This One Quick and Simple Exercise Will Keep You from Exploding With All That’s Going On

Meryl Davids Landau
4 min readSep 29, 2020

If you haven’t yet felt like you’re losing it — ready to yell at the first person you encounter, throw your television across the room, or run screaming from your home — just wait. With a pandemic in full swing, with so many jobs hanging on a knife’s edge, and with all the ugliness being flung around this election season, even those of us who meditate regularly can easily lose our peace.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to keep yourself from melting down. It’s such a simple exercise you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before. Indeed, you won’t understand why they didn’t teach you this in kindergarten.

A Sort-of-Meditation

When most of us think of meditation we picture turning inward and focusing on our breath, a mantra, or a positive thought. But the exercise I love best, and what I’ve heard really resonates with readers of my mindfulness/yoga women’s novels (where my protagonists regularly do this practice) is to turn a bit outward instead.

By that I mean spending a minute or two throughout your day periodically placing your attention at the points where your body meets the outside world.

It’s an exercise I’ve taken to calling the Inner-Outer Pause.

So Simple to Do

Give it a try right now and you’ll be amazed how easy yet how powerful it is.

Stop right where you are (sitting, standing, lying down…) and bring your awareness to your feet. If you’re wearing shoes and/or socks, notice the points where your toes, heels, or arches press up against them. If you’re barefoot, focus on the pressure on the bottom of the foot as it connects with the ground. Also notice whether the floor feels cold, smooth, scratchy or whatever.

Now spend a few seconds on other parts of your body. If you’re sitting on a couch or chair, for example, observe the places where your butt meets the cushion and where your spine melts into the back.

Where are you reading this article: On a phone held in your hand? At the computer on your desk with your fingers dangling over the mouse and keyboard? Until I mentioned it, you likely were oblivious to all the points of connection between you and these objects.

Notice them now.

It Grounds You in the Present

The beauty of this simple practice is it is fast, it’s private (I’ve done it during important meetings and nobody has a clue), and you can do it anywhere, even while driving a car.

Why do an inner-outer pause several times in your day? Because it naturally causes you to abandon all the wild thoughts and fears swimming around your head and immediately enter the present moment.

Your body exists in this time and space right now, and calling attention to all the places body and space collide swiftly brings you to the always peaceful here and now.

It doesn’t matter if your mind has been filled with worries and angst — about the upcoming election, or maybe the pandemic, your finances, or anything else preying on many of us these days. They will vanish during the time you are paying attention to the connection points of your body, and the benefits of the peaceful sensation will linger after.

Give It a Try

If you didn’t play along when you read the directions above, take a minute to do it now. Don’t judge it until you’ve experimented a few times. Repeat it during the day, especially in moments when you find your mind swirling and your emotions girding for battle. I downloaded a chime app to my phone that dings every hour, reminding me to take this inner-outer pause then.

If you are equating this with the body-scan exercises you may be familiar with, it’s not the same. Body scans are wonderful exercises where you bring your awareness inside different parts of your body. Many people know of them from the popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program created at the University of Massachusetts.

Maybe you tried that and found it hard to stay with it. But this isn’t difficult at all. During a body scan, you’re asked to bring your attention to the abstract world inside the body. By contrast, this inner-outer pause simply asks you to notice the concrete world your body is bumping up against. It’s so easy even a kindergartner can do it. (Which is why every grammar school should teach it.)

The next time election craziness has you feeling your blood is about to boil, turn the temperature down quietly and easily by simply noticing the places where your body and the built world intersect.

Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the award-winning mindfulness/yoga women’s novel Warrior Won and her prior novel, Downward Dog, Upward Fog. She writes about spirituality, lifestyle, health, and more for many national magazines and websites. Learn more at MerylDavidsLandau.com.

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Meryl Davids Landau

Author of the award-winning mindfulness/yoga women’s novels Warrior Won and Downward Dog, Upward Fog. Longtime magazine health, science and lifestyle writer.