How to be mindful: 5 quick and easy exercises

This is an easy introduction to meditation, which is simply the art of learning how to be mindful. The first exercise is about learning the basics; the rest concern the application of mindfulness to everyday life. You may think that they will take effort, but you’ll already be doing these things; sitting down, say, or breathing. However, if you apply a mindful approach you’ll experience them in a very different way.

Exercise 2
The senses
Take another two minutes to do this short exercise. As before, stay sitting exactly as you are. Focus on one of the physical senses, preferably sound or sight at this stage. I’d recommend using background sounds and closing your eyes, but as sounds can be a little unpredictable at times, you might prefer to keep your eyes open and gaze at a particular object in the room instead, or perhaps a point on the wall. Whichever sense you choose, try focusing on it for as long as possible. If you get distracted by thoughts or other physical senses, simply bring your attention back to the object of focus and continue. How long did it take before you got distracted? Imagine what it would be like to have a place within your own mind that is always calm, always still and clear; a place that you can always return to, a sense of being at ease or at peace with whatever is happening in your life.

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How to be calm in 10 minutes, every day
means there’s no resistance. And no resistance means no tension.”

Being aware of your feelings
We’re not always very good at recognising how we are feeling. That’s usually because we’re distracted by what we’re doing or what we’re thinking. But when you start to meditate you inevitably start to become more aware of how you feel — the variety of feelings, the intensity of feelings, the stubborn nature of some emotions and the fleeting nature of others. How do you feel right now, for example? Put down The Times for a couple of minutes and close your eyes. It can be useful to notice how your body feels first, as that can give you a clue as to what the underlying emotion is. Does it feel heavy or does it feel light? Is there a sense of stillness or of restlessness in the body? Rather than rush to decide, apply the idea of gentle curiosity and take a good 20 to 30 seconds to answer each question. How does the breath feel in the body? Does it feel fast or slow, deep or shallow? Without trying to change it, take just a few moments to notice how it feels. By the end of the exercise you’ll probably have a much better sense of how you feel emotionally. But don’t worry if not, as it will become more obvious with practice.

Exercise 5

Doing nothing

Exercise 1

I’m sure there’ll be some seasoned meditators who will throw their hands up in horror at the idea of a ten-minute meditation. But the idea of “little and often” makes a great deal of sense. We need to be flexible, adaptive and responsive in our approach to meditation. It’s all well and good to sit perfectly still for an hour, but if you’re unable to maintain your awareness for all that time, then little benefit will come from it. And what about the other 23 hours in the day? Like so many things in life, when it comes to meditation it’s about quality rather than quantity. Start by taking just ten minutes. If you find it easy, want to do more and have the time, then great. But there are still many benefits to be had from simply sitting for ten minutes a day.

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Without moving from where you’re sitting, put down The Times and place it in your lap. You don’t need to sit in any particular way, but just gently close your eyes. It’s no problem if lots of thoughts pop up — let them come and go for now. See what it feels like to sit still for two minutes. How was it? Perhaps it felt very relaxing. Maybe you felt the urge to focus on something, to keep yourself occupied. Don’t worry, it’s not a test. Notice the habit or desire to be active. If you found it easy, try the exercise again, for a few minutes longer.

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Before you start

Find a place where you can sit, undisturbed, for ten minutes. You may like to use the same space each day. There’s something useful in doing this in terms of reaffirming a new habit. You may find it more relaxing if the space is relatively tidy too.

Noticing physical sensations
Last time you were focusing on sounds or visual objects, this time try focusing on a physical sensation. It can be the sensation of the body pressing down on the chair, or the soles of the feet against the floor. The advantage of focusing on the physical sensation of touch is that it is tangible, but you may find that the mind still wanders. If you do have a very busy mind or a strong

Exercise 3

emotion, remember the idea of the blue sky, the possibility that perhaps underneath all those thoughts and feelings there might exist a place that is still, spacious and clear. Each time you realise you’re distracted, move the attention back to the physical sensation. The objective is headspace, a sense of ease with your emotions. It’s the nature of life for stuff to happen, and when it does it can be good to know that you’re as well equipped as you can be to deal with the situation. This doesn’t mean that you won’t experience the feeling, but what it means is that the way you relate to the feeling will enable you to let go of it more easily.

