Moments of Mindfulness

Our life is only lived in moments.   And, I have discovered that some of the most important moments (if such a thing exists) are the very first moments of the day.

A long time ago, I heard to try to be mindful from the moment you awake.   After trying that a few times, I thought “Right! That’s not happening.”   For some reason it just didn’t seem possible.  In my defense, I would get up shortly after the alarm went off and head off to my meditation cushion to meditate, but the experience of those first few moments evaded me.

For a variety of reasons, in the past few weeks, I have experienced a shift.  Perhaps the most important reason was I set a stronger intention to see if I could make it happen – catch those first few illusive moments.  And, the results have been quite interesting.

What I’ve noticed is that there is a split second or two between when I wake up and when my mind begins to chatter.  The chatter is usually never helpful and often down right anxiety-provoking.  You know the drill.  There is the day that looms ahead of you including the people you find irritating, the mounds of email you haven’t slogged through, the work that is never ending, and the problems that you aren’t sure how to solve. You’re thinking about the chores around the house that haven’t been done or the endless to-do lists of the modern life.  Okay, you also might have some nice thoughts about how wonderful it feels to lie in bed and how grateful you are for your wonderful family and the fact that you have a job to go to, but those are closely followed by the slight to moderate distress of having to get up and get going.

But, when I paid close attention to those first moments of awakening, before the chatter sets in, there is a brief moment of silence, of simply being present in the body in a relaxed way (you’re obviously lying down, so that helps).  Brief moments of experiencing what is sometimes called the “isness” of life.  There I am, just being.  And it is a beautiful way to start the day. Catching that “just being” experience can actually change how you relate to the chatter that then ensues.  It doesn’t sound as loud and it doesn’t sound as compelling.  Through the act of recognizing and acknowledging those moments of being alive and relaxed, there is a greater ability to take that relaxed” beingness” into the rest of your day.

Even if you don’t catch the first few moments of your day, at any point you can intentionally drop into a relaxed, open experience of whatever is happening.   This practicing of remembering to come back home to the present moment in a relaxed way can shift your entire experience of life.   In fact, the meaning of the word mindfulness is “to remember.”  Set the intention to “remember,” relax, and allow the experience of your life to flow through you–even when that experience is unpleasant—is how we start to reduce the impact of stress in our lives.

Of course, “being mindful” is actually easier than “remembering to be mindful.”   Here are a few ways to make it easier to remember.

  1. For the next couple of weeks, set an intention to catch those first few moments in the morning. Try every day and see what happens. Don’t give up if it doesn’t happen right away.
  2. Meditate for a few minutes every day (the more you do it, the better you get at it).
  3. Set a timer on your phone or computer every hour to remind you to drop into your body, your thoughts, and your emotions—this drops you out of automatic and into the present.
  4. Every time the phone rings take a moment to breath and relax before you answer.
  5. When you’re standing in line or sitting in a waiting room, use this as an opportunity to just “be” instead of constantly checking your email or text messages.
  6. When you’re sitting at a red light, let yourself relax into a few moments of being, and seeing, and sitting without being impatient.
  7. When you’re walking to and from your car, be aware of walking and seeing the world around you instead of being lost in thought.

Enjoy your moments of mindfulness!  May you have lots of them.