One of the challenges in starting to meditate is finding application in our daily life. Daily meditation is something that can take days, weeks, months, or even years to reliably show up in our lives. What’s more, many people have trouble when they start meditating finding a meditation style that works for them.
There is, however, something that comes from meditation that just about anyone can use. It is to take a moment when you are feeling emotionally worn, when you are feeling anxious, when you are feeling distracted and working to avoid whatever your current emotional state involves. To take that moment and stay with it for the space of three long breaths.
It is suggested in numerous self-help books and in Ezra Bayda’s Zen Heart: Simple Advice for Living with Mindfulness and Compassion. It is based around the idea that even wandering slowly down a path is better than not being on it. That every step forward counts, no matter how slow it may seem.
So when you are angry, take three deep breaths and just sit with the emotion for that time. You may choose to go back to being angry after the period of three breaths, but take that three breaths to really experience that emotion.
When you are anxious or depressed, the same thing applies. Take three deep breaths. Afterwards go back to whatever it is you were doing (or not), but take those three breaths to actually experience what that emotion is like, how you perceive it in your body, and the nuance around it.
When you are engaged in some variety of (non-destructive) coping mechanism to avoid a certain feeling, take three breaths to simply experience the emotion that you are avoiding. Then you can go back to your avoidance mechanism.
The goal here is not to shut down your mind or even to clear it. It is not to enter what many people perceive as a meditative state. It is not to self-judge your state or try to force an unwanted emotion away. It is to just sit with whatever emotion you are currently feeling for the span of three deep breaths. Not as a substitute for daily meditation practice, but as a direct application that can help aid mental discipline and can make those set daily meditation practices that much more fruitful and that much easier.