Focusing on pleasant or unpleasant sensations

Exercise 4

Use a physical sensation to focus on as you close your eyes. Focus on either a pleasant or unpleasant feeling in the body. For example, maybe you feel a lightness in your hands or feet, or perhaps you feel some tension in your shoulders. Normally you would try to resist the feeling of discomfort and hold on to the feeling of comfort, but what happens when you reverse it? Does it change the experience? A meditation teacher of mine told me: “When

you experience pleasant sensations, imagine sharing those feelings with other people. When you experience discomfort in your meditation, imagine it’s the discomfort of people you care about. It’s as if in an act of extraordinary generosity, you are sitting with their discomfort so they don’t have to.” How could that help, I wondered? “When we try hard to hold on to pleasant states of mind, that creates tension. When it comes to unpleasant feelings we’re always trying to get rid of them. This also creates tension. This way we’re doing the opposite of what we normally do, which

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Probably the most important thing is having enough room to breathe. It’s no good sitting to relax if your jeans are so tight that the stomach can’t move, so make sure to loosen any belts or even undo a button or two if necessary. It’s also helpful to have your feet placed firmly on the ground, so make sure you take off any heels.

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The man bringing meditation to the masses
Andy Puddicombe is a surfing, skiing, former Buddhist monk and meditation teacher — the go-to expert for Cabinet ministers, Premier League footballers and leading actors. At the age of 22, Puddicombe left England and his sports science degree to follow his interest in meditation. He spent a decade in monasteries in Nepal, India, Tibet and Russia, often meditating for up to 18 hours a day. He returned to Britain in 2005 to fulfil his vocation to bring meditation, or mindfulness, to the masses. His Headspace programme teaches simple meditation techniques for almost every aspect of daily life and includes a bestselling book and apps.

Andy Puddicombe spent ten years in monasteries in India and often meditated for 18 hours a day

Sit comfortably. It’s best if the back is straight, but without forcing it. You may find that the position of your pelvis dictates the position of your back, and often a small cushion under your backside will help to rectify any hunching. It’s fine to use a chair’s back support if you need to, but try not to lean backwards against it — think upwards rather than backwards. It’s best if your legs are uncrossed and your feet are flat on the floor, ideally about shoulder-width apart. The hands and the arms can rest on the legs or in your lap, one on top of the other. Allow the full weight of your fingers, hands and arms to be supported by the legs. It’s good if the head can be balanced reasonably straight on top of your neck, neither looking up into the air or slumped down towards the floor. Not only will you find this more comfortable, but you’ll also find that it helps you to concentrate. Lastly, you may want to close your eyes at first, as it reduces distraction.

the day to do meditation when you are learning is first thing in the morning. It tends to be quiet, when other people are still asleep. It’s also an opportunity to allow the grogginess of the night to clear away, leaving you refreshed. But the most important reason is that if you do it in the morning, it gets done. If you leave it until later, other commitments crop up. The idea of finding time early in the morning can be daunting, but keep in mind that we are still only talking about ten minutes. And this is ten minutes that will set up your day for you. We may feel desperate for more sleep, but the deep rest experienced in meditation is far more useful and beneficial than the extra ten minutes in bed.

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Ensure you’ll be undisturbed during your meditation (switch off your mobile).

nose and out through the mouth, and then gently close your eyes.

Checking-in
This phase is all about bringing the body and mind together. Think how often your body is doing one thing while your mind is off doing something else — perhaps you’re walking down the street but your mind is already at home, planning the dinner and wondering what’s on TV? It’s actually very rare that the body and mind are together at the same place and time. So this is an opportunity to settle into your environment, to be consciously aware of what you’re doing and where you are. Ideally checking-in should take about five minutes to begin with. As you get more familiar with the process you may find it doesn’t take as long, but it’s important not to rush it.

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If you want, set a timer for ten minutes.

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Focus on the physical sensation of your body on the chair and your feet on the floor.

Notice how each breath feels, the rhythm of it — whether it’s long or short, deep or shallow, rough or smooth.

Scan down through the body and notice which parts feel comfortable and relaxed, and which parts feel uncomfortable and tense. Notice how you’re feeling — ie, what sort of mood you’re in right now.

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Gently count the breaths as you focus on the rising and falling sensation — one with the rise and two with the fall — upwards to a count of ten.

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Finishing-off
This part is often overlooked and yet it’s one of the most important aspects. When you’ve come to the end of the counting, let your mind be completely free. Let go of any focus at all, allowing the mind to be as busy or as still as it wants to be for about 20 seconds.

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Repeat this cycle between five and ten times.

Focusing on the breath
It helps to have something to focus on and the breath is one of the easiest and most flexible of things to use. Remember there is no such thing as wrong breathing or bad breathing in the context of this exercise. There is only aware and unaware, undistracted and distracted. Notice where you feel the rising and falling sensation of the breath most strongly.

Getting ready
If you can, start to slow down five or ten minutes beforehand so that you begin the exercise in the right frame of mind.

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No matter whether you are a lark or an owl, the best time of

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When you’ve found a place to sit down comfortably, keep a straight back.

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Take five deep breaths, breathing in through the

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Bring the mind back to the sensation of your body on the chair and your feet on the floor.

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Open your eyes and stand up when you feel ready.

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