SHARPEN YOUR FOCUS THROUGH MEDITATION
By Andrea Bartz

Research shows that meditation delivers creativity, focus, and stress relief. Use these techniques from Sharon Salzberg, the author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation.

Before Work
Duration: 5 to 15 minutes (depending on how late you're running)

Sit on a pillow or lie on your back. Take four deep breaths, feeling the air enter your nostrils, fill up your chest, and exit your body. Then, breathing normally, pay attention to where you feel the swooshing air the most—nostrils, chest, abdomen. Put a spotlight on that area, noting the sensations there—vibration, warmth, whatever. (Silently repeating "Inhale . . . exhale" can help you stay focused.)

When other thoughts crop up, as they inevitably will, don't throw in the towel or flog yourself for slipping. Just notice them and let them float on by. The act of simply coming back to your breath—that's what meditation is all about.

Before a Must-Nail Meeting
Duration: 1 minute. The more times you can pack this into a day, the better.

Do one simple thing. Maybe you finish your cup of coffee and rinse out the mug. Really focus on the sensations of what you're doing and give your mind permission to settle on one thing instead of the 23 buzzing items on your to-do list. You'll finish even a boring task feeling less scattered, more energetic, and fulfilled by the activity.

Right Before Bed
Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

Sit comfortably or lie down. Bring your attention to the top of your head and notice what sensations are there—tingling, say, or itching or aching. (Maybe you notice an absence of sensation, which is fine too.) Very slowly, slide your attention down the front of your face, scanning for things like tightness or pressure in your forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, and cheeks.

Return your attention to the top of your head, then move down the back of the head, over the curve of your skull. Is your neck tight or sore? You aren't trying to do anything about the feelings you encounter; simply notice them.

Continue slowly inching over your neck, chest, and abs, then back up to the neck and down the back. Finish by sensing your pelvis, legs, and feet. Concentrate on your heels against the floor or mattress. Lose yourself.

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