry is a power-packed psychological state. At times, it can make us more productive. However, when it goes out of control, it can lead to mental illnesses.
No one wants to be anxious, or depressed. Everybody wants peace and harmony. And can we not take out two minutes of our day to summon that peace to us?
Give yourself that much-needed time-out, every day.
To happiness and peace.