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July 28, 2020

Mini Meditation - (re)gaining focus quickly

by Amélie Cornélis

Drawing of an otter floating on water

I first discovered the mini meditation technique during a "Work Smart, Not Hard" workshop by the amazing Paula Muldoon (@FiddlersCode). It is one of the techniques that she brought across from her high-flying violin playing days, when she made the career switch to coding.

What is it?

Mini meditation is meditating for a short amount of time. A few minutes can be enough. The meditation can be guided by someone else (for people who use Spotify, I find this meditation track very useful or there is another example via YouTube). It can also be done to the sound of music without lyrics that you find relaxing, or in silence. Your aim is to give yourself a few minutes to slow down and help your brain return to the deeper waves. If you're not sure how, pick one of the guided tracks.

What I find surprising is that despite the relatively short time a single session takes, the practice has a high impact and changes the way I work for a long time afterwards. When I remember to do it, it can help me focus for the next couple of hours.

When to do it?

Paula introduced us to mini meditation at the beginning of her workshop. It is a great way to let people arrive in the moment and leave behind whatever they were involved in during their day: work, family, the journey to the workshop etc.

I've since used it on my own during the day, whenever I notice my thoughts racing through many problems, or when I'm about to tackle some particularly gnarly code. It helps me gain both focus and perspective. It’s then easier to find the right tools (which could be the linux less, more, or cat commands!) and combine them well.

less, more, cat

It’s also been helpful to regain balance after spiky conversations with colleagues, or during! In my current job, we’re remote and some of our communications happen in instant messaging. I sometimes use mini meditation mid-stream when I notice I’m typing too quickly.

We've also started using mini meditation as a group in the Security Engineering team here at Tes, for example at the start of our retrospectives. One of us guides the others at the start of our video call. We find it helps us gain perspective and detach from the latest problem(s) we are grappling with, so the bigger picture emerges more easily.

What are the drawbacks?

Because it is over a short amount of time, people who are less experienced with meditation can feel a bit lost, or not get the benefit.

It might also feel so relaxing that it's hard to return to the problem in front of us! :)

Credits

Lovely images by Denise Yu

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