Is there a day that meditation is more called for than tax day? (Runner-up: a family holiday.) You’ve just pulled a Turbo Tax all-nighter, cut a check to the IRS, or are facing a sinister, serpentine post-office line that doesn’t have a barista or a Barneys sample at the end of it. As we all know, sending your money to the IRS doesn’t yield any returns, but meditation does. Meditation is linked to fewer panic attacks, more calm and clarity, and lower blood pressure. So we asked for pointers from Nina Smiley, Ph.D., author of The Three Minute Meditator, who also leads wellness programs at the Spa at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. The Vassar and Princeton grad honed her 3-minute meditating skill while at a cut-throat D.C. firm before moving to mellower Hudson River Valley environs. Her three methods are the next best thing.
1. Step Counting Meditation is a perfect incognito stress-busting exercise. Focus your attention on silently counting each step as you cross the room or move through the hall. Count up to four, releasing any thoughts that enter the mind, and start again. If you lose count or if thoughts creep in, just let them go and return to counting. If you forget where you are or what you’re supposed to be doing, it worked!
2. Body Scan Meditation is ideal for stress cases with serious muscle tension. While sitting down, progressively tense then relax different parts of the body, starting from your forehead working down to your toes. Tighten each muscle group as you inhale and hold the tension for a few moments, then release it as you exhale. Encourage your muscles to relax by saying to yourself “Warm and heavy… warm and heavy” as you breathe out the tension. In other words, become the organic cotton blanket you wish you could crawl back under today.
3. Clock Watching Meditation is perfect for the office—or the post office. Sit or stand in a comfortable position with a fairly straight back and focus solely on the second hand of a watch—the cinematically large variety that tick-tocks the seconds until you’re free to leave work for the day will do the trick. (Good luck finding one, though. Maybe an iPhone app?) Inhale for approximately three seconds; smoothly exhale for approximately three more. Repeat anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes to help calm your mind.