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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

How to Achieve Mindfulness in 30 Minutes (and Finally Get What All the Hype Is About)

You’ve been hearing about mindfulness everywhere—books, videos, conferences, bumper stickers, and on and on. Friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances, and complete strangers are all sharing with you how the practice has profoundly improved their productivity, creativity, health, and career.

It sounds pretty good, but also like it would take a significant time commitment. The good news is that you’re wrong. I’ve laid out the exact steps for you to start experiencing the benefits of mindfulness in the next 30 minutes.

Minutes 1 Through 5: Watch This Video

To begin, you’ll want to answer the question: “What is this whole mindfulness and meditation thing?” Watch this short clip from a 60 Minutes episode in which Anderson Cooper has his first mindfulness experience:

Minutes 5 Through 10: Learn What it Is

Now, take a moment to reflect on Jon-Kabat Zin’s definition of mindfulness from the video. He explains it as: “The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Let’s break that down into the key words: paying attention (noticing what’s happening), awareness (understanding what’s happening), on purpose (intentionally focusing), non-judgmentally (not trying to determine if what’s happening is good or bad), present moment (right now!).

It’s really helpful to think of mindfulness as a way of being. There are many benefits to adopting it as your state of mind whenever you can. These include stress reduction, focus, clarity of mind, serenity, positivity, and connection to deep wisdom—and that’s why everyone raves about this.

Now, meditation is a word that usually goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness. And that’s because it’s the technique for achieving it, the exercise regimen that builds the necessary mental muscles. And here is the most important thing to keep in mind about meditation: You can’t do it wrong! What else in life can you say that about?

Now, enough of definitions—time to get meditating!

Minutes 10 Through 20: Clear the Decks and “Arrive” at the Present Moment

  1. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  2. Go somewhere you can sit quietly and not be disturbed.
  3. Find a comfortable yet firm chair (posture is critical to effective meditation). Ideally, you want to sit on the forward third of your chair seat, with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle (feet below knees).
  4. Sit up straight, lower back arched, head at a 45-degree angle looking downward, eyes partly open—but don’t strain to keep ramrod straight. Your goal is to be relaxed, yet alert.
  5. You’re now ready to begin to meditate. Start with one long breath in, and with this breath say to yourself, “I am arriving into the present moment.” (Feel free, of course, to choose your own words to express this idea.)
  6. Follow this breath in with a breath out. Notice what it’s like to be in this present moment.
  7. Repeat this deep breathing exercise two more times. Don’t rush, you’re in no hurry, and remember, you’re doing all this correctly—there is no wrong way to meditate!

Minutes 20 Through 30: Meditate

Gently allow your breath to return to normal. It doesn’t matter if you breathe deeply, or more shallow, or anywhere in-between—just find your own natural rhythm.

As you notice that you’re now breathing normally, whatever that means for you, begin to focus more intently on the actual inhales and exhales. Turn on your curiosity and try to notice every nuance: Do you pause between a breath in and a breath out? What is the sensation in your nose as you breathe? How does the rhythm of your breathing sound?

Keep paying attention. At some point, you will notice that you’re no longer aware of what is happening right now. Your mind has wandered into memories of the past, planning for the future, or maybe thinking about what might happen on your favorite show.

Word of warning: Go easy on your wayward mind. It’s just beginning of trying to get the hang of this meditating thing! Pause, take a breath, smile (very important), and gently return to focusing on your breathing.

Congratulations! You’re meditating! You’re doing it!

Now please, please, don’t get too serious about all this. You’re exploring, so relax, experiment, stay curious, keep things light. Above all, don’t let yourself drift into self-criticism. Right now, you’re in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing.

If you commit to doing 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation for the next 10 days, my experience tells me that you will begin to notice positive changes in your moods, your stress level, and your general well-being. Should you decide to continue, and I really hope you do, realize that you can achieve mindfulness anytime—just take a moment, on purpose, to notice what is happening right now.

Photo of meditation courtesy of Shutterstock.