No Time to Meditate? Try a “Microhit” of Mindfulness

No Time to Meditate? Try a “Microhit” of Mindfulness

Research shows the power of mindfulness meditation. But many people believe they don’t have time to meditate. Could brief periods of mindfulness be an effective solution?

How much mindfulness meditation is “enough?”

As part of the 200-hour meditation leader training I recently completed with Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness, I researched brief periods of mindfulness to find an answer.

This question has long intrigued me.

At the very first meditation retreat I attended, several decades ago, the teacher directed us to sense our thoughts and body sensations. We slowed our movements and maintained silence to focus on how thoughts and body sensations arose and passed away. She also invited us to practice equanimity. We attempted to allow whatever came into awareness to ebb and flow without pushing or pulling on the experience.

That weekend taught concrete, workable tools to help keep my head where my feet were. I was learning to “stay in the moment.” My husband, Ed, and I continued a near-daily meditation practice, but I found myself dropping into states of awareness during the day.

I wondered if these tiny “doses” of mindfulness might be helpful.

A few years later, after hearing others lament their inability to meditate (I don’t have time. I can’t concentrate. It’s boring. My mind won’t still.) I began to write a mindfulness meditation book. Every page of this not-yet-published book ends with a “Daily Practice,” a small “dose” of mindfulness.

Sample Page:

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”-Bruce Lee

I once worked work with a man who never wore an overcoat, even if it was ten below with a stiff wind. One day as we struggled to cross an icy parking lot against a strong breeze, I asked if he wasn’t cold. “A little,” he replied. “But if you don’t brace yourself against the cold, you don’t feel it.” He said he relaxed into the cold instead. “Don’t make yourself rigid against it.”

I tried it and found he was right. I still wear a coat on cold days, but when I remember to relax and not grit my teeth or stiffen my body, the weather isn’t as challenging.

Daily Practice:

The next time you’re in inclement weather or a room that feels too hot or too cold, notice any tension in your body. Where do you sense it? Let your shoulders drop. Soften your jaw. What do you feel? How far can you sink into these sensations? Instead of bracing yourself, can you feel the sensations? What happens?

Each “Daily Practice” is a tiny exercise. It takes only a few minutes, sometimes on the cushion, but more often, not.

“Microhits” Defined

Meditation teacher Shinzen Young specifically addresses this type of short-interval meditation practice. He calls it “Micro Practice” and refers to these bursts as “microhits.”

His instructions state:

Micro Practice: Attention: All attention on technique. Duration: Under 10 minutes, i.e., you give yourself “microhits” during the day; 30 seconds here, 3 minutes there (emphasis must be quality over quantity; if need be, use spoken labels to assure this).

An Outline of Practice” by Shinzen Young, May 2014, updated August 2016.

Why might microhits be beneficial?

Tiny doses of meditation can serve as an entry point for beginning meditators. People put off or intimidated by Buddhist lingo and retreat settings can practice these on their own. Microhits might also introduce experienced meditators who have grown bored with their practice to something new. And, a different approach might bring back meditators who have fallen away from consistent practice.

Most importantly, the effectiveness of microhits removes the “I don’t have time” barrier.

Altered Traits

During the Sage Institute training, I reread Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman & Richard J. Davidson. I came away concerned Goleman and Davidson wouldn’t think much of the “Daily Practices” in the book I was writing or of Shinzen’s “Micro Practice.”

Specifically, on pages 270 to 271 of Altered Traits, the authors list elements crucial to “altering traits” which they felt was the real purpose of meditation. The authors opine, based on their analysis of the research, that people who meditate “on a path to renewal—a kind of inner vacation—rather than a lifelong calling” will not achieve the “altered traits” that are the subject of their book. I worried that brief mindfulness practices might be ineffective, even discredited by scientific study.

I turned to “Google Scholar” to test my theory.

My search for “brief mindfulness” revealed 9,200 abstract entries. Limiting the search to dates between 2019 and 2021, narrowed the results to 3,560. Adding the words “5-minutes” to the search, brought the number down to 199 abstracts.

It turns out I’m not the only one interested in this topic!

I did not review each of the 9,200 abstracts. Within half an hour of reading the more recent results, I found enough support for my theory that brief sessions of mindfulness, even five minutes, can improve one’s life.

Many of the abstracts began in a similar way:

Although research has found that long-term mindfulness meditation practice promotes executive functioning and the ability to sustain attention, the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training have not been fully explored.

“Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training,” Fadel, et al. Conscious Cognition, 2010, Jun;19(2): 597-605.

That abstract from 2010 opened the floodgates of research on this topic.

What did researchers measure?

Researchers used both “soft” and “hard” measurements. Among the “soft” measurements, they observed positive changes in empathy and compassion. They looked at stress levels, pain tolerance and relief. They documented accomplishment perception, self-awareness, time urgency, and emotional exhaustion. And they measured anxiety, attention, mood, memory, listening skills, emotional regulation and processing, mental state, and well-being.

In the “hard” measurement category, they looked for positive changes in brain hub, gray matter volume, brain plasticity, salivary oxytocin, electrophysiological markers, cortisol and a-amylase levels, prefrontal and hippocampal functioning, blood pressure, pulse, galvanic skin response, and skin surface temperature.

Who did they study?

The groups studied included palliative care patients and their family members, college level psychology students, high school students, veterinary medical students preparing to do surgery on live animals, hospital patients, teachers, nurses and patient care technicians in an emergency department, pediatric ICU nurses, otolaryngology residents, and members of the general population.

What techniques did they study?

The most reputable studies contained a control group. Some control groups were given no instruction at all. Others were offered affirmations, hypnosis, guided imagery, listening to a podcast, listening to an audiobook, psychological explanation, emotional regulation education, and active listening exercises.

What counts as a “brief” period of mindfulness?

In some studies, the “5-minutes” of mindfulness was offered one time while in other studies it was repeated daily for several weeks. Researchers found merit in any session of mindfulness meditation regardless of how often (or little) it was repeated. This was true even if the meditation practice instruction was delivered by a computer.

For citations to these abstracts, go here.


Goleman and Davidson might be right that these microhits alone won’t bring about the “altered traits”  of which they speak. Ideally, we incorporate these short practices into a more comprehensive approach to meditation.

But a cursory review of “brief mindfulness” abstracts from scientific research, shows that as little as five minutes of mindfulness can have a positive impact.

Microhits work!

Download Nita’s free ebook “Three Ways to Heal Your Mind.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR: “No Time to Meditate? Try a ‘Microhit’ of Mindfulness”

BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR: “No Time to Meditate? Try a “Micro-hit” of Mindfulness”

These are the sources referenced in my post “No Time to Meditate? Try a ‘Microhit’ of Mindfulness.”

Basso, Julia C., et al. Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators. Behav Brain Res. 2019 Jan 1;356:208-220.

Bellosta-Batalla, Miguel, et al. Brief mindfulness session improves mood and increases salivary oxytocin in psychology students. Stress Health. 2020 Oct;36(4):469-477.

Bent, Tan Seng, et al. Distress Reduction for Palliative Care Patients and Families With 5-Minute Mindful Breathing: A Pilot Study. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2016 Jul;33(6):555-60.

Fazia, Teresa, et al. Short-Term Meditation Training Fosters Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation: A Pilot Study. Front Psychol. 2020 Oct 26;11:558803.

Garland, Eric L., et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Brief Mindfulness Training and Hypnotic Suggestion for Acute Pain Relief in the Hospital Setting J Gen Intern Med. 2017 Oct;32(10):1106-1113.

Garrison Institute. Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)®

Gauthier, Tina, et al. An on-the-job mindfulness-based intervention for pediatric ICU nurses: a pilot. J Pediatr Nurs. Mar-Apr 2015;30(2):402-9.

Goleman, Daniel & Davidson, Richard J. Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body (Penguin Random House: 2018)

Harris, A. R., Jennings, P. A., Katz, D. A., Abenavoli, R. M., & Greenberg, M. T. (2015). Promoting Stress Management and Well-Being in Educators: Outcomes of the CALM Intervention. Mindfulness, 7,143-154. DOI 10.1007/s12671-015-0451-2

Katz, D. A., Harris, A., Jennings, P. A., Greenberg, M. T. & Abenavoli, R. (2017) Educators’ Emotion Regulation Strategies and Their Physiological Indicators of Chronic Stress Over One Year, Stress and Health. 1-8.

Mahmood, Lynsey, et al. A Moment of Mindfulness: Computer-Mediated Mindfulness Practice Increases State Mindfulness. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 22;11(4):e0153923.

