Mini-mindfulness meditation (MMM) is a practice of mindfulness specially designed to suit patient with serious illness. Most of the patients with serious illness do not have the time or energy to practice formal mindfulness meditation.
For example, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program that takes eight weeks with two and a half hours per week. For most patients with serious illness, this can be a great challenge. Hence, mini-mindfulness meditation is devised to cater for the needs of seriously ill patients.
In mini-mindfulness meditation, the general principles are similar to all mindfulness practices. The principles are:
You need to have the intention to be more mindful
You need to train in paying complete attention
You need a right attitude with the following characteristics: non-judgmental, non-reactive, non-clinging
How can mini-mindfulness meditation help to relieve suffering?
Suffering is an unpleasant physical and emotional experience. It is caused by our habitual holding onto our sensations, thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, when we are told to have a serious illness, we suffer even though we are not in pain. We get lost in our thoughts and emotions. We hold onto these unpleasant thoughts and feelings. We judge ourselves. We react to the situation impulsively or automatically. And we cling to these experiences tightly. These automatic reactions sink us deeper and deeper into the depth of suffering.
Mindfulness releases us from the imprisonment by these thoughts and feelings. In paying complete attention to an object of interests, we let unpleasant thoughts and emotions arise and disappear without reacting to it. In other words, we train our ability to hold our attention on one object and let go of all other experiences. This letting go breaks our habitual clinging.
How to practice mini-mindfulness meditation?
The duration of practice of mini-mindfulness meditation is at least 5 minutes a day for everyday. Again, the three general principles of mindfulness are very important. You must have the intention to be more mindful. Then, you must train in paying complete attention to an object of interest. Most importantly, the right attitude needs to be cultivated. These include:
Do not involve yourself in judging
Do not react to the experience automatically
Do not hold onto sensation, thoughts and feelings, let them unfold naturally
Have an open mind
Have a curious mind
Have a kind mind
Allowing things as they are
Allowing things to unfold at their own time
The practices of mini-mindfulness meditation can be divided into four themes – physical, psychological, social, and spiritual. Each theme is further divided into five subthemes:
(A) Physical mini-mindfulness meditation
- Eating and drinking
- Bathing and toileting
- Pain and other physical symptoms
(B) Psychological mini-mindfulness meditation
- Pleasant thoughts
- Pleasant emotions
- Unpleasant thoughts
- Unpleasant emotions
(C) Social mini-mindfulness meditation
- Presence of family and friends
- Care of family and friends
- Love and kindness of family and friends
- Unpleasant experiences with family, friends or healthcare staff
(D) Spiritual mini-mindfulness meditation
- Death and dying
These themes and subthemes are chosen based on the usual experiences of patients with serious illness. You can choose any of these subthemes to practice 5 minutes every day or you may even find something else that you wish to focus on. These mini-mindfulness meditations are supposed to calm you down when you rest your attention gently on one of the subthemes, if you find you wish to spend a little longer like 15 minutes. 30 minutes or even longer each day it is all up to you. With time, the effect of these five minutes sessions will spread to the rest of the days. You may be feeling calmer despite the illness. You may see the real picture. You may be able to choose how to response to an unpleasant experience.
The following is the menu of mini-mindfulness meditation. You may choose one most suitable for yourself. It is advisable to choose something neutral like breathing to start with. Alternatively, you may also choose something pleasant to be your object of interest. Leave the most difficult one until you have developed some amount of calmness and experience from your initial mini-mindfulness meditation. The difficult ones are pain, unpleasant thoughts and emotions, stress, unpleasant experiences with relationship and finally death and dying.
Breathing is a very useful anchor to bring ourselves back to the present moment. It is chosen because it is a neutral sensation unless we are having any breathing difficulties. It is recommended to use mindfulness in breathing as a first step to calm down and to increase our mindfulness in our daily life.
Rest yourself in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and relax your eyes. If you prefer to open eyes, rest you gaze in front of you gently. Choose a spot between your nostrils and your upper lip as your breathing awareness spot. Take a few deep breaths and feel the sensation of the breathing across the breathing awareness spot. Then let the breathing unfolds naturally. If you are distracted by any other sensations, thoughts or feelings, tell yourself it is alright. Do not judge yourself. Simply let it go. Let any other sensations, thoughts or feeling be as they are.
Bring your focus again and again to the breathing sensation at your breathing awareness spot. When you end the session, open your eyes slowly. Rest with the calmness for a while. Then bring the calmness into your daily life. Sometimes you may even start your session with a few short phrases to prime your mind before you start your meditation.
Breathing in, I see my breathing.
Breathing out, I smile to my breath.
Breathing in, I come back to the present moment.
Breathing out, how wonderful it is to be alive.
Mindful breathing is a wonderful stepping stone in developing mindfulness. Once we are familiar with bringing our mind back to the present moment with breathing, we can then continue our awareness in other types of mini-mindfulness meditation.