It's three o'clock, and despite your novel-length to-do list, the only thing that holds your attention longer than 30 seconds is the thought of a caffeine or sugar fix. You'd get a better and more sustained boost, though, by practicing a midday meditation.
Typically associated with relaxation, meditation also jump-starts energy and clears a foggy head, says Eric Harrison, director of Australia's Perth Meditation Centre and author of "Flip the Switch: 40 Anytime, Anywhere Meditations in 5 Minutes or Less." "If you meditate consciously and don't succumb to sleep, your mind becomes calm and clear," he explains. And unlike the usual drowsiness cures, a few minutes of meditation can keep you alert all afternoon.
One of Harrison's favorite quick meditations involves tuning in to the sounds we generally try to ignore, which gives the chattering mind a chance to rest. So close your office door or find a quiet space and follow these easy steps -- and that cafe run might soon be a thing of the past.
+ Clear a space. Take a moment to remove some of the clutter in your immediate area -- mugs, scattered pens, loose papers. This helps you transition into meditation mode and sets the stage for a calmer, more productive afternoon.
+ Log off. Turn off your computer and silence the ringers on your work and cell phones. This limits physical distractions while freeing up your mind to focus on listening.
+ Close your eyes and normalize your breathing. Sit up straight and take long, deep, deliberate inhalations, followed by even longer exhalations. Continue this breathing throughout the entire exercise.
+ Begin listening. Tune in to the sounds around you as if you were listening to music. Let your ears explore both background and foreground noises. Are there any sounds you can hear now that you didn't before? What's the most distant sound you can hear? What's the closest? What music or harmonies do they create together?
+ Notice your mood. Suspend any judgments about the sounds that normally irritate you, like the hum of the copier, and just listen.
+ Check your body. Locate any tense feelings within, and concentrate on relaxing each one of them.
+ After several minutes, open your eyes. Notice the difference in your energy level. If you're still feeling groggy, distracted, or unfocused, continue the listening meditation for a minute or two more.
Text by Donna Garlough