The 5-Minute Brain Fix: Guerilla Meditation

Find yourself losing focus? Hard to make a decision? Feeling the pressure of the day? Needing a creative solution? If so, a quick round of meditation maybe just what you need.

Meditation is getting a lot of press these days with studies on its effectiveness in enhancing concentration, clarity, and physiological and emotional stress reduction. “Mindfulness”, the skill of being present and aware that comes from meditating, it is a growing leadership practice as well. Meditation can take many forms to quiet the mind and we often think we need to be sitting in stillness for a period of time in order to be meditating. But I’ve noticed that high powered, busy and productive people need to have a number of alternatives for reaching this state of mindfulness. Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite options, the 5-minute guerilla meditation. Below is an example and then an then an explain how you can use this practice for yourself.

“Mark” was finding himself getting more direct and curt in meetings with his team. He was growingly frustrated with the speed of change and the lack of coordinated efforts.  He eventually went from asking informative questions and coaching the team to think through the issues to making decisions for them and prescribing how the work was to be done. One day a colleague inquired about the project and mentioned how demoralized the group seemed to be. This comment caught Mark’s attention and he started to realize he had gotten into the weeds and it was causing undesirable side effects.

When we spoke it became apparent that what one of the things happening was that his personal reserves were running low. He was falling back on a more command and control style of management because of the stress. He wanted to correct this not only to get better results but also to enhance the productivity and health of the team and improve his own stamina. This is when I introduced the concept of meditation to him. Mark felt he had no time to sit quietly every day so we began with the 5- minute guerilla meditations. Here’s how they work.
Periodically throughout the day, become aware of your breath. It could be between meetings or calls, when you feel yourself beginning to become stressed or overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time, or perhaps when you feel yourself becoming increasingly distracted and agitated. Set a timer and try the following:

  • First, find a seat and place your feet squarely on the ground. Feel the balls of your feet and start to notice how they are connected to your shins, thighs, sit bones, torso, backbone, neck, shoulders, head and arms. Just a brief body scan to bring your focus inward.
  • Next, notice how you are breathing. Is it shallow or deep? What part of your lungs are you using (upper chest, mid-belly, lower belly, back?  Are you holding your breath and in order to do so perhaps also holding your stomach or hunching your shoulders? What is the cadence of your breathing?
  • Then start breathing so that you are bringing the breath into the belly and lower back. Do not strain. If it feels too unnatural to breathe into the belly, then perhaps bring the breath down to the lower chest to start. Your mind is only focused on your breathing and if it wanders, gently come back to the inhalation and exhalation — without judging yourself for momentarily losing focus.
  • When your timer goes off, take a little stretch and set your intention on your next task.

Mark began the 5-minute practice daily and was surprised at the effectiveness it brought him. He could ‘gather’ himself and distance himself for a few minutes from the work in front of him. Those few deep quiet breaths not only changed his heart rate and calmed his nervous system, but it also allowed him regain a little bit of his sense of humor and more strategic thinking abilities. He eventually he began a morning walking meditation discipline to further build his capacity.

Practicing mindfulness and reaping its benefits doesn’t need to be a large time commitment or require special training. You can start right now – this moment.

So enjoy a deep breath and see what wonders might occur.

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