Mindfulness Basics, Part Five

The three-minute breathing space…

…a mindfulness practice for daily life

Here’s Part Five in our series of blog posts about key mindfulness practices, designed to help you get started with mindfulness or refresh your existing practice. In this post, you’ll find:

  • An introduction to the three-minute breathing space—the perfect practice for busy days
  • A guided audio for you to follow, to help you learn the technique
  • Top tips on how to get the best out of this exercise
  • An alternative practice you can use on those especially busy days
  • Links to other free guided audios in this series.

Why this practice?

Author Danny Penman, Ph.D, writing on franticworld.com, says:

One of the great ironies of mindful awareness is that it often seems to evaporate just when you need it the most. When you’re becoming increasingly burned out, you tend to forget just how useful it can be for dealing with the feelings of being overwhelmed by the world’s seemingly relentless demands … And when you’re anxious or stressed, you feel far too rushed to squeeze in a twenty-minute meditation. When you’re under pressure, the last thing your mind wishes to be is mindful—tired, old thinking habits are infinitely more seductive.”

The most obvious advantage of the three-minute breathing space is that it’s super-short, so it can be fitted into even your busiest day! So, when you need mindfulness the most—in your day-to-day life—this practice is easily available. Just three minutes in a quiet place (and, yes, you can use the bathroom to do this) is all you need!

What happens in this practice?

During the three-minute breathing space, you:

  • Stop whatever you’re doing, shifting out of auto-pilot and into ‘being’ mode.
  • Take a few moments to check in with your internal weather—the sensations in your body, your thoughts and feelings.
  • See if you can allow whatever you’ve found, whether it’s pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, to simply be there, as it is, without trying to push it away or cling to it.

After this exercise, instead of automatically reverting to those “tired, old thinking habits,” you can take your new awareness with you into your day—giving yourself choices about how you react to the situations you encounter.

Before you practice

Remind yourself that this meditation isn’t about taking time out from whatever is going on for you at the moment. You’re not trying to block out difficult experiences or cling to pleasant ones, for example. As best you can, simply notice what’s going on for you right now.

Listen now

Gillian Duncan Mindfulness Teacher Edinburgh, Scotland

Top tips

  • To help you get into the habit of doing this exercise regularly, begin by scheduling it into your daily life, so you get used to doing it. Once you’re in the habit of practising the three-minute breathing space, you’ll be able to do it at any time you choose during your busy day.
  • Add an alert on your phone or an alarm on your watch to remind yourself to practice the three-minute breathing space. You can be playful and creative with your reminders—try picking a colour and practising every time you notice that colour in your surroundings.

An alternative practice for super-busy days

To help you shift out of auto-pilot on especially busy days, here’s another practice you can use:

  1. Stop what you’re doing for a moment.
  2. Take three mindful breaths.
  3. Ask yourself “What’s going on for me right now, in this moment? What sensations can I feel in my body? What are my thoughts and feelings?”
  4. Acknowledge your experiences in this moment with a kind attention.
  5. Keep breathing and carry on.

More Mindfulness Basics

Part One, Settling the mind (10-minute guided audio)

Part Two, The body scan (20-minute guided audio)

Part Three, Mindfulness of the senses (15-minute guided audio)

Part Four, Mindful movement (7-minute guided audio)

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