Were You Lucky Enough to Wake Up Twice this Morning?

I was lucky enough to wake up twice this morning.  The first time, when the alarm went off and the second around 6:30 AM when I completed a short but impactful mindfulness meditation.

No, I’m not someone who diligently practices mindfulness every morning. (If you are, I have a great deal of regard for you and the amazing self-care you’re demonstrating.)  Instead I am someone who has read a lot about benefits of mindfulness, never really developed a consistent practice and is now exploring mindfulness again in a more, shall we say mindful way.

This morning I practiced mindfulness because it was my homework assignment for a course  I’m taking in Mindfulness Based Strengths Practices.  If you’ve done coaching with me you already understand the benefits of being aware of and using your strengths.  This meditation integrated the character strengths of creativity, self-regulation and perspective with mindfulness – a powerful combination.  If you’re unfamiliar with mindfulness, in a nutshell, it’s about cultivating awareness, curiosity and acceptance.  It’s about disengaging from auto pilot, which is something so many of us seem stuck in as we move through our days.  But, back to this morning…

The first phase of today’s brief practice was to sit and from a perspective of curiosity become aware of what was happening around me:

the ticking of a clock,

the hum of the refrigerator,

the chirping of birds outside,

the lingering coolness in the roof of my mouth I was still experiencing after drinking a glass of water earlier,

the quality of light in the space,

the feeling of my body touching the cushion on which I sat,

and finally, the swirl of thoughts and feelings I was experiencing in my mind.

I likened this to a one minute all-out assault on my senses, interestingly occurring in a seemingly peaceful house as the sun rose.  You don’t realize all that is going on around you and in you until you STOP… slow down… and observe… your… present… moment.

Present in the moment, this Character Strengths Breathing Space meditation transitioned me to phase two, the self-regulation of the breath. The goal in this phase is to focus on your breathing, the in-breath and the out-breath. Each time you notice your focus straying from your breath you simply note this and return your attention to the inhale and the exhale.

If you’ve done breathing meditation before you know how challenging this seemingly simple act can be.  The fact is, the mind wanders, and wanders, and then wanders some more.  At no time is this so clear as when you’re trying to focus on only your breathing.   You draw on your strength of self-regulation to bring you back to the breath.  In doing so you’re practicing taking control of your attention.  Self-regulation and the ability to control one’s attention are important because on the tail wind of awareness they’ll enable you to switch off auto pilot and mindfully shift into controlling your own flight path.

With each focused in-breath and with each focused out-breath I noticed more clarity, more space, more of a sense of openness.  This sense of openness propelled me into phase three of this meditation (the perspective phase) which invited me to expand my awareness, experience my wholeness, and consider my strengths in the present moment.  As the meditation concluded, I was encouraged to breathe with this sense of presence and wholeness throughout my day.

At the end of this five-minute session I was fully awake.  Awake to what was going on around me.  Awake to my strengths, and awake to my possibilities.  I was wide awake in a way I wasn’t when the alarm clock sounded and my first inclination was to pull the covers over my head.

In his book Mindfulness and Character Strengths, my course instructor, Ryan Nemic states, “Mindfulness is best viewed and practiced as a way of being, or as an approach to daily life.”  Mindfulness doesn’t have to be practiced first thing in the morning or by listening to a guided meditation.  It can be practiced in countless ways (walking meditation, statue meditation, eating meditation, drinking meditation, dishwashing meditation, etc) and when it’s most beneficial for you.  Though I’m practicing mindfulness throughout the day these days, I’m especially looking forward to practicing mindfulness again tomorrow morning, because waking up twice is an awesome way to start my day!

If you’re intrigued by the idea of mindfulness and how it can benefit you I urge you to check out Ryan’s book, which includes access to a number of recorded mindfulness meditations.  If you have ADHD, you might also be interested in checking out  The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals, by Dr.Lidia Zylowska.  

What types of experiences have you had with mindfulness?  What’s worked for you?   If you stop right now, what do you notice, hear, see, taste, feel, smell that you might not be noticing as you typically cruise through your morning on auto pilot?  As always, I’d love to hear what you’re thinking.

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