Saturday, August 20, 2011

The one-minute reboot

Like just about everyone else, I own a smartphone. My phone, a Droid X, is pretty darned smart, and I've grown accustomed to it. Every once in a while, though, it acts kind of stupid. It will shut down while I'm trying to play a song. Its smart little screen will get stuck while I'm flipping through photos.

When this happens, I've got the solution. Like so many other pieces of technology I own, I just shut my phone off for a minute, let it rest, and turn it back on again. It emerges from its nap all refreshed and ready to do more smart things for me.

In some ways, our brains are like smartphones. The visible stuff like producing speech and guiding your fingers to the right phone keys is just part of what's going on. You know how that feels - you're typing up a letter at work, and your brain is feeding you anxious little tidbits about your checking account or chiding you for eating too much at lunch. It never seems to stop.

I have clients who tell me that they're always running, always working, always tired. I ask them what they've done for themselves lately, and the answer is always the same - and usually comes after a slightly embarrassed pause. "Nothing."

At this point, we do a little experiment. I have them close their eyes, if they're comfortable with that, and I lead them on a one-minute guided breathing exercise. No point to it, no destination, just one minute of slow breathing. I tell them that if those anxious thoughts try to crowd into their breathing space, just notice them and then let them go. Observe and describe. "Oh, there's a thought about money. Goodbye, thought about money." "Hey, I'm judging myself for not being able to do a freaking breathing exercise correctly. Hi, judgment, I'm noticing you. Goodbye, judgment."

And so on.

After a minute, I bring them back into the room. They're often very reluctant to come back from that nice, centered, non-judgmental breathing space. I ask them when the last time they took even one minute to do nothing at all but breathe, and practice kindness to themselves. Again, the answer comes - never.

Next time you're at work in a frenzied day, close your office door if you can, or just find a place to go (bathroom? Hopefully the boss won't chase you there, although I had one in my past work life who would!) and take one minute for yourself. Breathe. Observe and describe your thoughts, and let them go. If it helps, visualize yourself next to a stream, and let your thoughts be leaves on the water. Pick up the leaf, feel your love and compassion for that leaf, release it into the stream. Repeat.

If you're lucky, this will become a habit. Everyone has one minute per day to spare. The more you visit your brain, the better you'll get at quickly finding an uncrowded corner in which to relax.

One minute, one day. Try it.


  1. Love this entry and love you for sharing it! Thank you.

  2. MMM - thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. One minute is a great start. A daily meditation practice is like a daily shower for your mind and spirit. Think about how you feel when you go too long without a shower. Ick! What if we spared as many minutes a day for this kind of rest as we do for cleansing the dirt off our physical bodies?

  4. Just to let you know, I read these every time you post that there's a new one. Enjoying muchly!

  5. Cratermoon - awesome point.
    Tigrkittn - thank you! I finally added some share buttons on the bottom of the posts. Feel free! :)

  6. Really great post. I like the comparison with the phone; so true! And cratermoon's analogy was also really apt. Thanks again for your blog. I am enjoying it.

  7. Ellettra, thanks for reading! I'm open for any suggestions or post ideas you have.