For the past few months, I have started each day with a 10 minute period of meditation. I know…kinda New Age, isn’t it, Bob? Do you wear a tie-dyed shirt? Well, no to both, and I don’t chant a mantra, pinch the ends of my fingers together, or raise my palms toward heaven, although those are completely acceptable ways to help one focus. For me, I sit comfortably on a sofa and use a very 21st-century app on my phone to give me both encouragement and a timer.
Why you may ask, do I feel the need to meditate? Is it Covid overload? Am I feeling out of sorts? Maybe a little of both, but it is more a desire to increase my appreciation of what I do have and to spend less time worrying about the past or obsessing over the future.
My app version has no spiritual overtones. Rather, each day it is a brief time ea quiet my mind, focus on something like my breathing. If thoughts intrude, like they do, then I am to acknowledge them, and then let them go while returning to a concentration on the breathing.
In the last few moments, I shift my focus to everything around me: sounds from inside and outside the house, creaks of a house waking up, feelings or sensations in my body…anything that is happening right now, in the moment. After ten minutes, I open my eyes and resume my day.
What does this short break do for me? There is a sense of calm and being in control of my thoughts and environment. While I will do plenty of worrying and stressing during the day, meditation allows me to start with a fresh slate.
During the day, if I find myself in a thought loop of past or future that isn’t productive, I can stop, breathe for a few minutes with my eyes closed, and gain control again. What is happening in the present comes back into the forefront.
Until I read a few books and articles on the benefits of this practice I didn’t understand its potential impact. From a source as well-respected as the Mayo Clinic comes this summary:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations.
- Building skills to manage your stress.
- Increasing self-awareness.
- Focusing on the present.
- Reducing negative emotions.
- Increasing imagination and creativity.
- Increasing patience and tolerance.
Honestly, I am not expecting ten minutes every morning will do all this for me. I am a pretty stable, optimistic person who doesn’t spend much time agonizing about the past or stressing over a future I can’t predict, much less control. But, I do not grab as much as I could from each day of living. Too much is on automatic pilot; too many sensations and appreciations are left on the table.
After just nine or ten weeks of my new morning routine, I can sense a difference, at least some of the time. I actually hear all the different bird songs in the backyard. The music on as a background during the day may suddenly jump to the foreground; I am really listening to the notes and melody. Sensations, like feeling a little hungry, thirsty, or needing to get up from a chair, are stronger I don’t ignore them but focus on the need to react or dismiss them.
Beginning my day with this ten-minute focus has become a habit that I expect to continue.