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SAMPLE -- Introduction & Chapter 1 Introduction

If there is a single secret to one-minute mindfulness, it is this: Live the next sixty seconds as if your whole life depended on them, with a sense of urgency and excitement, or as if you had just arrived in a foreign land where there is nothing expected, hackneyed, or taken for granted.

This is a journey into life ’s true freshness, mystery, wonder, possibility, and novelty. After all, who knows what amazing things may happen in the next minute? One-Minute Mindfulness offers the empowering perspective that how you think and act in the upcoming minute (and the next) determines nothing less than your experience of life.

The choice for a joy-filled life is waiting for you, and it is much closer than you think because an untapped wealth of being already lies within you. There are many different definitions for wealth, and many of them measure the static or material aspects of life. Only spiritual and psychological wealth give you the ability to be truly alive and to experience a greater degree of control over your life than you ever might have imagined. One-minute mindfulness realigns your life by letting you break free from automatic mode, giving you the freedom to choose how to respond to life ’s difficult, intolerable, and impossible situations.

This is wealth that enhances those situations and moments that are ripe and ready to be awakened with joy, meaning, and possibility, but which you otherwise might have ignored. Believe it or not, this is a process that transforms your life into one of acceptance, joy, peace, patience, and presence. It all depends on how you choose to encounter each minute. Sound impossible? Read on, and you’ll discover that it isn’t. One-minute mindfulness will help you reconnect with those precious times when you believed anything was possible, when you lived in the present moment, fully and completely. Recovering that lost capability is easier than you think.

How would your life change if you were to recognize that all your worries, anxieties, and fears are ingrained habits of thought and behavior? What if you were to recognize that the past and the future are merely mirages of the mind? The truth is, we have a choice, and what is more, whether we seize or squander the choice to be fully alive depends on how weengage in the next sixty seconds. If you feel that you are always running behind and busy making predictions about what will or should happen, if you are unceasingly worried and anxious about the future or unduly preoccupied with the past, or if you feel that life is passing you by and you are not connecting with others in a meaningful way, one-minute mindfulness will help you to reinvigorate your life in a nurturing way that lets you come back to your senses. In doing so, you will unlock each minute’s potential to make the difference between feeling acceptance, fulfillment, and happiness or feeling resistance, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness.

What more could we ask for than to have this choice? Of course, this does not mean you will win the next Powerball Lottery (sorry about that) or life ’s jackpot and have all your problems solved in the next sixty seconds. But if there is any joy, gratitude, or appreciation to be found in life, there is no better place to locate it than right here and right now by bringing an open-heart and compassion toward all the uninvited visitors that inevitably enter your life— the good, the bad, the ugly, the boring, the unpleasant, the despicable, the habitual, the blissful. When you become skillful with your awareness in present time, you will find that acceptance brings an amazingly powerful and positive outcome for even an unwanted life obstacle.

Embracing the path of one-minute mindfulness is not without change; in fact, this path embraces the essence of change. It requires, for example, that you question worldviews you currently hold, which may be limiting or unbeneficial. Consider how normal it is for us to compare ourselves to machines. In the last hundred years, we have come to view ourselves increasingly in mechanical terms. You can explore this view right now by answering the following three questions:

1. In the past week, have you in some way felt good or bad about your capacity to accomplish, to be efficient and productive?

2. In the past week, did you eat two or more meals while also working — such as being on the computer, during a business lunch, or doing another task whether at work or at home?

3. In the past week, more than twice did you sacrifice sleep to get more work done, lose sleep worring about work, or use a stimulant such as caffiene to give yourself energy to work harder?

If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, you may well be viewing yourself with a machine-like mind-set even though you are not a machine to be manipulated for greater efficiency and productivity. How often do you think of food as fuel for your “engine” and miss out on the opportunity to savor the flavor and social connections food offers? To fully inhabit each minute, it is important to examine and let go of such limiting mind-sets.

Recently, when I described one-minute mindfulness to a friend, he commented that it sounded like a lot of work. His exact words were, “That sounds exhausting, having to work at each minute!” We laughed, and I assured him that anyone practicing one-minute mindfulness will inevitably zone out. I also explained that one-minute mindfulness is really about mining the treasure of joy hidden in every moment — and the more we find joy, novelty, and fulfillment in the next minute, the more likely we are to continue to commit ourselves to the practice.

I hope you will approach this book as a journey of discovery. The pages that follow serve as a gentle guide directing you to become more awake and aware throughout your day of the possibilities present in every sixty seconds. One-Minute Mindfulness contains examples, anecdotes, and observations that come from my experience as a psychotherapist and as a Buddhist monk. The book also looks at leading-edge brain research that shows how adaptable we are at rewiring stuck, established neuronal networks. Mostly, though, One-Minute Mindfulness is a practical book about consciously participating in the next sixty seconds of your life. It is part guidebook and part workbook for making this moment count.

