The Power of a Minute

The Power of a MinuteI got this email from Rick Hanson because I have subscribed to his Foundations of Wellbeing Program.

I found it inspirational and thought I would share it.

Sometimes we feel too busy to do anything good for ourselves.

But maybe just a minute of your time could make a difference.

And who doesn’t have a minute…


It’s amazing what you can do in a minute. Take half a dozen breaths with mindful attention and activate your calming parasympathetic nervous system. Really listen to a friend, a child, a stranger. Change your brain by marinating in gratitude, compassion, beauty, peace. Let a good lesson land and sink in. Take time to center yourself and find strength to face a challenge. Have compassion for your own worries and weariness, frustration and stress. 

In Tibet it is said that if you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves. A minute here, a minute there. Doing what you can, sincere in your efforts. One minute a day, five, sometimes twenty, adding up over time. Steepening your growth curve each day, the days adding up too, becoming weeks and years, lifting and nurturing the arc of your life. 

Step by step down your own path of well-being, minute by minute, making all the difference in the world.

About a decade ago one of my patients, a young man with PTSD and bipolar and history of severe substance use, who is struggled to keep from becoming one of the many homeless people in San Francisco, taught me the power of a minute or two of mindfulness.

At the time he was in a severe mixed manic state and he asked me what he could do to control his symptoms that didn’t involve taking medications that dulled his mind, which seemed like an intolerable choice.

I suggested that mindfulness practice might be helpful. But try as he might he wasn’t able to do it for more than one or two minutes at a time. He would just get so quickly distracted by his thoughts and by things happening around him. It seemed hopeless.

But a week later, when he came back into my office, having failed at the task (which I set as doing 30 minutes a day of mindfulness practice, based on what is usually felt by the experts to be a minimum duration of mindfulness practice), both of us were surprised to notice that just this small amount repeated two or three times a day had had significant beneficial effect on his mood.

Thinking about it just now, I had a sudden association with things I’ve written before about how foolish it is that we focus so much on accomplishing goals in this country, rather than on increasing effort – which often leads to young students cramming for, or cheating on, tests rather than trying to learn the material… And it occurred to me that the insistence from many that a mindfulness practice needs to be 30 minutes a day is not particularly wise or mindful idea…

If the idea of mindfulness is accepting where we are, then the notion that a mindfulness practice that is less than 30 minutes is not acceptable seems absurd. Similar to the contradictory ideas embodied in the notion of “competitive yoga.”

So if you’ve been put off from getting started by any of these worries, take a minute now for a short break.

A site that we particularly like because it has excellent, free, two-minute guided meditations, is

Here is a taste of what is available… there are many backgrounds and sounds and an almost inexhaustible repertoire for those who subscribe…