What if you know that 8 minutes a day or even less can change your life drastically for the better? What if you know that in less time that you buy and drink a latte you can practice yourself into a life of better mental performance, more serenity & happiness and more control over your life?
I know it sounds like a cheesy sales page of some ‘get empowered and conquer the universe in 7 days’ self-help program. I myself am totally unimpressed and disapproving of certain ‘quick simple techniques’ to master this or achieve that. However it’s not ‘techniques’ I am talking about here but practices or ‘good habits’ as simple and short as brushing your teeth or clipping your toe nails. The difference is that they are not that brain-numbingly mundane and of course they are ‘life-changing practices’ as against mere ‘grooming practices’.
Can 2 minute long practices change a person’s life drastically? Well the short answer to that is definitely “Yes”. The longer answer is that these practices are accessible and user-friendly tools that routinely program the mind to develop new positive habits which then become engrained over a time period and before you know it a big inner change has happened!
The real fantastic thing about these practices is that you effectively invest little resources but yield high returns on that investment. Moreover:
- They can be practiced everywhere at anytime
- They don’t need to be done at the same time
- They can be integrated in any busy schedule
- They don’t need a learning curve
- They are free and abundant
Breathing is one of the most fundamental, yet taken for granted, functions in the Human body. We have heard the advice a thousand times “When you feel stressed breathe deeply and relax” yet we still overlook the importance of breathing.
In yogic traditions, breathing exercises (Pranayama) are central. The following is a simple breathing exercise which kick-starts me every time. It instantly feels me with energy like fire running through my body.
1st minute: Sit down straight on a chair or whichever position you prefer (must have erect spine). Inhale deeply and slowly expanding & contracting the belly and not the chest. Exhale. Just that!
2nd minute: This is an alternate nostril breathing exercise. Still sitting down, close your right nostril with your thumb (or second and middle finger) and inhale from your left nostril. Now close your left nostril and exhale out of your right nostril then continue to inhale from the right nostril again and close to exhale from the left. The alternate pattern should then follow an exhale/inhale from each nostril.
Positive thinking is another widely mentioned phrase that we see appearing so many times in books and articles (quite rightly so…it’s a very good thing!). The problem with positive thinking is that it’s a bit intimidating just imagining making such a big shift in perspective from normal to positive thinking. We can’t really imagine ourselves being truly positive all the time can we? This makes it a little inaccessible.
By practicing to be positive on selected items only little by little instead of expecting your mind to be positive about everything can be a less overwhelming task while at the same time you can start seeing results immediately.
To do this in your 2 minute practice think about one thing which has some meaning to you. It may be a person, an object or an event. It may also be your job. Start focusing on its positive attributes. They could be hard to find or they could seem insignificant at first but it’s good just the same. Start filtering out the negative thoughts that arise and stop only on the positive ones no matter how silly they seem. Keep on putting focus on them. If you can’t find any positive attributes in that object, create and visualize those positive elements that you wish it had. Keep on doing this for the whole 2 minutes.
Hint: Emotions are a key. Use them as a guide and tracking system. Keep on focusing on the positive until you start feeling good about it. That’s how you know you are on the right track
Awareness of the present:
Awareness is fundamental. We live most of our daily lives unaware of our surroundings, our own inner states and the needs and feelings of those around us. We almost live on autopilot. Thoughts and feelings rush through our heads on their own. In a way this is so inefficient because most of the thoughts we think during a day or a lifetime are, I’m sorry to say, useless (apart from wasting time and energy). Our intentions are too much diluted and the times we have conscious awareness and control over our thoughts and reasoning is much less than we like to think.
Imagine if you could have a quieter, more focused mind where less useless thoughts come up and where you have more conscious awareness of those thoughts that are more effective, fruitful, life-changing and conducive to happiness. In short this is called Mindfulness.
