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.

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 a Formal Practice of Mindfulness: Meditation

As mentioned, mindfulness is a way of life that’s practiced in two interrelated ways:
through formal and informal practice. To truly integrate mindfulness into your life, it’s
important that you do both types of practice. Each complements the other. Use them
every day to reduce panic and live with more ease in your body and mind.
The cultivation of a formal practice of mindfulness begins with setting an intention
and deciding on a time to do it.

Try to prioritize this time for your own self-care.You deserve this, and it’s truly a gift to yourself that no one else can give you. Find a place that’s quiet and comfortable, at a time during the day when you won’t be interrupted.

Turn off your phone and any other devices, and let your family know you’re going to be
quiet and meditate for a while; ask that you not be disturbed.
The best time to formally practice mindfulness is whenever you can do it. Some
people like to practice before they get out of bed. Others like to practice after their
morning stretches. Others practice during their lunch hour or in the afternoon. Many
have found it helpful to practice after coming home from work or after dinner. Some
even practice before they go to sleep. Find a time that works for you and let your practice
grow.
Once you find a time that works, try to practice daily, even if you don’t really feel
like it. We suggest thirty minutes for many of the meditations, although you can practice
them for shorter periods of time if need be. Even five minutes of practice is better than
none at all. If your formal practice of mindfulness is spotty, don’t beat yourself up or
give up on it. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and encourage
yourself as you would a friend.
In this book you’ll learn the formal mindful practices of mindful breathing, the body
scan, mindful inquiry meditation, sitting meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and the
“web of life” meditation as meaningful and direct ways to deal with panic.

The Many Causes of Panic

As stated, research has demonstrated that mindfulness-based stress reduction can be
extremely beneficial in decreasing panic. We’re sure that you too can use these mindful
practices to live better with panic and decrease the challenges you face.
Before you get started, you should know that although most cases of panic stem
from the psyche, there are some cases in which it derives from physiological sources.
Although mindfulness training may help you regardless of the cause of your panic, you
may also need to consult a health care professional to investigate whether there’s any
biological reason you feel panicky. In addition, if your panic attacks are frequent or
severe, it’s best if you take steps to address your panic under the guidance and
supervision of a health care professional.
Sometimes a very active thyroid (hyperthyroidism), low blood sugar
(hypoglycemia), heart arrhythmia, or other physiological conditions can lead you to
panic. Some medications and herbs may have side effects that make you susceptible to
panic. You may also want to look at diet as a contributing factor, especially if you
consume lots of caffeine or highly refined carbs and sugary foods.