When friends ask me, “how’s your week going?” my most common response is “intense.” It’s not that my work is any more demanding than yours. It’s that I have a tendency to be hyper-focused —tuning out even my own basic needs, like food. While this characteristic makes me very productive, it can also deplete me and blind me to a slow escalation of stress. Do you relate to this?
Over the years, aware of my tendency toward hyper-focus and stress, I’ve adopted a centering practice that I use 5-6 times throughout the day. It only takes about 60 seconds to do so I think about it as “micro-mindfulness”, a quick way for me to take stock in how I’m doing. The practice involves nine breaths and four questions, allowing me a choice about whether I’d like to make any adjustments. Here’s how to do it:
* As you take three slow, intentional breaths ask yourself, “What’s up with my body?” In other words, what physical sensations are present as you stop to really notice? Maybe it’s hunger or a stiff neck or an escalating heart rate. Just notice and name it to yourself.
* As you take a second set of three breaths ask yourself, “What’s up with my heart?” Take stock of any emotions you might be feeling. Again, name them without judgment or justification, saying to yourself “these emotions are present within me at this moment.”
* Next, take three relaxed breaths as you ask yourself, “What’s up with my mind?” Is there a dominant thought or headline that’s present? It might be a worry or negative prediction. Or it might be a regret or some kind or a distraction. Just name it.
* At the end of the nine breaths and before resuming your work ask yourself one final question: “What do I need right now?” Asking this question might prompt you to get up and drink some water. Or it might cause you to rethink your priorities for the day. Maybe you realize you are feeling distracted by a conversation you need to have.
This simple practice reconnects you to yourself as a whole person — someone who brings a body, mind, and heart to work each day. Taking a moment several times a day to breath and take stock is a way to care for these three sources of wisdom, creativity, and productivity.
Start by trying this each morning and mid-day. Set an alarm on your computer or phone. Try it for two weeks. Add it as a ritual on the commute home each evening.
What benefits do you experience?
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