The Brief Practice

You can incorporate mindfulness practice into your lifestyle without making radical changes or heavy time commitments. Rather than doing nothing until you have the time and motivation to start an intensive practice, build The Brief Practice into your daily routine. A few minutes per day is INFINITELY better than no minutes per day.

You might assume that the benefits of mindfulness practice only come after you make a fairly substantial time commitment and accumulate months or years of practice. A lot of early research into the psychological and health benefits of meditation was based on this assumption. This is an artifact of using Buddhist monks as benchmarks for achievement.

Western researchers in the 1970s focused on monastic meditation masters each with decades-long practice. While the benefits of mindfulness meditation may be dose-related—more practice giving greater benefits—there is no evidence that one must practice hours per day in order to reap the rewards sought by most of us including less stress and more positive thoughts and emotions. In fact, there is research supporting the idea that just minutes per day over a two-week period will confer significant benefits of stress relief and equanimity.

For many years, I taught a semester-long stress management course at Indiana University. I assigned various mindfulness-based projects to my students which were two- to three-weeks in length and took five to ten minutes per day. Of the several thousand students who completed these meditation assignments 100% of the ones who actually did the practice reported significant benefits of stress reduction, more positive emotions, and equanimity in the face of stress triggers.

I’ll be honest with you (since it will help to make my point, here). I have been meditating more days than not for thirty years. I will occasionally do a one- to three-day retreat which includes several hours of meditation per day. I once did a month-long retreat. I’ve done a few half-day retreats. But, more than 95% of the time I do about ten to twenty minutes per day. Much of my practice consists of short, one- to three-minute sessions of brief practice.

If I compare myself to some of my friends who have become Zen priests, I would see myself as a miserable failure. However, a more positive view will emerge if I acknowledge that my few minutes per day gives me significant benefits. I am definitely way more calm, focused, positive, and even when I practice a few minutes each day. I know this because of the many times when I have slacked off and done little, or no, practice for a few weeks.

How to do The Brief Practice:

Most days, each of us will have moments when we experience short breaks or pauses in the flow of our activities. We wait in line at a store or at the bank. We get stopped in traffic. We have a short walk from a parking lot (yes, you can be mindful of your body and breath while walking). These are times when we don’t have to be mentally engaged though we are awake. I expect that if you were to count these down times over the next few days, you’ll see that you have five to ten of them each day. When you find yourself in one of these moments, you can easily do a brief mindful breathing practice.You can also do it while you are drifting off to sleep. The technique described below is not stimulating and won't interfere with your falling asleep. In fact, it may help you fall asleep as the two words you will say get in the way of fretting which is a common thing that delays the onset of sleep.

There is no need to do something elaborate. You don’t have to engage in any sort of practice that is evident to people around you. You don’t have to do anything that will interfere with the resumption of your normal activity when the thing that created the short pause has resolved. When it’s your turn to pay at the grocery store, simply stop your mindful breathing practice. In these moments, you can do the following:

Turn your attention inward and pay attention to your breath.

Don’t alter your breath. Let it be as it is. Simply be aware of your breath.

During your in-breath, say silently in your head, IN.

During your out-breath, say silently in your head, OUT.

For the short time that you have this opportunity, stay with your breath and say, in, and, out.


It’s as simple as that.

Do this three to five times each day and in two weeks you will accumulate over an hour of practice. This won’t seem like much if your goal is to become an enlightened Buddhist monk. But, if you want to be more calm and have more positive thoughts and emotions you will achieve this in just one hour of accumulated practice. I know this from my own experience and that of the thousands of students and clients who have experimented with this program. Few things in our lives are guaranteed to work 100% of the time. This one does. And, adopting The Brief Practice as I've described won't require you to change your lifestyle at all. With this program, nothing has to be pushed out or rearranged for you to succeed!

If you do this daily for two weeks, I absolutely promise that you will experience more calm and positive emotions. The Brief Practice is one of five easy techniques I promote in my book, Change Your Life in 15 Minutes a Day. This journal explains easy techniques which take only minutes to complete and which confer valuable psychological rewards. The book provides space to record your daily practice. Check it out in print if you want a journal in which you can record your progress or in Kindle if you want the instructions along with the form of the daily recordings. Click on the image in the right-hand sidebar on this page to get to the print and Kindle versions of this book.



Posted by Jon Peters