The Mindful Minute

By Paru Desai, SV2 Partner and Mindfulness Practitioner 

“Let’s take a minute to come into this space. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths.  Begin to notice any sensations in the body, your feet on the floor,  your back against the chair, your hands in your lap.. notice how you feel right now. Set an intention…how do you want to show up in this meeting?”

Starting a meeting this way, or sometimes just a chime which signals the start and finish of one minute of silence, were not the traditional way to start any gathering, especially one in a business or professional setting. But mindfulness is becoming more and more common in workplace settings from meetings of all sizes to conferences and events.  Backed by data that there is a high rate of return on such investments, companies of all sizes are embracing mindfulness as part of employee wellbeing programs.  As shown in an earlier article, nonprofits are especially turning to mindful practices as part of self-care and to help bring balance to high stress, high trauma environments. 

You may have noticed that the mindful minute is slowly being adopted into several SV2 sessions.  Staff meetings regularly begin with a mindful minute as do most Board meetings. I’ve also seen it practiced in small working group sessions.

What is a mindful minute and what can you actually do in 60-120 seconds?  Let’s try something: set a timer for one minute and try not to think of anything for that one minute.  Have your mind go completely blank with no thoughts or ideas whatsoever. (one minute later…) It’s pretty hard right?  You realize how long one minute actually is. 

The mindful minute is a quick and simple tool that can allow you to create space between one activity to the next, between one emotional state to another.  It can ‘clean’ the clutter and churn that exists in your mind  from whatever has happened up to that point. Those thoughts jumping around can also show up in your body as tension, tightness and constriction.  A mindful minute brings you into the present moment and with the pause allows you to notice what is happening in your mind, emotions and body.  And once you notice them, you can rebalance and refocus to meet the present moment. 

Because a mindful minute is so short, it can be used anytime and anyplace, regardless of how busy you are.  You can also use it multiple times a day, as often as needed to prepare for the flow of what is coming next.

So it turns out that you can actually do a lot with just one minute!

Here are some ways you can practice a mindful minute.  Start by finding a posture where you are relaxed but alert.  In meetings, this will likely be a chair but if you are home alone, you can stand or even lie down.

Breath counting:  closing your eyes, bring your focus to the breath. Continue to breathe normally in and out and do this for a few breaths. Once you feel comfortable that you have a sense of your breath begin the 1 minute with your timer and mentally count each out breath. Breathe in, breathe out, count 1. Breathe in, breathe out, count 2, etc.

Set an intention: Use the prompt that started this article and set an intention for the upcoming meeting or event.  I sometimes send stealth wishes to everyone – that we all recognize the value of coming together and that we jointly contribute to a successful meeting as we work towards common goals. This is also effective for social situations and family times as well.

Routines:  Incorporate mindful minute into routine tasks like brushing your teeth, the first minute of a shower, washing dishes, etc. This brings awareness to what we are doing rather than just completing tasks on autopilot as we usually do. With the focus often also comes appreciation — appreciation for hot running water, a wonderful meal that was just completed, the rest of a good night’s sleep.

Just breathe: You can also just set the time, close your eyes and just breathe, relaxing your body and releasing any tension you encounter.  Sometimes in the midst of rushing around, this is often all that is needed.

By the way, if you find yourself thinking about something else during this minute, that is perfectly okay.  Remember the earlier exercise of having no thoughts?  It is very hard, even for 60 seconds and it’s also part of being mindful to notice that your mind has wandered; with practice, you will be able to focus on your breath or attention area you have chosen for longer and longer periods.

A mindful minute does not take the place of my longer meditation practice but it is a core exercise that I regularly rely on daily to transition between activities, shift focus and help rebalance the busy-ness. Give it a try!  And please share your experience or thoughts with us on how you experienced your mindful minute today.