When life gets busy, finding time for meditation can seem like a mammoth task but it doesn’t need to be. With just 5 minutes each day you will start to see changes to your outlook and even physical health (meditating can boost your immune system, relieve stress and reduce anxiety).
Dr Patrizia Collard, a mindfulness and self-compassion teacher, psychotherapist and lecturer at the University of East London, designed the following meditations to fit into your usual schedule.
All you need to do is find a quiet space and follow along for five minutes. You’ll soon find more peace and tranquility in your life and improve your sense of wellbeing.
Breathing space meditation
Imagine an hourglass: the upper part contains everything you are experiencing, feeling or are aware of at this moment that is causing you distress. Hold all these things in your awareness for about one minute, or for about five to ten breaths. Take a look at them, whatever they are. Accept with all your senses these aspects of the present moment. This is simply the way things are right now.
Then picture the narrow neck of the hourglass, which symbolises the point at which you let go of all thoughts as best you can and focus only on the breath. Breathe in and out slowly and calmly ten times and try to let any thoughts simply pass by.
Then, when you are hopefully already feeling more calm and serene, visualise the bottom third of the hourglass. This is the base and the centre of strength. As you look at it, become aware of your feet and let yourself feel grounded. Imagine you are growing roots that go deep into the ground and visualise a tree, the symbol of strength and fortitude. Or a mountain or a bear – whatever symbol works best for you.
It is very likely that at the end of this short exercise, you will be feeling stronger and more relaxed than before. And you were probably able to watch your anxious thoughts simply trickle from the top of the hourglass down to the bottom, where they can now stay.
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Self-compassion break meditation
Are you thinking about a difficult episode in your life that upsets or agitates you? Try not to suppress it, but to accept it. It is what it is: perhaps an argument with someone close to you, a loss, pain, whatever it may be.
Use the calming power of touch by giving yourself a hug. You can either place one hand on your heart and the other on your solar plexus, or you can place both hands on your cheeks and hold your face. Focus wholly on yourself as best you can.
Become aware that you are suffering or afraid in this moment. Say to yourself with your inner voice, “It hurts” or “Ouch” or something similar, as your way of expressing the thought that things are not well with you right now and that you are holding yourself to gain courage and strength.
Next, remember that everyone suffers sometimes, is afraid, feels inadequate or is in pain. Tell yourself, “I am not alone”, or “I am not the only one to have problems. They are part of human life.”
Finally, whisper affectionate, uplifting phrases or words to yourself: “May I feel safe and secure”, “May I feel brave and strong”, “May I feel peaceful and unburdened.” Or just “inner peace”, “safety”, “relaxation”, “contentment”. You are sure to feel more peaceful within just a few minutes.
In this practice we connect with nature. There was a time when we humans lived our lives entirely as part of nature, and nature can still put us in touch with our true, primal selves again, helping us to become one with the skies above and the earth below. Over time, this can lead to us feeling a deeper connection with Mother Earth, and more motivated to do good to ourselves and all other living beings. And of course it also does us good to be aware of ourselves as part of this great universe.
Go to a park or wood and find “your” tree. For example, I have an old oak tree near where I live. Stand in front of this tree and gently touch its bark. Ask yourself how long it has been there. What has it witnessed over the years? My tree must be several hundred years old.
Now lean against the tree, either standing or seated, so that you are touching it with one or both hands. Even when we are right up close to the tree, its roots are directly beneath us. Can you feel the life pulsing within the tree? Maybe, but it’s fine if you don’t.
Now inhale deeply and mentally let your breath travel all the way down into your feet, and then deeper still right into the Earth. Imagine the tree’s roots absorbing the energy of your breath so that it flows into the whole tree. The tree sends this fresh energy up to the skies, from where it comes back down to you in the form of air or rain, entering into you with each new breath.
This cycle of life is constantly repeated. Enjoy your connection to nature and the purity of the breath, until you feel you have drawn enough strength from them for today.
Photos by Dardan, Aron Visuals, Natalia Figueredo and Joanna Nix on Unsplash.