Each chapter contains an exercise or practice for building awareness and centering attention. The awareness exercises are meant to help you touch this moment — which is more elusive than it appears. As a mindfulness student once said to his teacher, “Every time that I start to think about how I’m finally in the here and now, I realize the moment has already passed.”

The good news is that the effort is well worth it. According to Buddhist psychology, mindfulness is a path to enlightenment. I take that to mean that by fostering a curious, compassionate, and openhearted awareness in each moment, we can be blessed with clarity, joy, peace, love, and wisdom, while we also reduce our own suffering and the suffering of others. To be alive is to totally and openly participate in the simplicity and elegance of here and now, and a total commitment to the present moment is as close as the tip of your nose or your fingertips. Now is when you take that all-important next inhalation and experience the blessings of the body. Only in this minute can the pink dawn of the morning’s light stimulate your retinas. It is in this moment that you connect with another person’s smile or touch.

This book is organized into five parts to help you integrate one-minute mindfulness into the various aspects of daily life. You will learn to retrain your brain, to step out of automatic mode and to find the nurturing moments that make each day worthwhile and memorable. You may be surprised to find how much joy is waiting for you in places and ways you never before considered.

For many, the journey of one-minute mindfulness will be like coming home to a comfortable and safe place. For some, living the next minute mindfully will connect them to hope and optimism, and for others, focusing on the next sixty seconds will initially bring anxiety, but eventually a deep sense of relief and peace, even in the midst of chaos, will replace the discomfort. Awakening to this moment is an art that you will express in a personal way. However you decide to shape your life as you sculpt your attention and awareness, it is my hope that One-Minute Mindfulness will give you powerful and satisfying options for living your life one liberating minute at a time.

PART 1 One-Minute Mindfulness for Home and Play

1. Morning Awakens

Morning is untamed. The body is not quite ready; the mind is half dreaming. This is all the more reason to greet the day gently and with utmost care.

What do you do the in the first sixty seconds of your morning? Is your mind filled with thoughts and worries about the day ahead? Do you drag your body out of bed like a heavy sack of potatoes? How can you bring yourself into the next sixty seconds with awarenessand presence?

There’s also the question of how you awaken. Does a buzzing alarm rattle you awake? Do you hit the snooze button several times because your body wants more sleep? When you wake up and are still lying in bed, spend one minute noticing the body, from the toes up through the torso, arms, and neck, to the head. Stay with your body for now; your mind will have enough time for thinking throughout the rest of the day. Do you notice bodily tension anywhere? As you do this, notice your breath and let it become smooth. Your breath is your intimate kiss with this moment.

Spend another sixty seconds listening to the music of the morning. What does your room and the surrounding environment sound like in the morning? Let all the little creaks and crackles, the rustle of the sheets, the birds outside, the animals inside, maybe the movement and even the snores of a partner
greet you while your head still rests upon its pillow.

We can learn a lot from watching a dog or cat awaken. My own cat awakens slowly each morning. When he’s ready, he stretches his grey, furry paws far in front of him and gracefully arches his back. It is a kitty yoga pose that he holds for up to five seconds, then repeats two or three more times within the first five minutes of getting up. He is, I figure, greeting the morning. What does your body’s morning greeting look like? Be sure to include a long, peaceful stretch that prepares your body for a day of gravity-defying feats.

Be at peace with your body in this minute. Don’t berate it, harangue it, or push it around. Ask for its help in this next minute as you rise and begin to move about; it will be serving as your helpful companion throughout the day.

As you stand, walk, and move about your space, listen to the morning’s soft sounds. The morning light also offers effects that will not be duplicated later. If it’s dim, notice the shade that the soft morning light offers. If it’s dark, when you turn on a light, feel the light switch between your fingers. Notice your eyes adjusting to the light.

Pay attention to how many unique experiences there are in every minute, and see if you can notice even the slightest gratitude or appreciation for some or all of these happenings. Even if your morning time at home seems rushed, it actually offers a vast and open space. Give yourself permission to take it all in, for this is a morning like no other.

Today, give the gift of this unique morning to yourself.

Practice

Slow down this morning.

When you walk, know that you are walking.

Feel the floor beneath your feet; sense each little movement.

When you shower, know that you are showering.

Listen intently to the running water.

Note its temperature as it cascades over your skin.

This morning, experience what it s like to let nothing go unfelt, unheard, unseen, unnoticed.

Copyright © 2011 by Donald Altman