“Smile, breathe, and go slow­ly.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I felt every­thing, from my low­er back pain flar­ing up to tight­ness in my jaw where I clinch and car­ry my stress. With my eyes still closed, I rolled my shoul­ders and repo­si­tioned the pil­low under my butt. Five min­utes had passed, and I had no idea how I would ever make it to forty.

I opened my left eye to see if any­one around me was fid­get­ing as well and saw rows of peo­ple sit­ting in per­fect, cross-legged lotus posi­tion with straight necks and relaxed jaws next to me.

Our teacher, mind­ful­ness author David Richo, sat in front, a relaxed calm float­ing around him like morn­ing mist. I sighed, shut my eye again, and tried to con­cen­trate on not con­cen­trat­ing so I could make it through the rest of the group med­i­ta­tion.

Once I remem­bered that I’d for­got­ten to pick up my dry clean­ing and that I still hadn’t called my best friend back, I relaxed a lit­tle more and tried to just “be.” I heard a roost­er crow­ing in the wilder­ness above the Spir­it Rock prop­er­ty, noticed it, and let it go. I re-rec­og­nized the back pain and let that go as well.

Next, I heard what sound­ed like a cross between a snort­ing pig and an old rusty shed door open­ing up. The crack­ling sound last­ed a cou­ple of sec­onds before it caused my body to jerk and jolt both of my eyes open.

I looked around con­fused. No one else moved, and I real­ized that the sound had come from my nasal pas­sages. I had fall­en asleep and snored on or around the twen­ty-sev­en-minute mark.

Mor­ti­fied, I clasped my hand to my mouth, shut my eyes tight, and prayed to dis­ap­pear. So much neg­a­tive talk flood­ed my brain, I had to stop it right down at, “You suck at this. Who are you try­ing to be here, Michelle?”

I ner­vous­ly picked up my note­book and reread what David had taught us that day. To be healthy, we must be kind and patient with our­selves.

I took a deep breath and remem­bered that my med­i­ta­tion skills were new, and that forty min­utes sim­ply might have been too much to expect at that par­tic­u­lar time in my life. Despite my attempts at self-com­pas­sion, my cheeks still burned with red embar­rass­ment.

I didn’t feel like try­ing again, so I sat qui­et­ly and con­tin­ued to review my notes from Richo’s lec­ture while the rest of the group fin­ished. I pined over the snore for the remain­der of the after­noon and found it impos­si­ble to sim­ply love myself for being human.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Liz Gilbert writes about spend­ing entire days strug­gling to med­i­tate at an Ashram in India. I remem­ber, when the book came out, read­ing a FAQs page on her web­site where she addressed ques­tions and encour­aged begin­ners not to start out at the ashram. Hours of med­i­ta­tion are dif­fi­cult even for expe­ri­enced med­i­ta­tors. Forty min­utes is still hard for me.

What I have found is that I am much more com­fort­able prac­tic­ing small dos­es of med­i­ta­tion through­out a day, rather than forc­ing myself to plan extend­ed stretch­es that make me so anx­ious, I end up avoid­ing the med­i­ta­tion all togeth­er. Even just two min­utes can make a tremen­dous dif­fer­ence.

Med­i­ta­tion and yoga force us to sit with our­selves. That means we sit with any­thing we are avoid­ing, as well as any­thing that is hurt­ing us men­tal­ly and/or spir­i­tu­al­ly. I have a ten­den­cy to avoid feel­ing dis­com­fort.

So, sit­ting still is incred­i­bly counter-intu­itive for me and, I believe, many oth­er peo­ple. By going easy on myself with how long I “should” sit, I am more like­ly to sit at all.

Through prac­tic­ing short med­i­ta­tions, I have seen the pos­i­tives in my life grow and the neg­a­tives decrease.

Self-Compassion 

I’ve cul­ti­vat­ed more self-com­pas­sion through med­i­ta­tion. The more I can get qui­et and turn the Michelle who is a “human-doing” off, the gen­tler I am with myself. By giv­ing myself the time to be still, even if it’s for two min­utes, I am show­ing self-love and learn­ing to become more com­fort­able in my skin. In that still­ness, I am able to see where I am self-crit­i­cal in a clear­er way.

