It is not unusual for clients to come to MBCT with preconceived notions that being mindful means being peaceful, silent, and still. It can be very confusing, therefore, when these expectations rub up against the real demands of practicing mindfulness in everyday life. Waking up late, rushing your kids out of bed, realizing that you have nothing in the refrigerator to pack for lunches, walking the dog, and somehow managing to get yourself ready and everyone out the door in the morning…it’s everything but peaceful and silent!
Of course, it’s important to help clients experience the value of the formal practices—sitting meditation and the movement practices. Protecting some time each day for these formal practices offers both an essential anchor in the tumult of daily life and a laboratory within where they can begin to nurture the skills of paying attention, being gentle with themselves, and being curious about experiences rather than reacting in automatic and habitual ways. It’s equally—and some might say, even more—important to help clients build a bridge from these formal practices to daily life.
The key is to help clients realize, through their own experience, that it is possible to bring those same qualities of being into real life, with all of its chaos, interruptions, challenges, and occasional moments of delight.
The 3-Minute Breathing Space is a practice that helps build this very bridge. It provides scaffolding for learning that it is possible to practice being mindful with whatever is happening within or around you. As our clients (and we!) practice the 3-Minute Breathing Space, we have an opportunity to learn that it’s less about having to do something extra, less about having to find or make time, and more about the qualities of attention, openness, and curiosity we bring to the moments that are already happening.
One client found the practice helpful each morning as she washed her face—paying attention to the temperature, movement, and feelings of pleasure, however brief, as she washed her face before waking up her children to get ready for the morning routine. She also found it to be an essential support in the midst of intense frustration at being interrupted yet again as she was working on an important project, guiding herself through the three steps instead of simply reacting to the interruption.
We all can get caught in more “doing” in the context of very full, busy lives. Mindfulness is less about adding another activity to the to-do list and more about practicing a new way of being with what is already happening. For many clients, the Three Minute Breathing Space is a wonderful practice to support this realization and way of being.