Here’s an observation that may not surprise you: it seems like a lot of people are starting out the year with a resolution to add a mindfulness or meditation practice to their routines. Of course, I’m more likely to be talking to people with that in mind, but still – I’ve heard it repeatedly. Naturally, I’m all about it. In fact, I’m doing some resetting myself.
Who me? The person writing this blog?? Yup. I told you I’m transparent to a fault. There’s nothing I’m ever telling you that I’m not also telling myself.
I’ve been leading lots of meditations lately, and this past year, added yoga instruction into the mix, so I am around mindfulness more than ever. Then, there’s the actual doing it myself part. Not the same thing, it turns out.
I noticed I was having moments where the best way to describe my brain was like a plate of scrambled eggs. Sort of still together, but also, kind of spread out all over the place, and often in no particular order. Usually, if I shifted my attention in those moments from noticing my brain to checking in with my breath, I’d find it laying pretty low, or hiding out completely.
Since mindfulness gives us permission to abandon self-judgment, I’m going to take a second here to congratulate myself for the meta-accomplishment of recognizing this state of being in myself. Why could I do this? Because I have a mindfulness practice. Just because I had been a little out of touch with it recently didn’t mean it hadn’t already made a lasting impact. Old friends are like that, you know?
We needed to reconnect, though. It had been too long, and frankly, we’d had some good times together. I felt like there were more ahead of us, so I recommitted.
As you’ve heard me say before, the “coming back” is the meditation, whether it’s after you’ve lost focus for a second, or a month, or more. Notice where you’ve gone, and simply decide to come back. Fortunately, wherever you go, you’re still there – and all you need for mindfulness is you.
It sounds soooo good on paper, and with all the apps and other resources out there that your friends keep showing you on their phones, it seems easy enough. In my case, a bigger adjustment was needed.
For a while now, my regular meditation practice has been first thing in the morning. In general, that’s a good time to do things that you need to make time for, because as the day goes on, it can become harder to pause. So, I liked my plan, but it didn’t always work – and maybe not for the reasons you’d think. First of all, I’m (mostly) a morning person. Waking up isn’t always easy, but once I’m out of bed, my brain is moving. I can do in 30 morning minutes what it would take me twice as long to do later in the day. This made it not only harder to focus on my mindfulness practice, but it also chipped away at the most productive part of my day.
While this can be a fairly cool, varsity-level experiment in brain training, there were days when it seemed a little out of alignment. By that I mean, totally exasperating. I was swimming upstream, fighting my body’s natural rhythms, and maybe it wasn’t entirely worth it.
So, I made a change. I tried moving my mindful moments to later in the day, but they inevitably took a backseat to work, life, family, random snacks – anything and everything else. So, morning it would still have to be…but how?
You’ll notice I said that once I’m out of bed, my brain is off and running. Something about my feet hitting the floor is a signal that it’s off its leash. So, why not meditate before leaving bed? I know this sounds like a recipe for sleepy failure, but so what? I’ll try anything once.
Let’s just say at this point, we’re way past once. It works, y’all. For me, anyway, and for now, but that’s the point. I have yet to fall back to sleep during it, but if I thought that was an issue, I’d have a second alarm set to avert that crisis. But so far, I’ve been able to get my 10 minutes in before I let my brain do its job and get to work.
Of course, you’re different than I am. Maybe you need another kind of routine. More importantly, maybe something’s changed and your mindfulness practice needs to do the same. If it’s challenging, that’s one thing, but If it truly isn’t working, pay attention to those messages. Meet yourself where you are.
One of the classic lessons of Buddhism is impermanence. Nothing stays the same. It is our clinging to the past, not the change itself, that causes our suffering. You’re more likely to find peace if you let yourself ride the wave with awareness, and save your resistance for the moments when it will contribute the greatest possible good.
Your daily mindfulness practice is probably not one of them. Be where you actually are, and while you’re there, maybe a try a deep breath.
Might just be your perfect time for mindfulness is right now.
Photo credit: Tirachard Kumtanom