I’ve never been a morning person. I used to joke that even though I was up and walking around, I was on “auto pilot” until 10am and that my brain was still sleeping.
I am slowly coming around to mornings. I still don’t like HAVING to wake up early but I’m much better at just getting it done and have found a couple things have helped me, including getting sunlight during the day, working out, going to bed a little earlier (obviously)….but a giant one has been a morning meditation ritual.
Meditation without the woo.
The word “meditation” is often received dripping with connotation. It seems to be soaked in yoga teacher tie-dye and ylang-ylang incense. It seems to float on images of grey bearded sadhus sitting cross-legged or ascetic monks in far away retreats. However I find it to be one of the most useful practices for every day modern life, even in the chaos of a city, even for a raging skeptic like me.
When we do away with all the mystic imagery, we can boil the practice down to things as simple as focus, paying attention, noticing what you do in fact notice and being 100% in the present moment. There are no mantras needed. You don’t have to be sitting in a contortionist position or have any magical incense burning. Your just have to be, and know that you are being.
I often wake up with a mild sense of anxiety. I’m sure I could go mad researching cortisol and blood glucose levels that play into this, but after a simple 10-20minute meditation session in the mornings, that anxious feeling has at least been blunted, and often times completely muted. The mixed up commentary in my head is somehow quietened. Things seem a little more manageable and I’m definitely a nicer person to be around.
A meditation after work, and before a gym session/home time can also cap the work day off nicely and force me to leave any work drama at work, where it belongs, and not bring it home into my family time.
(Awesome pic of a monkey meditating by @ruehreier on Instagram)
It seems that our hunter gatherer ancestors had tough lives, but they actually had a fair amount of time to sit and “relax”. Their stresses were usually brief and deadly rather than the low level, almost constant but not quite as serious, stresses that we experience today. We may not be chased by a predator regularly, but we deal with noise, traffic and crime all the time. Humans seem to have evolved to live in groups of less than 150people (Dunbars Number) but in modern cities today we may have to deal with thousands every day. Even in the harshest of hunter/gatherer conditions (kalahari desert) these humans only worked an average of 6hrs a day (http://www.rewild.com/in-depth/leisure.html).
It’s no wonder our minds are mixed up vortexes of thoughts, emotions, internal dialogues and imaginary arguments. We are once again living counter to what we have evolved to deal with. Physiologically we are simple shaved apes that have been teleported into the 21st century, with no manual on how to handle any of these new stimuli. A meditation practice can help us to deal with all these pressures.
Many forms of meditation.
Now if you’re thinking of starting a meditation practice, it can take many forms:
Traditional mindfulness meditation: There are many great guided meditation apps (I use a couple of these frequently) that can introduce you to this practice. Simple mindfulness meditation focussing on the breath, ambient sounds around you or physical sensations of the body can allow the clouds in your mind to gradually part and the blue sky to show through. Mantra meditations can offer the same thing via a different route.
Play: Getting into a “flow state” doing something that you really enjoy can be seen as a period of meditation. Martial arts training, running, playing a musical instrument or even writing can allow you to drown out the chaos and practice focus (which is a skill like any other than can be practiced). For me, getting out and riding my bike demands concentration and also gets me out of my usual surroundings, allowing me to reset a little and often get fresh perspectives on things I’m dealing with.
Daily Journalling or morning/evening routines:
Do you find yourself reaching for you phone as your eyes open in the morning and immediately being thrust into the churn of the 24hr news cycle and social media drama? Maybe a morning ritual could help. Get up a little slower, plan your thoughts and actions for the day. Think about what you want to achieve or get done. Then maybe make some coffee and only then maybe check the old email.
Evening routines can be just as effective in order to wind down the day and prepare for a much better sleep experience (I think another Sleep blog will be coming soon!)
I would encourage you to explore the world of mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is a skill that allows us to see and understand how our own mind works, and if we don't have that skill, just how in control are we of ourselves? Some would say that your own mind is literally the only thing you can ever have control over....and if you have no idea what it's doing moment to moment....just how in control are you?
Give it a go and discover a world of more control. more peace and one where you can really be present in each moment. It's definitely worth it.