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How five minutes can change your day, and maybe your life

There’s a cheeky old saying in Zen Buddhism: 
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

I can hear you laughing right now: “HA HA HA! 20 minutes! …Wait– what?

What the heck does that mean and how does it even apply to you if you can’t even carve out 20 minutes for a long shower?

Well, like all of the best practices, you start from right where you are work with what you’ve got. And I have a theory about what everybody’s got.

It’s called The Five Minute Theory. Yep, I said it. Everybody has five minutes. 

Or, to put it another way, everybody can find five minutes somewhere in their waking day or night during which to practice connection with themselves in some way. You may not be able to imagine finding 20 minutes to clean out the closet or even 10 minutes to make yourself breakfast in the morning, but five minutesYou’ve got this. 

Let’s start with some inspiration: think of something that’s been on your list to try that you just haven’t had time for. Want to do some yoga? Try meditating? Go for a walk? Enjoy a good book? Sit with a cup of tea and listen to the birds? “Ha! Luxuries for those rich in time!” I can hear you scoffing.

But that’s an illusion. We all have control, at least to some extent, over how we choose to spend our time. We can choose, for example, to create time for ourselves. And while creating 20 minutes may seem out of reach for the time being, let’s see what happens when you start with just five.

The How-To:

Step one: Schedule five minutes. That’s it. Just decide that five minutes are yours and then schedule the time. Or maybe you suddenly realize that you have an unplanned five minutes for yourself- take them!  Here’s the thing: Five minutes is such a short time that it doesn’t feel daunting, but it is long enough to experience something profound.

Step two: Show up and give yourself the five minutes. That’s it. Just give yourself five minutes to enjoy the heck out of something, or really try something new, to stop thinking about to-do lists, work, bills, and just take those five minutes to remember what it feels like to engage with yourself. Drink the tea, read the book, listen to the birds. Whatever it is, just be there.

Pro tip: Set a timer so you can really let go of thoughts about time. When the five minutes is up, I promise all of those other things will still be there clamoring for your attention.

Step three: Repeat. It’s amazing what carving out this time consistently can do for your whole day and your whole perspective on time. Don’t worry about doing this at the same time every day, just make the time somewhere in each day. Maybe it’s when you would normally be loading the dishwasher (you’re allowed to skip that sometimes!) or when you are thinking about checking Facebook (you’re allowed to skip that, too, you know!). Change your idea of how this time works for or against you.


The Magic Sprinkles:

When I started testing it out for myself, what I discovered was surprising. If I set my timer for five minutes to do something I wanted to do, a series of unexpected things happened:

1) I no longer felt daunted by the task at hand. I found that when I was having trouble committing to something for myself, the idea of doing it for just five minutes sounded pretty easy. I could do that!

2) I quickly learned that after doing an activity for the allotted five minutes, I almost always wanted to keep going. I soon began setting two timers (thank you, smart phones!)- the first timer for 5 minutes and the second for 5 minutes after that. This gave me the option after my first five minutes to stop there or keep going. And yes, you can add an unlimited number of five minute increment timers. 😉

What does this mean? Well, this may be the biggest takeaway from this whole thing:

C r e a t i n g   t i m e   c r e a t e s   m o r e   t i m e .
(Wow. Now go back and see if that Zen saying is starting to make more sense!…)


3) It was not only a guilt-free practice, but it actually made me feel better about myself. If five minutes was really all the time I had that day, I could happily go on with my day after the first five minutes were up, knowing that I had created time for something valuable for myself, committed and followed through. Having fulfilled my promise, I could feel proud and accomplished instead of bummed out and judgmental, beating myself up over all of the things I wasn’t doing. What a great feeling! On the days I felt I could continue for another five minutes, I felt even better! Win-Win!

4) I was taking action instead of letting everything stay in my head. This whole practice didn’t just work because of the five-minute increment. It was about taking action, too- making the time for something and then doing it. Instead of keeping all of these things in the realm of the imaginary, I was doing something simple to bring them into the real world. Really. How awesome is that?

5) I felt inspired! I started a list of things I wanted to try with this new five-minute idea, which made me realize that I had a lot of things that I wanted to make time for, but I just hadn’t been doing it. Now, armed with the Five Minute practice, I did start making the time.

And here’s where I really started having fun. If I had 10 or 15 minutes to give myself that day, I could decide whether to dedicate that time to a longer practice of one activity or whether to break it up and try a few things for five minutes each (remember to use a timer if that helps you let go of  thoughts about time!).

And combining them turned out to be a great exercise, too–
five minutes of yoga got me warmed up for five minutes of seated meditation;
five minutes of cleaning led to five minutes reading a book;
a five minute dance party inspired five minutes of guitar playing!
You get the idea.
This can apply to almost anything: cleaning the kitchen, sorting through papers, taking a walk, trying yoga, doing origami – seriously, almost ANYTHING!




Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts and replies in the comments below. – xo

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  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Your post today, “Whichever way you may find yourself leaning these days, the fruit on the trees is a beautiful reminder to be here now. Enjoy the sun, eat the fruit, take a last swim. Everything we take in during the summer will feed us over the next two seasons, so enjoy the harvest,” was a wonderful reminder as I turned another year older! Thank you for encouraging us to take time to enjoy what we’ve been given.

    • Reply
      Treetrunkwise Yoga
      September 2, 2014 at 9:48 am

      Thank you for sharing, Sarah! And a happy, happy birthday to a beautiful and inspiring human- You! 🙂

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