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An Interview With Donald Altman

Author of One Minute Mindfulness

Donald Altman is the author of One-Minute Mindfulness, The Mindfulness Code, and Mindful Eating. Known as America’s Mindfulness Coach, he is a practicing psychotherapist who conducts mindful living and mindful eating workshops and retreats through colleges, community centers, and health care organizations. Visit him online at http://www.OneMinuteMindfulnessBook.com.

* * *

Why is the next minute so important?

Great question. It’s because you can’t live in the future, nor can you live in the past—although a lot of us try to do so. The human frontal cortex has developed the ability to plan and worry about things that haven’t yet happened. While it can serve a purpose, it also comes at a great cost. It can keep us from being present.

What happens when you’re not present? Is it so bad to daydream?

For one thing, accidents can happen. Most of the time when you hear about an accident happening it is because someone was distracted. They weren’t paying attention to what they were doing in the moment.

New research shows that people are less happy when their minds are wandering away from what they’re doing. Happiness is more about being present than the activity in which you are engaged.

How can someone be present at home when there’s so much going on just trying to get out of the house each morning?

There are a lot of little things that anyone can do to be more present at home. You can experience waking up, stretching, turning on the light switch and noticing how your eyes adjust to the brightness, how the water from the shower cascades over your body, experiencing that first taste of the day. Morning is like a wild carnival ride, but if you get on automatic pilot you numb out and miss the ride.

You talk a lot about rituals for greeting and saying goodbye. Why is that important to one-minute mindfulness?

It’s easy to take the hello’s and goodbye’s for granted. That’s what one-minute mindfulness is about — not taking those little moments for granted, but really experiencing them because there’s never going to be another sixty seconds that are exactly the same. It’s like standing in a river that is never the same each moment. If you fall into routine, you can miss the importance of looking in someone’s eyes and really seeing them. Your goodbye, your hello are ways of touching this moment and sharing this moment with another.

Why is one-minute mindfulness important for relationships?

One-minute mindfulness is a shared activity. We are communal beings, we live in community, we share this time, this next minute. When one person gets present, it changes the relationship, it helps the other person become present. Mindfulness establishes mutuality, and mutuality builds trust and bonds of togetherness.

How can the workplace become mindful? Some jobs just don’t seem to lend themselves to a slow mindful pace.

Mindfulness can be fast. It just means that you’re really present with the flow and the speed of it. People get burned out because they treat themselves and their jobs like they’re machines who have to produce more and more. Mindfulness is about your humanity, it’s about how you do the thing you do. You can find meaning in any job. That’s being mindful.

You have a practice you call “be the pebble.” What does that mean? I know it’s a meditation practice, but what if you don’t have time.

Be the pebble is a metaphor for dropping beneath the surface of our noisy mind and into the stillness below. It only takes a moment to find stillness. Taking a full breath with the body can drop us into the body and into a moment of stillness, calming the chaotic mind. This is refreshing, like taking a drink of cool water on a hot day. It helps us find a moment’s peace and clarity.

Thoughout One-minute Mindfulness you talk about the importance of finding nature. Why do we need to do that?

Nature calms us down. We need to set a boundary from technology from time to time. We need nature to find a moment’s peace. Research actually shows that nature restores our ability to focus. The brain’s energy gets depleted and we need to restore it throughout the day. I have several wonderful methods for connecting with nature that take only a minute’s time.

You have a chapter in the book called Pray for What You Already Have. Could you explain that?

That’s really about how we can focus on what’s lacking or missing in our lives. If you really, really look around, you might be shocked at how much you have. So, this is about finding gratitude, about changing your attitude and appreciating all the resources that are available in this next sixty seconds.

You end the book by talking about peace and sending message of peace. Was that intentional?

Yes, it’s vital that we all use the next sixty seconds to carry messages of peace with us, in our hearts, and in our minds, and in our actions. This is one of the most powerful and empowering actions that we can do. I include peace prayers from several different traditions, because peace is a universal aspiration. Peace in the next minute can be a very creative endeavor. How you use it and express that message is very personal.

One-Minute Mindfulness

September 5, 2011 • Personal Growth • 208 pages

Trade pback & ebook • Price: $14.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-030-6

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