Mengin, Amaury C., et al. Mindfulness Improves Otolaryngology Residents’ Performance in a Simulated Bad-News Consultation: A Pilot Study. J Surg Educ 2020 Nov 18;S1931-7204(20)30434-7.

Moore, Adam, et al. Regular, brief mindfulness meditation practice improves electrophysiological markers of attentional control. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 10 February 2012

Muir, K. Jane, et al. The Emergency Resiliency Initiative: A Pilot Mindfulness Intervention Program. J Holist Nurs. 2020 Jun;38(2):205-220.

Ng, Chong Guan, et al. The Effect of 5 Minutes of Mindful Breathing to the Perception of Distress and Physiological Responses in Palliative Care Cancer Patients: A Randomized Controlled Study. J Palliat Med. 2016 Sep.;19(9):917-24.

Stevens, Brenda S., et al. Effect of a mindfulness exercise on stress in veterinary students performing surgery. Vet Surg. 2019 Apr;48(3):360-366.

Tan, Lucy B.G., et al. Brief mindfulness meditation improves mental state attribution and empathizing. PLoS One. 2014 Oct 17;9(10):e110510.

Tang, Rongxiang, et al. Brief Mindfulness Meditation Induces Gray Matter Changes in a Brain Hub. Neural Plast. 2020 Nov 16.

Wu, Ran, et al. Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Emotion Processing. Front Neurosci. 2019 Oct 10;13:1074.

Yik, Lim Liang, et al. The Effect of 5-Minute Mindfulness of Peace on Suffering and Spiritual Well-Being Among Palliative Care Patients: A Randomized Controlled Study. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2020 Oct 20;

Young, Shinzen. “An Outline of Practice.” May 2014, updated August 2016.”

Zeidan, Fadel, et al. Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Conscious Cogn. 2010 Jun;19(2):597-605.

Author Interview: Kim Colegrove

Author Interview: Kim Colegrove

Author Interview: Kim Colegrove

I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick, and why they write the books they do. Kim Colegrove, another Mango author, and I met when she invited me to endorse her book, Mindfulness for Warriors: Empowering First Responders to Reduce Stress and Build Resilience. She’s also a frequent guest on the Mango Heart Wisdom panels. Given my own meditation practice, and my husband Ed’s membership in our local citizens police academy, her book was a great fit. Kim shares a powerful story of tragedy turned to good purpose. I knew you folks would want to get to know her.

Nita Sweeney (NS): I know your story, and I’m going to dive right in. What prompted you to write this book?

Author Kim Colegrove

Kim Colegrove (KC)
: In the fall of 2014, I lost my husband to suicide, less than three months after he retired from a 30-year law enforcement career. David’s death led me on a journey of discovery about how chronic stress and accumulated trauma impact our first responders.


Kim and her late husband, David

I was shocked to learn that we lose more police officers and firefighters to suicide than line of duty deaths, and that approximately 22 military veterans take their own life every day.

I felt compelled to do something to help.

So, I started an organization to help first responders cope with stress and trauma, and I wrote the book to share my story and reach people in these professions who are struggling with mental and emotional issues.

NS: Please tell us more about that work.

KC: My organization, Pause First Academy, offers resilience training to first responders. We focus on holistic wellness and work-life balance. Most of our trainers are military veterans and first responders, and have experience speaking or teaching on wellness topics in their own professions. We offer online courses and in-person training for individuals and organizations.

NS: You’re probably heard it all, But what’s the worst mental health advice you’ve ever heard?

KC: In my line of work, “suck it up, buttercup,” has been the traditional mental health advice given to first responders. Thankfully, that is beginning to change.

NS: I’m very grateful to hear of that change. What is one thing about well-being you wish you’d learned earlier?

KC: I wish I’d known then what I know now, and that I could have saved my husband.

NS: Given what you know now, do you have a go-to wellness practice you would like to share?

KC: Meditation. I’m a 45-year practitioner of meditation, an enthusiastic proponent, and I’ve been teaching professionally for a decade. I know a lot of people shy away from meditation for various reasons, not the least of which is that it can be difficult to practice and commit to. However, the benefits far outweigh the sometimes-challenging learning curve.

NS: Has your life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?

KC: 1 million per cent. However, I’ve accepted that the loss in my life created a new, important path for me, and I just keep taking the next step.

NS: What wellness book could you not put down?

KC: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I believe I read it for the first time in the late 90s or very early 2000s, at a pivotal point in my personal development and evolution.

NS: What’s next for you writing wise?

