When was the last time you did nothing for 10 minutes?

A former monk shares his easy tip for better sleep, reduced anxiety and increased energy.

Rear view of woman enjoying the view of horizon on beach after workout

When was the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 minutes? (Photo by Masterfile)

In a recent TED Talk (see the video below), mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe, who spent a stint as a monk in the Himalayas, asks an interesting question: When was the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 minutes? No reading, no eating, no checking email — just simply taking in the present moment?

“We live in an incredibly busy world,” says Puddicombe, “and the pace of life is often frantic.” He says that part of slowing down the pace and refreshing your often-overwhelmed mind is to spend 10 minutes a day being present, with no gadgets or distractions or obligations in the way. “The present moment is underrated,” says Puddicombe. It’s all part of mind maintenance, an essential task, especially when you consider just how much we increasingly demand of ourselves.

Think of 10 minutes of meditation as your daily mind tune-up. Puddicombe says that meditation is not the clearing of your mind, but the opportunity to allow natural thoughts to come and go with a relaxed mind. He advises that you might feel agitated the first few times, but that you’ll gradually ease into a comfort with the present moment. Focus, calm and clarity will follow, he says.

Puddicombe isn’t wrong about our inability to sit quietly with the present: We now seemingly always have one hand on our iPhones, even at the dinner table or in moments that were previously solitary. I used to use long walks as meditative breaks from work, conversation and obligations, and they used to function as a way to clear my head. Increasingly, though, I can’t help myself from reaching into my purse every five minutes to check if a new email has come in, or to see if anyone’s sent me a note on Facebook, or to keep up with any number of blogs. The result? When I walk back through the door of my house, my head is as cluttered as when I started.

On Andy Puddicombe’s website, he offers a free “Take 10” program where he teaches simple meditation tricks and encourages users to try 10 minutes of meditation a day for 10 days. He promises that you’ll sleep better, have better self control, reduce your stress, increase your energy, and improve your focus. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for it. But I have tried unplugging for short periods of time, and I’m familiar with the benefits: less anxiety, more relaxation, more clarity and deeper breathing. So I’ll be leaving my iPhone at home today when I go out for that walk. Namaste.