It's Monday morning. Images of the weekend flow through your mind as you snuggle deeper into your pillow, reliving them. Then you open your eyes, see the clock, remember the presentation you have to give in an hour, and, heart racing and teeth clenched, you rush to the kitchen to make coffee. That's one version of Monday morning.
Here's another: You set the alarm 15 minutes earlier and ease into the day by simply paying attention to your breathing. I'm talking about meditating — and if even hearing that word makes you feel antsy, bear with me for a minute, or rather 10. After all, it's said that practicing daily for just 10 minutes could help you feel calmer and more grounded.
How I Got into Meditation
I started meditating when my kids were in middle school. Most mornings, I'd end up screaming as I tried to get them up and off to school. I sounded like a banshee when I yelled, and still I felt they won, somehow.
Since I couldn't change the situation (i.e., two teens who didn't want to wake up for school), I had to change me. A yoga teacher encouraged meditation. The teacher, along with books and websites, suggested waking up 15 minutes earlier to do it.
Initially I cringed at the thought of giving up that quarter-hour of shut-eye, but eventually I did because the screaming was killing me. It made me miserable and my stomach hurt all the time.
So while my husband slept, I sat up in bed and followed the physical sensations of my breathing (i.e., the temperature of the air entering my nose, my belly swelling as it filled with air and then compressing as I exhaled it).
I couldn't believe I hadn't done it before — and my family couldn't believe I wasn't going to erupt. But after only a few weeks of meditating, I realized I felt less emotionally reactive, barely rolling my eyes at things that used to drive me crazy. When something big happened, I didn't immediately go to DEFCON 1. And I stopped yelling.
Ready to give it a try? Here's how.
How to Set Up Your Morning Meditation Practice
1. Find your method.
Having a single point of focus — my breathing — really works for me. Of course it wasn't always easy. Initially, when I tried emptying my mind, it was like trying to empty LaGuardia Airport. We all have a jumble of thoughts, and the trick is to not get snagged by them. However, I'm human; I get snagged (you will, too). So, when I realized my thoughts were drifting, I just returned to noticing my breathing.
If tracking your breath doesn't feel good, there are oodles of guided meditations available on your electronic devices. For more in-depth training, YouTube offers compassionate instruction from well-known teachers such as Sharon Salzberg or Joseph Goldstein. There are also free apps to download such as Insight Timer or Smiling Mind.
2. Find your spot.
Where you sit is your choice. It could look like mine, a corner of the sofa, or take the form of a folded blanket laid next to the wall. You could also just stay in bed! It's about what feels right for you. The setting only has to be large enough to fit you and your derriere.
3. Enhance your spot.
If you have a yen for a proper meditation cushion, there are plenty of shapes and sizes to order online. Candles, images, objects, or a plant can also be pleasing.
4. Sit up straight.
Although you can meditate lying down, it's easier to do it if your spine is erect. And if you do it regularly, sitting in your designated spot will help trigger the desire to do it.
5. Meditate first thing.
Whatever your method and wherever your spot, try to make meditating the very first thing that you do. I like doing it before I've listened to the news, or checked Facebook, while my mind is still soft and fluid. If you can do it at the same time each morning, bravo! Once you sit, close your eyes and begin.
Do you have a meditation practice? What are your best tips for getting started?