No matter how committed you are to focusing completely on your breathing, I'm sure that some thoughts, feelings or images will pop into your awareness, unbidden. So even in the space of one minute, you may have to bring your mind back to your breathing many, many times. Unfortunately, a lot of people give up right there. They think that if they were meditating "correctly," they would experience perfect peace, perfect stillness or some great "bliss out" all the time. Instead of this, they just become aware of how busy their minds are, decide that they're no good at meditation and give up. But you don't have to be 100 percent focused all the time or have a perfectly still and peaceful mind in order to be meditating. There are many other things that can happen in the Basic Minute that are very valuable, and in some ways, more valuable.
First of all, you might notice your normally racing thoughts have slowed down a little (not bad for a minute's work). Or you might realize that the volume seems to have been turned down on your normal mental chatter, which means you have found some other, quieter, part of you—on which the volume has been turned up (also not bad for a minute's work).
Some days you may experience the opposite of peacefulness, as if a torrent of thoughts, feelings and images had been released just because you dared to do a Basic Minute. There is still value in sitting there for the whole minute, honoring your commitment and letting the storm rage. At least you are learning how to sit still through a storm, which is a kind of stillness too. You may even feel cleansed when the storm over.
I am saying all this because I believe that the biggest benefit of the Basic Minute may be that you are developing the skill—and the habit—of clearing your mind and returning to your breath whenever you need to. Whatever life may throw at you, you now know how to come right back to your breath. It's a wonderful skill to have, even if you have use it over and over again.
So here's what might happen in a typical minute:
You are sitting still, focusing on your breath, maybe feeling a bit more peaceful than usual, when a thought pops into your awareness—"I forgot to buy the spaghetti!" At first, you don't really realize that this thought has popped into your awareness because you are so involved in thinking it. In fact, you have probably moved on to wondering what else you could cook for dinner and whether it would be okay to give the children pizza again this week. Then, suddenly, with a start, you realize that you have been lost in thought about spaghetti and pizza and had forgotten completely about your breath. In other words, you wake up to yourself. So you bring your mind back to your breathing and stay focused there—until some other thought or feeling takes you far away again. And then you wake up again.
This can happen many, many times in a minute. And I want to reassure you that it's perfectly okay. It doesn't mean you've failed. Just think of the Basic Minute as good practice in waking up.
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Martin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources or you can tweet him at @takeamoment.
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