The importance of mindfulness and being aware of the present moment are no longer new to most of us. Being aware of our own level of awareness is an ongoing practice. Mindfulness is easier in a yoga class because the teacher calls us to our breath and to what we are doing and experiencing in our bodies.In meditation, we are invited to focus on the flow of our breath and to notice our thoughts. How do we take what we are learning and practicing in a class off the mat?
I first noticed my own awareness levels when my first yoga teacher’s voice began to live in my head. I would hear her guiding me to feel my breath or notice my thoughts when my mood shifted. Everyday things became lessons in mindfulness.
It took awhile but, at some point, I began to notice my first thought of the day. Rather than jumping up as I awoke, I would turn onto my back, place my hands on my belly and take a few slow breaths. I would notice my thoughts. Some mornings, my first thought was soft, peaceful and quietly expectant of the new day. Other mornings, my first thought was anxious, worried, or fearful. What happened during the night? For years I ended my day with thoughts of gratitude and fell asleep peacefully. Why would I wake up in knots at times? Then I became aware that those first thoughts were affecting my entire day. I needed a reset, a shift in how my days began. I was ending the day well; now I would begin the day well.
One of my teachers reminded me that intention is a powerful form of thought energy. It guides the flow and sets the tone for my experience. It is about consciously flowing with life rather than reacting or trying to control it. He suggested I become aware of my over-riding intention each day. Well, that was easy because I wasn’t forming one! And thus began my conscious morning practice.
As I realize I am waking up, I quietly begin to feel my breath and notice where my mind is going. What thoughts are forming as this day begins? My favorite times are when I am aware that my only thought is that I am noticing my thoughts. Ah yes, a clean slate for a new day, a new beginning. If my thoughts are already circling, finding worry or anxiety, I acknowledge that and begin to count my breaths until I am more present with my feelings. I feel my hands softly resting on my belly and remind myself it is a new day and I can figure it all out later. As my body and emotions soften with my breath, I begin to ask myself “How do I want this day to feel as it unfolds?” Then I use my imagination (I image in) to see myself moving peacefully and joyfully through this new day. Details don’t matter; appointments don’t matter; problem solving doesn’t matter. All that matters in my imagination is my day unfolding from that inner stillness that is my True Self. Life will fill in the details later.
It takes longer to type this than it does to experience it. My little morning practice usually lasts as long as it takes me to do ten slow breaths and then “see” myself moving through my day in peace. I don’t look at a clock but it probably happens in about two or three minutes. Once complete, I open my eyes and slowly get out of bed. My first thought, consciously formed, has set the tone for a whole new day and all that it will bring into my experience.
What was your first thought today? Has it affected how your day is unfolding? Do your intentions guide you into flowing with life as it unfolds or do they lead you to think controlling yourself, other people and circumstances will make you happy? Is it time for a reset? Wouldn’t it be fun if your first thought each day resulted in love, laughter, and the ability to let life be easy?!
Then, after breakfast you could just go out and play!