KS: I’d like to write a follow-up book for spouses and family members of first responders.


NS: Mermaids or Goddesses? (Superheroes or Gods?)

KC: Goddesses. But it’s nearly a tie.

NS: Toast or bagels?

KC: Toast

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?

KC: Ocean, ocean, ocean.

NS: Leggings or jeans?

KC: Sweatpants and pajama pants.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

KC: Oh my goodness, dogs! I want all the dogs! Dogs are my favorite people!


Kim Colegrove, author of Mindfulness for Warriors, is a 45-year veteran of meditation, the creator of Pause First: Mindfulness for First Responders and the founder of Pause First Academy – Resilience Training for Frontline Workers.

Colegrove is the widow of a first responder who died by suicide. She previously taught mindfulness in corporate settings such as Garmin International, United Way, Department of Veterans Affairs, and The National Court Reporters Association. After her husband’s death, Kim turned her full attention to helping first responders cope with stress and trauma through mindfulness training.

By pulling from her own life experience and applying her relatable, mainstream style, Kim developed curriculum first responders could trust. She now leads a team of instructors who offer resilience training, holistic wellness, and work-life balance courses in-person and through Kim’s online platform: Pause First Academy.


Kim Colegrove


Instagram: kimcolegrove_author
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Author Interview – Cheryl Leutjen

Author Interview – Cheryl Leutjen


In this blog series, I interview other authors. This author interview is with Cheryl Leutjen, another of the “Mango’s Best Authors” I had the pleasure to meet at the Mango Publishing table at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Cheryl’s friendliness and patience with my many questions (my book wasn’t even out yet) made me feel part of the “Mango family” right away. More importantly, her book, Love Earth Now, covers two of my favorite topics: climate change and mindfulness. I can’t wait for you to get to know her as well.

Nita Sweeney (NS): When and how did your writing journey begin?

Cheryl Leutjen (CRL): That’s tough to say. I’ve always been a writer, though usually to suit someone else’s purposes. I’ve written extensively as a student, geologist, lawyer, and mom—some of my notes excusing the kids from school were quite inspired. I used to write in a diary as a kid until I got punished after my mom read it. That stopped me from putting any personal information on paper for years.

I only began writing for myself again when my kids were tiny and “mommy drinking” wasn’t yet a thing. Journaling—in a notebook with a sturdy lock on it—became my best therapy. When I discovered some humor and the occasional scrap of wisdom showing up on the page, I threw caution to the wind and started a “mommy blog.” I regularly, sporadically, infrequently, and sometimes shared all my wisest insights with all seven of my followers.

Then a new acquaintance invited me to a one-day writing workshop. It was affordable, near home, and facilitated by someone I trusted not to shred me. So off I went, seeking to hone my blogging skills. What poured out onto the page that day instead became (spoiler alert) the foundations of the book I’d publish five years later.

Writing is now the essential therapy that keeps me from running down the street screaming every time I hear more bad news for Life on Earth. Which is far too often these days.

NS: I hear that about the bad news! Tell us about your process. Plotter or pantser?

CRL: I’d say pantser but haven’t pants become optional in these days of Zooming through the pandemic? But “flying by the seat of my underwear” is an image I’d rather not propagate, so we will go with pants.

I’m a Gemini, and my attention span is . . . squirrel! Forcing myself to focus on one project for any length of time is tough at best. The most I can wrangle from my ever-distracted mind is a good solid essay before getting bored with the whole endeavor. That’s why I call my book a storybook because each chapter is a standalone composition of where I was on any given day.

NS: What’s your biggest writing struggle and how do you handle it?

CRL: My biggest writing struggle is believing that anyone else would want to read the hairbrained drivel I put on the page when I first begin to write.  And truthfully, no one would want to read any of my (what author Anne Lamotte calls) “shitty first drafts.” I am certain I’d be excommunicated from the writing community if one ever got out.

It’s in the editing and crafting that transforms my brain lint into something more akin to literature. So when I catch myself doubting, I read a paragraph of something I’ve managed to hone to my satisfaction. Every single time, I’m floored. I don’t recall having written something I don’t hate, until I see the proof on the page. Then I re-confirm my commitment to writing.

Again and again.

NS: What is one thing about writing you wish you’d learned earlier?

Cheryl Leutjen

CRL: I always thought of writing as a solo enterprise. Like the character Jo in Little Women, I entertained romantic notions of myself toiling away alone in the garret with ink-stained fingers and maybe a mangy cat for company.

