The Life-Changing Benefits of Two-Minute Meditations
“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.
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.
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...