Mindfulness Mornings

Since starting on my fake retreat, I’ve increased my daily mindfulness, and I’ve found the morning to be the best time to do that.

I started increasing mindfulness in the morning for a few reasons:

  1. I was already meditating in the mornings, so I could just extend my mindfulness from that pivotal point.
  2. The morning is free from the day’s interruptions and distractions, which can hinder mindfulness before it can get started.
  3. Practicing mindfulness in the morning sets the tone for my day, making it easier to increase my mindfulness as the day moves forward.

Mindfulness Mornings

Here’s my morning schedule:

  1. Wake
  2. Bathroom
  3. Shower
  4. Dress
  5. Meditate
  6. Eat
  7. Leave

The exact schedule might stray sometimes, but I always aim to be mindful of every movement, feeling, and thought that I experience.

How do you be mindful?

By keeping what you’re doing in the forefront of your mind. To be preoccupied with the present.

An easy way to do this is to note everything you experience. When you take a step, note in your mind “stepping.” When you move your arm to turn on the shower, note your arm “moving,” your hand “touching” the handle, the “cold” of the metal handle, “hearing” the water hit the tub, etc.

If it’s in the present, note it.

My entire morning proceeds in that fashion, staying with every movement, thought, and feeling during and between each activity.

At least, that’s what I aim for.

Most mornings I’m groggy and convince myself to hit snooze a few times. Once I get up and moving, my mind often wanders before I can catch it; I’ll start planning my day, remembering undone tasks at work, or even thinking about mindfulness itself (thinking of mindfulness is not mindfulness).

Eventually, though, I’ll realize I’m consumed in thought, and then note “planning,” “remembering,” or just plain “thinking,” and come back to the present.

You’ll probably experience the same kind of scattered mind when you first start out. It’s tricky to remain in the present. It’s but an infinitesimal moment on the edge of reality, and it’s easy to become divorced from it and recede into your thoughts. But as long as you realize that’s happened and you can bring your mind back to the present, you’ll be strengthening your mindfulness.

Just like any habit, the more you do it, the easier mindfulness becomes.

I continue the mindfulness until I sit in front of my computer screen at work. For whatever reason, mindfulness takes a nose-dive once I’m in front of a screen. My mind seems to get sucked into the screen and away from the present. By increasing my daily mindfulness, though, it usually returns again when I get up and start walking.

Since my mindfulness drops when I look at a screen, I also avoid using my smart phone and computer in the morning. The only exceptions are I use my phone as an alarm clock and a timer for meditating. They’re the same program, though, so my phone remains on that one app.

I’ll also confess that I sometimes listen to music on my way to work, which involves my smart phone. I do, however, stay completely away from any kind of communication app (twitter, facebook, personal/work email, etc.).

Where To Start

If you are new to mindfulness and want to give it a try, I think you’ll get the most benefit from sitting (meditating) and eating mindfully in the morning. Sitting is the best foundation for mindfulness, and there’s so much to be mindful of while eating.

Go read the Zen Habits post on mindful eating.

Whatever you do, start small.

When I first started meditating, I would only sit for 5 minutes at a time. I’d be so bored that I couldn’t stand anything longer (or would it be “sit anything longer”?). I’m now up to 20 minutes every morning during the week, and 20-30 minutes on the weekend. I also meditate 10-20 minutes again most afternoons.

In the past month I’ve learned that the easiest way to be mindful is to slow down. Your mind follows your body. If you walk quickly to the shower in the morning, your mind feels rushed and looks to the future. When you slow down, those distractions are kept to a minimum, and you can more easily stay with the present.

Start small, and go slowly.