From my perspective there are two types of Tiny Pause;
1. Is the one that I teach in mindfulness sessions. Which is simply 4 slow, conscious breaths. The seed of all mindfulness practices. Other mindfulness teachers might refer to this as ' a mindful pause '.
2. Is the one this blog post is about. This Tiny Pause is a combination of mindfulness, breath work, visualisation and gratitude.
So what's the idea behind it?
For years (and rapidly increasing as more people begin to learn mindfulness & meditation) I meet people who have done a short mindfulness course or retreat. They really enjoyed it, they found it effective, it helped them feel relaxed and gave them perspective.
But now the course or retreat is over they are really struggling to practice everyday. They can't make the time, they cant find a good place to do it or they are not sure how to fit it into their everyday life.
Just to recap, we are talking about a practice that has less to make procrastination seem justifiable than almost anything else; we don't need to get changed, we don't need to pay, we don't need to be guided by the weather, we don't need someone to do it with.
This in turn causes us to feel even more stressed and anxious because we know it really should be possible and we beat ourselves up for not being able to do it. The irony would be funny if it wasn't so annoying.
So I became interested in the MED - Minimal Effective Dose - of mindfulness. What was the shortest amount of time I could practice to get the result I wanted? (my goal was a little high quality attention for me, to help me let go of overwhelming tension, put things in perspective and if possible feel some peace & calm & sleep better).
Now I have actually been practising this in a roundabout way for years as I looked to make my daily practice as effective as possible (in between family life, four children and work). The figure I'm currently at is 8 mins a day. I have been at this figure for about the last 4 years. And I often do a walking practice each day as well which must help support the 8 mins in some way (because its another moment in the day I let go of tension, put things in perspective and feel clam/calmer).
8 mins is good but could I make it more effective? I know from my groups that people can struggle with creating a 5 min daily practice habit so could I go lower and if so, how?
Any of you that have done or read about mindfulness will know that a cornerstone of the practice is training your attention in a non judgemental way. Which, as most of us know, sounds a lot easier than it can feel.
As training our attention plays such a big part in mindfulness practice I started to look at many of the possible ways of doing it. From different meditation techniques, relaxation techniques, concentration techniques, educational techniques etc.
And then I began experimenting. My rule was that every practice I tried had to be rooted in either a practice that has been around for 100's of years (there is a reason it survives) or one that has been supported by various scientific studies. This way I could at least rely on a method being proven independently before I began to combine them.
After months of testing and asking people in my groups to volunteer for experimentation (thank you all 200+) the format and details of the Tiny Pause became clear.
It is a combination of the following in this order:
Breathing technique used to reduce anxiety - Stimulate Parasympathetic nervous system
Mini body scan - give our body high quality attention - let stress be a physiological one instead of an existential one
Mindful listening - to tune in to what's around us, take attention away from mind/thoughts
Visualisation - release of positive emotions by thinking of a place that helps us feel calm
Gratitude - reverse internal dialogue, taking it to a more constructive place
It takes 2-4 mins although it can be done for as long as you wish.
On the face of it all I have really done is combine different proven techniques that help train your attention.
Its effective because unlike conventional mindfulness training it leaves you with less time to let your thoughts wander (although this can easily happen as part of a longer practice - 4 mins +). It has a set of very clear steps that people find easier to follow then just ' bringing their attention back ' as part of normal mindfulness training.
And the really good news? It only supports your mindfulness practice. Just begin with the Tiny Pause technique for 2 mins and then effortlessly glide into your mindfulness practice.
I am committed to training people in the Tiny Pause for the following reasons;
1. It makes it easier for most to access the benefits of mindfulness
2. It has very clear and identifiable steps which make it easier for people to learn and convert to habit
3. All steps are independently proven and are safe and accessible for all ages
4. Everyone can feel the benefits immediately after one practice
5. Its the most effective way that I know of to use mindfulness for sleep
It might make a small or big difference to you but no matter how much difference it makes its a step towards giving yourself some high quality attention, quieting our inner critic and feeling calmer.
Worth a shot?
Sign up for the online course here as part of the Big Sleep campaign