I find this quick, simple technique so helpful in everyday life.
It's easy to momentarily lose our sense of balance, perspective and calm. To become stressed, anxious or unsettled.
If we're not careful, we can find ourselves disappearing down the rabbit hole. The past or the future, comfy habits or not-so-helpful patterns of behaviour, lengthy internal monologues or disconnected distractions can all claim us.
Fear not. With practice, it's possible to bring ourselves back to clarity and more easeful being.
I call this a two-minute check-in.
As the name suggests, we consciously check in with ourselves via a short process of noticing how we are, acknowledging what we find and then gently guiding ourselves back to a good place. This is all done with the kindness we would naturally extend to a friend.
A mini meditation if you like, as follows:
1. Whenever you notice yourself becoming stressed, irritated, self-critical, in emotional pain or in a difficult situation, pause, stop what you are doing.
2. Gently and kindly acknowledge what you are feeling and name it if you wish e.g. 'I am feeling anxious', together with any physical sensations this brings in your body e.g. 'my chest and shoulders feel tight.'
3. Focus on your breathing as your anchor that brings you back to awareness. You can feel each inbreath and outbreath (in your belly or at your nostrils) or breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth or simply repeat internally 'I am breathing in, I am breathing out' as you breathe. Take five to 10 breaths in and out like this. Slowly.
4. Finally, expand this feeling and awareness of the breath to your whole body. Feel your whole body breathing. Then, allow this awareness to expand further into your environment, re-connecting with what is around you. Bring this expanded awareness to the next moments of your day.
I would say it takes a few weeks to establish this practice, perhaps up to a couple of months if you're new to meditation and stillness.
To support this process, I recommend taking a 2-minute check-in like this on a daily basis. Practice at a regular time of day e.g. on your way to work (if walking or traveling by public transport), in your lunch break or on your way home. And then, as and when the need arises during the day too. The more frequent the practice in the first three weeks, the more you will benefit.
Over time, this reduces the number of times you feel stressed. It releases old patterns of reactivity. Awareness replaces autopilot. We are free to live in the present with clarity.
The great thing about the 2-minute check-in is that it's mobile, invisible, self-guided, free - and priceless.
It's a skill for life.
It's one to share with loved ones.