What I’ve learned is that connecting with other writers, finding outlets for sharing the frustrations and also the successes, makes my own process that much easier. When I couldn’t find a group that offered the kind of support I sought, I started my own, a Meetup called The Natural Muse. We nature-inspired writers gather in the green spaces of Los Angeles—yes, there are still many!—to write. We don’t critique, and we don’t “should” anyone. We do offer community and accountability for getting the work done. How can I not show up when I’m the organizer? How can I just play Scrabble on my phone when everyone else is writing? Peer pressure has gotten such a bad rap, but done right, it boosts my productivity like nothing else.

NS: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard?

CRL: “Only write about what you know.” So much of what I know now is because I got curious about something, and in the process of studying it, I discovered something to write about.

NS: Do you write by hand or on a computer?

CRL: Though I sometimes journal by hand, I always use my computer when writing for public consumption. I can type so much faster than I can hand write, and I need top speed to spit out those shitty first drafts before the inner critic has too much time to chime in. I’d never finish a single sentence if writing one of those by hand.

NS: What are you currently reading?

CRL: I just finished The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m the kind of reader who has the book I’m finishing in one hand, and the one I’m starting in the other, but right now, I’m taking a pause. This book was so engrossing, and I’m still hanging out with the characters. It feels disloyal to ditch them for another cast so soon.

The book in the other hand, though, is Jane Fonda’s, What Can I Do?: My Path from Climate Despair to Action. Jane Fonda has done so much to raise awareness about climate change, and I aim to learn from the master.

NS: Is there a book you couldn’t finish?

CRL: For fiction? Never. I will speed read through the worst novel because I. Must. Know. How. It. Ends. It’s a compulsion. If there were a self-help program to spare me from reading another potboiler, I’d sign up today.

As for nonfiction, there are so many I can’t name them all. I start with such lofty ideals about delving into some Topic of Great Import. Then I get bogged down in the nitty gritty, and the book gets abandoned like so many New Year’s resolutions.

NS: What book couldn’t you put down?

CRL:  I’m a voracious reader, so there are many books I’ve read until deep into the night. The one that stands out is The Help. This was years ago, when my kids were younger and needier, so mom doing nothing but read all day was cause for alarm. But that’s exactly what I did, one glorious Sunday, sitting out on my deck letting the youngsters fend for themselves. Or maybe Dad sorted things out. I have no idea. Because I was somewhere in Jackson, Mississippi.

NS: What would you like readers to know about your book, Love Earth Now?

CRL: Love Earth Now is a deeply thoughtful and often comedic exploration of my own efforts to make an eco-contribution. It’s not “Top Ten List” of what you can do for the planet because I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to the many challenges we face.

Each chapter of Love Earth Now concludes with a “Love Earth Invitation,” a simple and contemplative exercise that prompts you to explore your own feelings and calls to action. These eco-mindfulness moments provide the opportunity to reflect and discover what you can do right now to contribute to a sustainable future for us all.

NS: Has your writing life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?

Author Cheryl Leutjen

Author Cheryl Leutjen

CRL: My writing life is sporadic, much as everything else I do. I produce like breeding rabbits for a while, and then not at all. I often judge myself for failing to honor the “write everyday!” maxims, but after nearly six decades on this Earth, I am learning to accept that I’m cyclical by nature. Even the most prolific bunny gets an off season.

What does astonish me is the amount of work required to market the writing. Until I wrote a book, I still thought a platform was the place you stand while waiting for a train. Now there are all these expectations about blogging, email lists, cross promoting and engagement rates. It’s like thinking, “oh, won’t it be fun to get a puppy,” and then realizing just how much work that little one requires. Totally worth it, and totally exhausting, too.

NS: What’s next for you writing wise?

CRL: Next, last and current are pretty much the same when it comes to my writing: employ every weapon in my self-motivational arsenal to keep myself churning out those shitty drafts. They may become blog posts, essays for a new book, or therapy for my mental health. It’s rather like having a baby. The kid may grow up to be a drummer, a baseball player, or a politician. But you tend the infant as you would any other until you get some inkling where they are headed. Then, it’s time for music lessons, Little League or the debate team. Wherever they may land someday, the challenge is always lies in getting myself to put my fingers on the keyboard.


NS: Mermaids or Goddesses?

