Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Leg...arm...clock...heavy eyes...warm...

I've never been a morning person. So, it hasn't surprised me over the years that I've struggled with the common recommendation to start the day with meditation. 

I knew that I certainly could use some mindfulness in the morning. All night long, my mind runs around like a bratty child, and I often wake up with a very unfocused, random-access kind of mental experience: an old song playing in my head, mentally rehearsing for the day, spinning off on some distant memory, obsessing about some detail about my bathroom routine, telling myself jokes, and so on.

This morning, I tried a technique that worked fairly well. While still in bed, just after waking but before I had to get up, I applied one-word labels to whatever drew my attention. If I noticed that I was feeling warm under the covers, I'd think, Warm. If I was drawn to the sensation of rubbing my feet together, I'd think, Feet.

Heavy eyes
Face [against the pillow]

When I was ready to get up, I sat on the edge of the bed, and I continued to observe and label in this way. After a few minutes, I began my bathroom routine.

As a result, I started my morning in a more peaceful, meditative way. Also, I found that I didn't ruminatethink a lot, think rapidly, dwell on thingsas much during my morning routine. It may not have been a formal meditation, but it really made a difference in how I felt starting my day.

*       *       *

I'd like to tip my hat to the Dan Harris article in the August issue of Mindful magazine, which was an excerpt from his book 10% Happier. The article includes a very funny description of himself as a skeptical, regular guy attending a 10-day meditation retreat. His description of how he resisted and overly complicated the meditation for days and then how he lapsed into a peaceful observational stance was amazing writing, and I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who has ever "struggled to meditate."

In that article, he describes his breakthrough by describing how his inner thoughts had become much simpler and observational:

Neck pain
Knee pain
Airplane overhead
Sizzle of rustling leaves
Breeze on my forearm
I'm really enjoying putting cashews and raisins in my oatmeal at breakfast
Neck. Knee. Neck, Knee. Hands numb. Bird. Knee.
Hunger pang. Neck. Knee. Hands numb. Bird. Knee.
Bird, bird, bird. 

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