As Eckhart Tolle put it: Past and future are an illusion. Everything happens in the now. This alludes at the fact that we spend a lot of time clinging to the past or anxious about the future. This makes us oblivious to the present. Conscious awareness is awaking to the present which is where all things take shape
The exercise involves doing something that puts your attention in the present moment. I like to use breathing, which is great because it can be combined with the breathing exercises. Two minutes saved!
While you are doing your breathing exercises put your awareness into it. That means that instead of wandering somewhere else with your thoughts, immerse yourself in the present experience. Pay attention to how the air feels in your lungs, how your belly expands and contracts and how the air flows through your nostrils.
When you get the gist of it, try expanding your awareness to your entire body like for example by taking note of how your hand feels, how your back feels on the chair or how you feel yourself to be extending in space.
Another good mindfulness exercise is eating. While snacking on some food don’t rush into just for filling your stomach and killing off your hunger pangs. Slow down and notice how the tastes and textures feel on your tongue and mouth. Discern between the different tastes and textures, smells and colours as much as possible. This will train the mind to be more aware of your senses and immediate present.
Gratitude: Open up yourself to the power:
Gratitude is such a powerful thought and emotion. It is a generator of good vibes and positive feelings which in return brings back more positive thoughts, feelings and life situations by a tenfold. When we are grateful for something in our lives, we set so many good things in motion.
On one level we are sending a positive and affirmative message to our brain that our lives are turning just the way we want them.
The brain always acts in the present. This means that even though our current life setting may be a little bit less than perfect, when we are grateful for something or someone we are saying to our brains “right now I feel happy, blessed and thankful for this or that”. The brain will act on it as though it is a confirmation of the present which in many ways it is.
This will turn into positive feedback because as we subconsciously become more positively responsive to our surroundings we start to unknowingly interpret life situations more positively which in turn starts making things easier, brighter and lighter and so on in a feedback loop.
On another more spiritual level, we are opening our hearts to ourselves, Life and the Universe.
When we are feeling bitter, depressed, angry or resentful we are like a blocked node in the network of life. When our heart is closed our vision is shortened and life can’t flow through us.
On the other hand when we feel grateful, life starts flowing through us again in gushes. We become a healthy node in the network of life. This is an immense power, do not overlook it.
Try to think of it in terms of connections and flow. Everything is interconnected in the Universe. Our Consciousness is specially connected to the Universe (actually it is an extension of it – it is a way the Universe can be conscious of itself!).
Now the more connections we create in the network, such as meaningful relationships with others through love and compassion, being grateful to life and feeling good, making others feel good and passing on the good vibes to others, the more we are strengthening the network and we become powerful nodes through which the Universe can flow its energies. Life will flow through us and we start seeing our own destiny manifesting before our own eyes. So-called ‘miracles’ start to happen.
This may be a bit hard to understand but it’s a powerful truth to realize. It’s a game of connections. The more open and connected you are to the ‘network’ the more you are contributing to the expansion of life and the Universe and the more power and energy will flow through you.
If you are blocked and not linked then very little energy can flow through you.
Everyday spend 2 minutes to be grateful about the things happening around you. Everyone has things to be grateful about. We are just blind to them sometimes. If you look around you or just look a bit deeper, you will start finding hundreds of things to be grateful about. It doesn’t need to be something big.
It might be the beautiful morning, or that you didn’t go late for work despite the awful weather, or that some problem was solved during the day or that some friend phoned to tell you that his health has turned for the better.
These are all very pertinent things to be grateful for. Sometimes we overlook them because of our hectic lifestyle. Instead of letting them pass by, stop and be grateful for them in your heart.
Open up your possibilities
When these 4 simple 2 minute exercises are practiced everyday and they start turning into a habit, a lot of things start taking new shape in your life. Positivity, conscious awareness, happiness and appreciation will start flowering more and more as you practice everyday.
Your life will open up to new possibilities. It’s hard to conceive it from now that all this is possible through such simple and short practises. Just give it a try and you’ll see!