4: Minute One – Time to Stop
Minute 1: Step 1 Stopping
Minute 1: Step 2 Checking in
Minutes 2 and 3: Step 3 Arriving in a Zen-like, calm headspace
Minutes 4 and 5: Step 4 Relaxing and slowing down in this space
Minutes 6 and 7: Step 5 Finding new perspectives and ways of thinking
Minutes 8 and 9: Step 6 Recharging
Minute 10: Step 7 Gently coming back to the real world, ready to conquer whatever the day brings
What Is the Best Time of Day to Do This?
The author’s recommendation is to practise at the start of the day, if possible. This helps to set the brain up to function in a more helpful way for the rest of the day. If you can create a sense of order in the brain at the beginning of the day, this will influence the remainder of your day in a positive way. This morning practice can also become a reminder that each time you practise you are subtly influencing how your brain functions.
For some of you, the start of the day will not be possible, so adapt the timing to whatever works with your routine and lifestyle. You may have particular times in your day that are always more challenging; they may be the times to engage with Ten to Zen.
Step 1 – Simply Stopping
Here are a few things to consider when you are planning how you are going to ‘stop’:
- Can I commit to this time without fear of being interrupted?
- Will it be quiet enough or can I make the space quiet enough for the ten minutes?
Remember that you are stopping to let the engine of your mind cool down. This is a priority to prevent it overheating and burning out. Taking this time is making a decision to value yourself and take your mental wellbeing seriously.
The good news is that in making the decision to stop, you are halfway there. The rest will come naturally with practice. So wherever, whenever you stop:
- Commit to the time
- Make sure you are in a comfortable space (if not, make it comfortable)
- Find a time you won’t be interrupted
- Keep an open mind
- Know that the ten minutes will be of immense value to your life
Step 2 – Checking In
When we meet up with an old friend or someone we care about, often the first thing we do is ask them how they are. Sometimes this may just be a polite way to start a conversation, but if it’s someone we are close to, we genuinely want to know. If the other person is happy, we can accept that. If they are sad or upset, we can also accept it and will normally reach out to support them in some way. The other person will, without doubt, feel better that we have taken an interest in them and, more importantly, have been able to accept them as they are in that moment.
Yet how the tables turn when it comes to ourselves, especially when we are struggling with ‘negative emotions’.
You may be asking yourself what the benefit is of this first minute of checking in. In my view, it is essential for beginning to quieten the mind and helping reduce any internal distress.
Have you ever had a situation when you felt upset with another person or worried they were upset with you? What happens when you don’t address the problem? In most cases the situation festers or worsens and only improves when we actually address it. This is no different to how we relate to ourselves. The more we ignore our uncomfortable feelings, the worse they get.
Think for a moment how much energy goes into battling with these ‘negative emotions’ or trying to hold on to the ‘positive emotions’ when they arrive. Yet when we accept them as they are, regardless of what they are, there suddenly comes a sense of ease. There is nothing to battle. These feelings are not going to harm you and they certainly don’t represent who you are. Acknowledging them, even welcoming them in and accepting them, is going to help to deactivate that overactive threat centre in your brain.
Step 3 – Arriving at Your Calm Space
The amazing aspect of this technique is that it can allow the brain to arrive at a place of calm and stillness quickly by using three installation stages:
- Visualization: Creating an image of a calm, Zen-like space
- Language: Identifying a name for your calm space
- Tapping: Let me explain a little more about this
Simply with the image of your calm space and your word in mind, nothing else, start tapping. Do twenty taps in total – alternate left to right, with slow taps on either your thighs or upper arms. (You can use butterfly wings or crossed arms for upper arms.) Remember, you are not tapping with both hands at the same time, it is one at a time. Think of it like playing the drums, with alternate taps, left to right, and remember, do this very slowly, at about the speed of a slow handclap.
Each time you arrive at this stage of your workout it will look like this:
- You’ve done the stopping and checking-in stages
- You’ve arrived at your calm space:
- Eyes remain closed
- Go to the calm space in your mind (using visualization)
- Use your chosen word or name
- Use tapping to finalize installation with twenty taps
Welcome to your calm space. Next, breathing normally, simply allow yourself to be present in this space in your mind for two minutes, or however long is best for you, somewhat like taking a moment out to sit on the grass on a sunny day.
Step 4 – Bringing Breath into Your Workout
Most of the time we are unaware of, and disconnected from, our breath. We breathe in a shallow manner from our chests or our throats, often too quickly, while we are heavily engaged in all of the activity in our minds. This becomes exaggerated when our stress levels are raised and we tend to breathe faster. Yet connecting to the breath can be one of the most liberating ways of slowing down our minds, relaxing our bodies and creating a sense of immediate ease.
With eyes closed and remaining in your Zen-like, calm space, simply observe first how you are breathing by observing your in-breath and your out-breath for a few breaths.
After this, consciously breathe in a rhythmic manner for a count of four seconds, slowly, then breathe out for a count of four seconds, slowly. Repeat this for approximately one minute. (Although you don’t need to get too hung up on timings here, this will probably be about eight rounds.) Notice if you become distracted by thoughts or anything else during this focused breathing, and if so, simply acknowledge the distraction and return to focus on the breath.
Step 5 – Observing Your Thoughts within Your Ten to Zen Workout
- Deliberately bring to mind your challenging thought patterns and welcome them in, almost like guests. As you now have explored the evidence to discount many of these patterns, you will know instinctively what to let go of. I know it sounds like an odd suggestion to do this, but in bringing unhelpful thought patterns into present moment awareness you will discharge some of their power. If your thought patterns start to play out the familiar old themes, then you can make a decision to simply observe and let go, almost watch them fade away. With the help of your daily Ten to Zen workout, you create a new relationship with your thoughts and they will become less scary and intimidating. Likewise, you are also creating new neuropathways in relation to your negative thought patterns. Essentially, you are moving from maladaptive patterns to more adaptive patterns, courageously facing the bully that can be your mind.
- Simply sit with your thoughts generally and observe them as if you were watching a movie or observing clouds in the sky. Coming and going. Not engaging with them, not thinking them over or trying to change them. Simply observing. The explanation for this is simple. When we observe a busy mind it is rather like observing a naughty child. When a child becomes aware they are being watched they are less likely to act out and our minds respond in a similar way. The activity automatically begins to slow and we move out of autopilot to a more present-moment awareness which ultimately brings a sense of stillness.
Practise this work on thoughts a few times if you find it helpful. First, bring your negative thought patterns to your awareness. Second, observe your thoughts generally.
Step 6 – the Practice
Mindfulness is the simplest, yet most powerful option available to us as humans. We can choose at any point to be mindful – eating, walking, running, playing with the children – we simply make a decision to be fully present and become aware of the one area of focus in that moment. If the mind distracts us, we return to focus. We step out of autopilot and experience what is happening, rather than feel like we are on a treadmill. We are alive, rather than just existing.
Let me ask you to consider a few questions:
- When was the last time you truly tasted the food you ate?
- When were you last truly present with someone in a conversation?
- When did you last walk, aware of the sensation of walking?
- When did you last truly experience a hot shower, feeling the water, enjoying the heat, or the smell of the shower gel?
Whatever your answers to this, I encourage you to consider how much of life you are truly experiencing. Or does it feel like you ‘go through the motions’ every day?
This minute of mindful practice is a reminder to wake up for the remainder of your day. It is your call to becoming aware:
- To live, rather than exist
- To flourish, rather than just survive
- To be fully awake to the wonder and possibilities of each moment, whatever they might be.