How often are you kept waiting for things and find yourself frustrated? Waiting at the school gates when you need to be home and starting the tea, stuck in traffic and late for a meeting or, waiting to find out if you got the job that you just interviewed for. Life moves so quickly and we all feel that when we already need more hours in the day, anything that holds us up is just another stress. Well for those of you who just don’t have time for a regular meditation practice, follow these five tips to turn those frustrating events in your day into calming mindful pauses and soon you will be wishing for more traffic jams.
1. Stuck in traffic
Being stuck in traffic can be frustrating and stressful particularly when you have to be somewhere. The fact of the matter is, that unless you have a hover board that you can hop onto, you are stuck. So get comfortable in the seat, put your favourite CD in the CD player, and listen mindfully to the songs you love. Use the music as your focusing anchor. Listen to the words, the melody and the sounds. If your attention drifts and you catch yourself wondering if you’re going to be late, don’t judge yourself just gently bring your attention back to the music. If you don’t have any music in the car, use your visual senses. Look around and take in your surroundings. Try not to attach any description to them just observe. Again if your attention drift just acknowledge this and come back to what you can see. Do this for as long as it feels effortless (or until the traffic moves)!
2. You’ve been put on hold
I wonder how much of lives we spend on hold, calling the gas supplier or our mobile phone provider? And just when you manage to get through to a real human, they kindly inform you that you have the wrong department and put you back on hold whilst they transfer you!
I now try to use these times as my meditation time. I get comfortable either in a chair or on the floor, I put the phone onto loud-speaker and put it close by and I do a short mindfulness practice. I take a few moments to settle and then I bring my hands to belly and focus on the rise and fall of my belly as I breath in and out. When my attention drifts which it always does, I notice it and guide it back to the feeling of my hands rising and falling against my belly.
You will become so peaceful during these times that you may wish that you could go on hold a little longer! And, when the call handler does answer the call, you will have a much clearer and calmer mind to deal with the situation at hand.
3. Waiting in a queue
Queueing can be very frustrating. I have the wonderful skill of judging queues very badly and after lots of deliberation I always end up joining the one that moves the slowest.
When this happens, stand with your feet hip distance apart, rock back and forth slightly to ensure your weight is even throughout the whole foot. Soften your knees a little. Now just bring your focus to the feeling of your feet on the floor. Taking your focus to the feet takes you out of your head and your thoughts. Notice where your feet make contact with the ground, which parts of your feet press more firmly onto the ground? Notice which parts of the feet don’t make contact with the ground. Practice moving your weight slightly from one foot to the other. When needed gently bring your attention back to your whole body and the matter at hand.
4. Waiting for the kettle to boil
How often do you impatiently flick the kettle off before it has boiled? The next time you are making a drink, take your time. Pay attention to all the actions involved in the process. Filling the kettle, flicking the switch, putting the tea or coffee into the cup. Think about the tea or coffee, where it came from, what processes it may have been through to get to your kitchen. Listen to the sound of the kettle boiling, watch the steam rising. If you thoughts wander just notice it and bring your attention back to the kettle boiling. Don’t flick the switch too soon, just enjoy the process and then maybe sit quietly and mindfully enjoy the drink.
5. Waiting for the friend who is always late
We all have at least one friend who always turns up late. The one you tell a little fib to and give them an earlier meeting time than everyone else just so that they might turn up at the proper time 15 minutes later. If you are alone in a bar or waiting restaurant for someone you can sometimes feel self-conscious and find yourself, pretending to be on the phone or scanning your twitter feed. Next time this happens, try to avoid feeling the need to distract yourself. Get comfortable in your seat, feet flat on the floor and take a few mindful moments. Nobody in the restaurant will notice what you are doing. You could choose to focus your attention on the noises around you or the smells. Or just focus on you in breath and out breath. When your friend arrives they will wonder what your secret to looking so serene is.
Mindfulness should be easy and effortless. It is simply the practice focusing our attention onto a neutral anchor such as the breath, a sound or a sensation. When our attention drifts (which it always will) this is just a welcome opportunity to notice where our attention has gone to, and bring it back to our focusing anchor. It just takes us one step back from the often continuous dialogue in our minds, and gives us some welcome peace. It also keeps us in the present moment. So welcome the mundane and frustrating moments as blessings and never miss the opportunity to give yourself a mini mindful meditation.