Ten Minutes

Ten Minutes

I’ve become enamored of the 10-minute block.

It feels like just the right amount of time to do one of two things: meditate and slow it way down, or concentrate and commit to doing your very best in whatever you’re doing.

Whether you’re meditating or doing something else, all it takes to create a remarkable 10 minutes is to stop ruminating about the past and stop thinking about the future by “dropping in” to the present with all the attention you can muster. Easier said than done, of course.

The cool thing is that you have dozens, even hundreds, of opportunities every day to do both.

There’s no prelude, no warming up. You simply commit for 10 single minutes, to be fully present in the now. Then start the clock. Having a timer helps.

The practice of sitting, ideally with your back straight, slowing down, and simply noticing stuff for 10 minutes forms the basis for the other, more active 10-minute practice. While it might feel like you’re actively doing something — noticing stuff — it’s really all about learning how to STOP being distracted. And when you’re inevitably distracted by a thought, you simply start again, with no judgement and no anything, just simply start over. There are lots of ways to stay in the present for 10 minutes. The easiest is to simply watch and notice how you’re breathing. Each breath really is quite different if you pay close enough attention. Some people find it helps to count breaths — 1 on the inhale and exhale, 2 on the next inhale and exhale, etc. Some elongate the word “in” in the inhale, and “out” on the exhale. Do it for as long as you can before you become lost in thought/distracted. And when you notice that a thought has hijacked your attention, you simply start over at 1. It can be hard, at least in the beginning, to make it to ten breaths! Even five full mindful breaths are hard in the beginning.

Another way to stay present is to notice the sounds around you. If you really listen, you’ll hear several, and often many more than several, distinct sounds happening around you. You can’t control what comes in or how long the sounds last. It’s one of my favorite ways to stay present. Again, when a thought bursts in while you’re listening, just notice the thought and go back to full listening, and watch the thought unravel.

After a while, these two timed practices start to build “present muscle” — the ability to remain fully present, with minimal rumination, in almost any situation, not just during meditation.

There’s absolutely no reason why the next 10 minutes can’t be the most engaged you’ve had with your child this month. Or the next 10 minutes can’t be the most exhilarating 10 minutes you’ve had swimming, biking, or working out in years. Or, suddenly, you could realize, in real time, that the conversation you’re having with your spouse, or friend, or co-worker, is going slightly south, and and that you can consciously turn it around. Or you notice your garden or something in your house that could use 10 minutes of sustained attention. Or maybe you see something truly beautiful in your environment, and really take it in; you do nothing for 10 minutes except drink in beauty.

Assuming you sleep for seven hours each night, you have roughly a hundred 10-minute blocks every day. Plenty of opportunities every single day, forever, to drop into the present moment.

Committing to practicing being fully present with a single 10-minute block every day could be life changing. I know it has been for me.

Try it if you’re curious.

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