There are three things about the Basic Minute that make it so valuable—both for relieving stress quickly and helping you become less likely to react in a stressful way in the future.
The first valuable feature of the Basic Minute is that your body will relax a bit. The word "stress" comes from a Latin word that means to "compress" or "draw tight," and as soon as you sit up straight, getting ready for your Basic Minute, you will probably feel your body "untighten." At least you should feel your shoulders (and even your insides) drop into their proper places. Your breathing will slow down and deepen too. You don't have to work at this; it just happens naturally.
The second valuable feature of the Basic Minute is that it strengthens your ability to focus. Whenever your focus is divided or you are distracted, this creates stress. You just have too much to remember, too many different kinds of things to do. So you are more likely to make a mistake or have an accident, which causes you even more stress. You also miss out on the peacefulness and efficiency you could have experienced had you been doing just one thing and doing it fully.
In the Basic Minute, however, each time you bring your attention back to your breathing, you are learning how to focus and training your mind to do what you want it to do. You are getting used to how it feels to be in a groove. Later, when you are not doing a Basic Minute, you will be more able to notice when you have slipped out of your groove or have lost focus, and you can make whatever adjustments you need.
The third valuable feature of the Basic Minute is that, bit by bit, you are clearing some space in your mind. Each time you settle into your breathing, letting thoughts and feelings and images come and go, you find a little more room in there. It's like clearing out a cluttered basement. Each time you clear some space, you have more room to move around and more freedom.
With this little bit of space established, you can now pick and choose what to think or worry about. Let's say, for example, that you are worried about losing your job. When you meditate, you let go of the worry, if only for a moment. What you learn is that, although the threat of losing your job may be true, the anxiety about losing it is optional and is probably not be that helpful to you. You can still take action—looking for another job or cutting back on your spending—but now you can do it with less anxiety.
The more space you clear in your mind, the more you experience the deeper peace that exists within you all the time (it was just hidden by all that clutter). Gradually, you'll start to experience a "you" who is always okay—perfectly okay—a you who is peaceful and content no matter what is happening. By practicing the Basic Minute, you are getting to know that you. You're learning to live from that peacefulness, one moment at a time.
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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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Published on April 02, 2010