3 Minutes is all it takes

“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” Audrey Hepburn

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend a UK Service Management Summit at St Hughes College, Oxford. In fact, it was more than just attend. Let me give you the back-story.

I am part of a Service Management community in the UK. We organise a conference at least twice a year, where like-minded people across the service spectrum can get together and learn, share and discover. We share case studies; new innovations; and changes in how various organisations think about and deliver service. After the last event, I got a phone call to ask if I would like to attend a new summit being planned in the UK. More than that, would I be willing to host a round-table discussion and possibly sit on a panel discussion. “Of course”, I said. “No problem at all. Let me know the dates and I’ll be happy to attend”. Oops. A quick e:mail followed with a request for a short personal bio. Next thing, I see the published agenda. I am on two panel discussions and am co-hosting five round-table discussions. Talk about putting myself right into it.

However, Mindfulness; has helped in the lead up to the event. I live much more in the present moment – that is what Mindfulness teaches you. Mindfulness also helps you to focus on the present moment and not worry about the future. It helps to stop you ruminating about what is potentially going to happen in the future. Without Mindfulness; I know prior to the event, I would have been thinking thoughts such as;

‘Who is going to be there?.’ ‘Will I make a fool of myself on stage?.’ ‘Oh my god, I’m going to be on a stage!’, ‘What if I am late?’ ‘What if I get asked a question I can not answer?’ ‘Why did I sign up for this?’ ‘You are an idiot Summerhayes!’ ‘%$&^&^’

You get the picture. Except, none of those thoughts crossed my mind. Yes, I have been very busy at work. Additionally, life outside has filled every second of spare time. However, I know that in my old way of thinking, I would have been ruminating. Worrying. Getting wound up. None of this happened since I practice Mindfulness every day.

It was only on this past Monday, that I rechecked the agenda. Remembered what I had signed up for. Reviewed the discussion table topics and reflected in my own mind the key items I could bring to the summit. Yes, I did have a query with regard to parking. A quick e:mail to the organisers and the response that there was not parking on site. No worries. I found a local car park, only about a mile from the venue.

Yes, I did have a restless night’s sleep, but perhaps that was my subconscious playing scenarios through, somewhat like a movie. Anyway. I got up as normal for a day at the office. Got ready and drove to Oxford. Mindful moment in the traffic jams on the ring road. A quick park up and a lovely walk past colleges and Victorian houses to the venue. The entrance is the picture I’ve used for this post.

And this is where the three-minute meditation came into its own as I stood at the entrance to the summit.

The Three-minute Breathing Space meditation

Step 1: Becoming aware

  • Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?
  • What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can acknowledge thoughts as mental events.Don’t judge them.
  • What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.
  • What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.

Step 2: gathering and focusing attention

  • Now, redirect the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out.
  • Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.

Step 3: expanding attention

  • Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression as if the whole body was breathing.
  • Aware of the whole body, moment by moment.

And that is that. Or is it?

“Hang on a mo. What happened at the summit? Did you sit on the panel? Did you actually speak? Did you run a round table? Did it go well? Did you feel nervous or relaxed?”

It went really well. I was focused on the event. The people around me. The interactions on the discussion table were positive and engaging. I co-hosted the table for two and a half hours of intense dialogue. I was not nervous being on the panel in front of over one hundred delegates.In fact, I was on two panels, one in the morning and the final panel of the afternoon and contributed and lead a number of topics. 

I was focused on the event. I was attentive to the people around me. The interactions on the discussion table were positive and engaging. I co-hosted the table for two and a half hours of intense dialogue. I was not nervous being on the panel in front of over one hundred delegates.In fact, I sat in on two panels; one in the morning and the final panel of the afternoon; and contributed and led a number of topics. During the breaks and lunchtime, I took some time to step outside. I continued the 3-minute exercise and was able to appreciate the spring sunshine and beautiful surroundings of the St Hughes college. Overall, I enjoyed the whole day and would do it again.

So, If you are going to present. Stand on a stage in front of people. Or even if you are put in a position where you might feel nervous and worried; give the three-minute exercise a try before hand. I would encourage you to have a go. It will make a difference. Oh and do let me know how you get on.

I leave you with the following quote:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

Lao Tzu

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