What are some of your favorite daily routines? Is it your morning cup of coffee? Listening to your favorite music on your commute? Maybe your nighttime bubble bath? Or even dinner with your family?
For me, my favorite daily routine that keeps me centered, grounded and hydrated is my morning meditation practice. I started this practice 7 years ago, and it is the most impactful and supportive habit I have formed. My morning practice creates a space and place for me to slow down and be with my body, my thoughts and my emotions before the busyness and noise of the day try to pull me in various directions. When I create that moment to be still, breathe, listen and observe I feel more heard, seen and connected than any other ritual. There is tremendous value in making sure I feel strong and connected before I step into my job, my role in the family or the community at large. It is like the airplane theory. If I don’t put on my oxygen mask first, then I am no help to anyone else.
When I first started my meditation practice, I took the approach of “going slow to go fast.” I sat in the same place, every morning for 1 minute. After I worked through the uncomfortable twitchy impulses to be doing something else “more important” I was able to increase my stamina to sit for 3 minutes, then 5, then 10, then 20, then 30, then 45. Currently, I have a daily 20 minutes practice during the mornings. And those mornings I am rushing out the door or have to get up earlier for whatever reason, I still practice my habit to the best of my ability. Sometimes that is me sitting on my pillow for only 3 deep breaths or fitting in 10 minute sit. Whatever I can do, I do. I drop the guilt of it not being “perfect” and instead, celebrate this ritual and myself. Over the years, I have noticed if this daily practice isn’t there, my mind feels more frazzled. I have more anxious energy pulsing through my body. I tend to be more irritable. I even notice I snack and eat more!
You don’t have to be a monk or Buddhist to have a meditation practice. As long as you are breathing you have the ability to meditate! When I coach people into starting their own practice, the thing I hear most of the time is “I am not good at meditating because my brain never stops talking.” And I reply “Good! That means you are an excellent meditator if you can recognize your brain is chatty.” The most important aspect to remember, when starting a meditation practice, is observing what your brain is talking about is awesome. But the deeper practice is to not get caught up in the story and clinging to what you hear. That is why we use the breath as a focal point for you to bring your awareness and attention to, so that the story of your mind doesn’t sweep you off into a novel. Sometimes the focal point could be a mantra, a sound, a body part or even visualization. But to keep it simple in the beginning, begin with your breath.
Try these 3 steps to start your own practice:
1. Decide what time of day you want to practice (morning, lunch time, end of commute, before bed etc).
- Be specific and try to bookend it with some of your other habits. For instance, “after I brush my teeth I want to sit,” or “once I tuck my kids in at night I want to meditate.”
2. Create your space
- Know where you want to practice. For instance your couch, bedroom floor, car etc. Literally think about where you want to place your butt.
3. Breathe & Be
- Close your eyes and start to focus on your breath for just 60 seconds. Resist the urge to get up and say to yourself, this is only 1 minute. Allow yourself to let go of impulses and focus on your breath. Breathe in for the count of 5 and out for the count of 5. Let your breath wash over the mind and body like a wave. Try to feel your breath in every inch of your body. If your mind wanders away from the breath, notice what thought or sensation is wonders to and then gentle bring you attention back to your breath.
For an added bonus, keep a meditation journal so that you can record and take note of what you experienced. Observe if that was difficult/easy, what your body felt, what thoughts were persistent, the texture of your breath etc.
Try to maintain a consistent practice for 5 out of the 7 days of a week for this next month and then you can decide if this is a habit you truly want to incorporate.
If you want more tools, support and community around meditation, join us for Monday’s Mindful Sit @ 8am-8:30. As one ZUM member shares: “Monday’s sit supports me gaining the focus I need in order to have a productive week.” Another member adds: “It is a great transition space from the weekend to then step into the work week and not feel so flustered.” And if you want to practice on your own, check out my meditation recordings on my Centered in the City podcast (http://www.wadebrill.com/centered-in-the-city-podcast/).