For instance, in med­i­ta­tion, I often crit­i­cize myself for not being able to qui­et my mind enough. I also look at what I didn’t accom­plish that day rather than what I did. Inside of the prac­tice, I am giv­en the space to see these things so I can bring com­pas­sion to my crit­i­cal mind and prac­tice lov­ing kind­ness instead.

Acceptance of Discomfort

When I can sit with painful feel­ings, I usu­al­ly real­ize fair­ly quick­ly that the wolf at the door wasn’t as big as I thought. Med­i­ta­tion reminds me that I am more than capa­ble of han­dling the thing I am deal­ing with.

Some of the biggest dis­com­fort I encounter is relat­ed to con­flict with oth­ers. Even if the prob­lem is small, like when I had to ask my gui­tar teacher to stop tex­ting dur­ing our les­son last week, I still feel uncom­fort­able. My teacher kind­ly apol­o­gized, and once again I remem­bered that con­flict is part of life. Med­i­ta­tion helps me to approach con­flict with grace and to remind myself that the world isn’t going to end if some­one reacts neg­a­tive­ly when I speak up.

Pro­nounced pain, like dis­agree­ments with fam­i­ly mem­bers, takes more time for me to process. The strength that’s grown out of fac­ing that pain through med­i­ta­tion, has helped me to approach uncom­fort­able emo­tions with less fear.

Compassion for Others

Some­times when I med­i­tate, I send out pos­i­tive ener­gy toward peo­ple I’m not super fond of. I bring com­pas­sion for them into my body and out into the uni­verse, and I feel less pissed off as a result. I wish for them the best of every­thing, and this often helps me to let go of the thing I was mad about in the first place.

I don’t under­stand why this hap­pens, but it does, and hold­ing as lit­tle neg­a­tive ener­gy as pos­si­ble eas­es ten­sion and makes me grav­i­tate toward the next med­i­ta­tion.

Ability to Pause

The more I med­i­tate, the more I am able to pause in tough real-life sit­u­a­tions where I might have react­ed in the past.

Road rage comes to mind here. Most of us have got­ten mad at some­one else’s dri­ving skills at some point. What I think about now in the pause is that I don’t know what the oth­er dri­ver is going through or who else is in the car. I usu­al­ly have no con­text as to why they are dri­ving the way they are. Where I used to honk, now I can wait and calm­ly move around them.

A yogi once told me, “Imag­ine that dri­ver is a cow stand­ing in the park­ing space you want. You would prob­a­bly laugh and just find anoth­er space. When it’s a per­son, why do we sud­den­ly rush to honk and yell?”

Med­i­ta­tion sim­ply makes me calmer. It is far from per­fect, but it has giv­en me more of a capac­i­ty to mar­i­nate before I respond to sticky sit­u­a­tions.

Increased Connection

Med­i­tat­ing reminds me that I am a tiny part of an incred­i­bly larg­er whole. My prob­lems feel small­er when I can stop and remem­ber that I am a grain of sand in a giant uni­verse. The prac­tice puts life, and my place in the world, into per­spec­tive.

It real­ly doesn’t take much to expe­ri­ence these ben­e­fits. Two min­utes of med­i­ta­tion can make a huge dif­fer­ence. Focus on your breath. When you think of or hear some­thing, notice it, and then get back to your breath­ing. See how you feel, and then, if you’re able, work your way up.

You can sit qui­et­ly, or you can also lis­ten to the myr­i­ad of guid­ed med­i­ta­tions avail­able through YouTube, iTunes, and many oth­er plat­forms. Some­times it helps in the begin­ning to lis­ten to a nice soft voice telling you what to do.

There are also med­i­ta­tions that include cool music with those bowl sounds as well. Just make sure the sounds aren’t so relax­ing that they put you to sleep and then you snore in front of 200 peo­ple. Let it go, Michelle.

I could be bet­ter and more con­sis­tent with med­i­tat­ing. I could also har­ness more self-com­pas­sion and less neg­a­tive self-talk. I know that the more I med­i­tate in short incre­ments, the clos­er I will get to achiev­ing these things.

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The post The Life-Chang­ing Ben­e­fits of Two-Minute Med­i­ta­tions appeared first on Tiny Bud­dha.

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