The 30 Second Meditation - Stress Relief That Works

by anagarika eddie
(Barksdale, Texas)

"I don’t have time to meditate," is what I hear all the time. "I'm too busy in the morning and too tired at night; my life is too stressful for the mind to quiet down.”


For these kinds of busy people, trying to sit quietly for 30 minutes will be absolute torture. It’s true that once the mind catches on to meditation, it likes it and only wants to go deeper because it finds delightful satisfaction there, but few ever get to that point. They may try it for a while, but soon enough excuses will be made and the practice will be just a fond (torturous) memory.

The torture, or conflict, arises when the mind is forced to concentrate on something that the mind considers to be irrelevant. Because meditation is a long-term proposition akin to going to college for many years to establish a professional career, the ‘instant gratification’ oriented mind disregards the practice because it can’t stand waiting. It doesn’t want to meditate because it would rather be thinking about the next pleasure. Little does it realize that seeking the next pleasure equates to present stress and anxiety. The mind has to be in a state of discomfort while it waits for the next comfort to come along.
How could it be otherwise?

So how can we reduce the “torture” of meditation so that the mind can learn to settle down from its constant, stressful, habitual activity of seeking short term pleasure, a pleasure that, many times, lasts only a few seconds at best, usually disappoints, and at worst leads to some unexpected karma?

There are times during the day when the mind gets negative. These are the times to employ the 30 second meditation. If you can employ the 30 second meditation forty times throughout the day, you can skip your 20 minute meditation at night. (Yay!)

So when do the negative thoughts arise? How about, “When will this *&%&* red light change? C’mon, c’mon, I’m in a hurry.” Or, “here I am, fifth in line at the convenience store and the *&%&* clerk is making small talk with the customers. C’mon, c’mon.” Or better yet, "This is the slowest %&$##$ computer in the world! Arghhhh."

Anger, impatience, wanting things to be other than they are, trying to change the world instead of yourself – all of these cause undue accumulated stress that many times goes unnoticed until like a puss-filled boil, you explode and spread the poison over yourself and everyone around you.

Do yourself a favor. First, learn to notice when the mind becomes negative. Regardless of how justified your cause is, just notice the mood of negativity. Forget the logic of your arguments for a moment.

Now, as soon as you notice the foul mood, disregard both the cause of your foul mood, as well as the predictable moralizing, views and opinions that habitually follow. Instead, focus on your body breathing. It doesn’t matter where you notice the body breathing, just know both the in breath and the out breath. Do this for 30 seconds.

We usually breathe about 12 times a minute. So if you watch six in breaths and out breaths, that will take about 30 seconds.

What to do: After the first out breath, count 1, and after the second out breath, count 2, etc., until you get to six. Then you can stop breathing. (Just kidding). Always let the body breathe naturally when you are noticing the breath. The body does quite well in controlling all these functions by itself.

Okay, now that you have done your 30 seconds of meditation, you are allowed to let the mind go back to its anger and hostility. But there is a difference this time, this time you are aware of what you are doing to yourself.

Don’t worry about improving this exercise or making it more profound or anything like that. That is merely the clever mind trying to get out of it because it doesn’t like to be distracted from its rants. Stay with the simple program. It works.

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E. Raymond Rock (anagarika eddie) is a meditation teacher at the DhammaRocksprings Theravada Buddhist Meditation Retreat Center: http://www.dhammarocksprings.org and author of “A Year to Enlightenment: http://www.amazon.com/Year-Enlightenment-Steps-Enriching-Living/dp/1564148912

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.

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