Start Your Morning with Mindfulness

Start Your Morning with Mindfulness

 

Mornings can be a time of rush and panic. The anticipation of the entire day buried under an
avalanche of commitments and responsibilities stretched out in front of you may be daunting,
even terrifying. You may experience an acute feeling of impending doom. You may feel
paralyzed by fear, literally unable to move or get out of bed. Your heart may pound. You may
have a sensation of choking or being smothered and start to hyperventilate. And yet, you
somehow do eventually struggle out of bed and reluctantly start your day.
Most people’s morning routine is fraught with potentially mindless tasks, such as brushing their
teeth.

When you wake up with feelings of impending doom, make up your mind to brush your
teeth with mindfulness. Mindfulness will help you move more gently through your morning panic
and restore a sense of calm and order in your body for the rest of your day.
1. Before you pick up your toothbrush, take a few deep breaths. Take several full breaths, tuning in
to the cool air passing through your nose on the inhale and the warm air passing through your
mouth or nose on the exhale. Be mindful of each breath and notice how it feels in your body.
2. Set your intentions aloud or to yourself for brushing your teeth mindfully. State what you would
like to gain by this practice. You may say: May this practice bring me more closely connected to
my body. May this practice restore balance to my mind and body. Feel free to fill in your ownwords of what you’d like to experience as a result of your application of mindfulness.

3. As you begin your tooth-brushing routine, move slowly, methodically, and consciously. Pick up
your toothbrush and notice all the tiny bristles. Notice the weight of the toothbrush and how it
feels in your hand. As you hold your toothbrush under the running water, notice whether you
prefer warm or cold water. Notice whether you leave the water running or shut it off when you’re
done. As you apply the toothpaste, notice something about it too. Is it mint or some other flavor?
Does it have a scent? How much toothpaste is left in the tube?
4. Remember to return to the present moment by returning to your breath.
5. If you notice some doubt emerge, or a little voice saying This exercise won’t work. It can’t help
me with my panic, simply acknowledge and observe these feelings of doubt, without making any
judgments about them. Doubt is a normal mind state that occasionally springs up and tries to
steer you away from the present moment. This is simply how you feel in this moment, and each
moment is passing, just as everything in life is continually changing.
6. Begin to brush your teeth, paying attention to how you maneuver the brush and what sensations
you feel in your mouth. Do you brush in small, circular motions or just back and forth across
your teeth? Notice the feeling of the toothpaste foaming. Remember to stay present and
connected to your breathing.
7. When you’re ready to rinse your mouth, turn your awareness to the water and how it feels
swirling and swishing in your mouth.

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How to Practice the Body Scan

The body scan is an important meditation to help you get in touch with your body
and mind. This is great training for dealing with panic and to gradually begin to feel
more acceptance and ease within yourself.
As you practice the body scan, there may be at times a feeling that it’s counterintuitive at first to acknowledge what you’re feeling physically, mentally, and
emotionally. In time, you’ll gradually come to know the skillfulness and efficiency of
this. You’ll recognize that acknowledging your feelings becomes a powerful mechanism
of emotional discharge and release. You’ll begin to gain confidence that the best way to
straighten out is to turn in the direction of the skid. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the more
you try to avoid your feelings, the more they return—again and again—just as when you
turn away from a skid, the car spins out of control. The body scan teaches you to
mindfully go with what’s happening rather than fighting it.

See what happens when you do this in your own life. By doing the body scan once (or maybe even twice) a day, you’ll learn how to work with a whole range of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Try to make time to do the
body scan when you can; even a short period will benefit you as you get in touch with
your body. Feel free to use an alarm clock or timer, but always try to find a quiet place
where you can be uninterrupted for the duration of your practice.

Some people like to do the body scan in the morning before getting out of bed, while others prefer mid-morning,
the lunch hour, or before or after dinner. Some prefer to practice right before going to
bed. There is no right time other than the time you pick to do it.
Let this be a part of your practice of mindfulness you look forward to doing, a gift to
yourself and a way to become more balanced within your being.

Establishing an Informal Practice of Mindfulness

As previously mentioned, mindfulness is a way of life that can be practiced both formally
and informally. We want to invite you to begin incorporating mindfulness into your daily
activities as a way of decreasing panic.
Bringing mindfulness into your life is very important in dealing with panic. As with
formally practicing mindfulness, you can do this every day. Daily mindfulness brings
awareness into your body, emotions, and thoughts in the varied experiences of everyday
living. You can bring mindfulness to chores, work, walking, driving, brushing your
teeth, folding laundry, waiting in line, sitting in the doctor’s office, your interpersonal
relationships, and all aspects of life. The only moment you ever really live in and the only
place you can ever make any changes is right here and now, so why not be mindful of
this moment?
To begin an informal practice of mindfulness, you can start with any of the
suggestions below. The more you do them, the more they’ll become integrated into your
life. Accomplish at least one task each day mindfully. In other words, while you’re doing
something, just be doing that one thing, fully present and attentive to what you’re doing.
There’s no need to be a perfectionist here—it won’t be possible to be mindful of all of
these activities all the time—but slowly you can do more activities mindfully. Remember,
the moment you realize you aren’t present, you are. It’s that close and yet that far. Let
there be a spirit of levity, kindness, and self-compassion with this practice of mindfulness
—this is why it’s called a practice. Don’t feel as if you have to “get it right” every time.
When you wake up, take a mindful breath and then notice and acknowledge how
you’re feeling in your body and mind.
-While getting dressed, be mindful of the clothes you’re selecting for the day.

Notice how they feel when you put them on.
-While brushing your teeth, just be brushing your teeth.
-While preparing and eating breakfast, be mindful of the preparation and how the food tastes.
-While washing the dishes, just be washing the dishes.
-While folding the laundry, be mindful of the folding and how it’s feeling.
-While walking, just be walking. Notice each step.
-While driving to work, drive the speed limit, turn off the radio, and be aware of driving your car. Notice the way your body feels while driving,
-At work, be mindful of your work duties and your interactions with others.
At least once a week, eat a meal in silence, without distractions— radio, TV,
newspaper, and so on—using the time to just experience eating