CRL: I choose Greta Thunberg. Jane Fonda. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I need strong, flesh-and-blood women to inspire me right now as we stare down the ecological, societal and political crises we face. And may warrior Athena be with us all.

NS: Toast or bagels?

CRL: Shhhh, please! I’m trying to avoid carbs, even though I also believe life without them is not worth living. I am a walking, breathing contradiction of myself at any given moment.

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?

CRL: Yes, please. Just get me out there, anywhere in nature, on a regular basis. As long as the weather is pleasant, the skies aren’t full of smoke, and the bugs aren’t biting. Because, truth is, I’m a creature comfort-loving Nature devotee.

NS: Leggings or jeans?

CRL: Jeans if you’re talking the stretchy kind that I can squeeze my Menopause Bod into. Leggings are but a distant memory now.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

CRL: We had a continuous procession of animals in my childhood home: dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits. And I loved them all. Except for that deranged gerbil who would clamp his jaws around my slender wrist until one of us passed out.

But it’s been all about the felines in my adult life. My family and I used to love to travel before the pandemic, often at a moment’s notice, and cats were the easiest to accommodate. Or so I say. I have one silky gray, muscular, cat draped over my left hand as I struggle to type with the right. Until he tells me it’s time for lunch, anyway, and then I’ve got to go.


Cheryl Leutjen’s deep love of Earth, as well as her hope for a bright future for her children, fuel her passion for responding to the challenges of our time with heart, hope, humor, and spiritual practice. Cheryl writes and speaks to share her experiences on the razor’s edge between Earth-mindfulness and eco-madness, not because she’s got it all figured out, but in solidarity with anyone else who’s fumbling along the path of more conscientious living.

She draws from her experience as a geologist, attorney, small business owner, spiritual practitioner, wife and mother to claw her way out of the abyss of eco-despair. She seeks solace from the sages in Nature who reveal the wisdom she needs to navigate a more Earth-loving path.

Cheryl facilitates the Natural Muse Meetup for Earth-loving writers. She serves as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the North East Trees nonprofit organization, “bringing Nature back” to urban Los Angeles County.

She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, her muse Atlas Cedar, and three cats who care not one whit about any of her credentials.

Love Earth Now

Love Earth Now

Her book, Love Earth Now, won a 2018 Silver Nautilus Book Award.

Author website:

Book website:

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Don’t Just Write. Sit! Meditation improves creative thinking and focus


Don’t Just Write. Sit! Meditation Improves Creative Thinking and Focus

I sometimes surprise my students when I ask them to try meditation during my adult writing classes. “What’s meditation have to do with writing?” more than one has asked over the twenty years I’ve taught. When I first began to teach, meditation was seen as a hippie, woo woo, new age thing. Some students even feared it might interfere with their religion.

But things have changed.

Now, most students are at least familiar with some meditation technique and many have a regular practice. I find that encouraging, especially as evidence through scientific study continues to show temporary and lasting physical, emotional, and creative benefits.

In  the article “30 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Meditation” Patrick Zeis organizes his list into those categories. I read the piece as part of the 200-Hour Meditation Leader training I’m taking through Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness. I joined this intensive training so I might offer a more thorough meditative experience to all types of creative people, not just writers.

While the benefits listed in the article inspired me to deepen my own practice, two stood out as especially helpful to writers and other creative people.

First, meditation improves creative thinking skills.

People seek me out when stuck. They want to tell their stories but can’t find the deep well of creativity inside. I offer meditation as part of the solution. Zeis writes, “Science has shown how untapped creative resources can undoubtedly be found within us all.” It builds creative thinking skills needed to do this work.

The article cites a study from Leiden University in the Netherlands. The research found that “practicing open monitoring meditation techniques resulted in higher divergent thinking test scores.” And practicing “focused attention meditation techniques resulted in higher convergent thinking scores.”

I offer different meditation practices to boost the mind’s natural ability. These same methods enable me to complete projects and helped me find a publisher.

Second, meditation increases focus and productivity.

A vast majority of my clients lament their lack of focus. Some can’t finish projects or get started at all. Zeis explains that a University of Washington study showed the effectiveness of meditation. Participants who meditated as part of the study could concentrate longer without being distracted. Meditation improves the skills needed for doing this work.

Since meditation improves creative thinking and focus, I will continue to use it in my classes. If you haven’t considered meditation, add it to your writing toolkit. The results might amaze you!

The original version of this article appeared in The Innovation.

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