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a morning practice - Joshua's weblog
April 2nd, 2017
06:39 pm


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a morning practice

I have many thoughts to spill out, but maybe most are better served by my personal journal. But I have been thinking that I want to more regularly publish vignettes of thoughts publicly; less well-formed, less "pointful", less edited, less coherent, more thoughts and ideas. Here is one.

I was reflecting recently on how I have, somehow, turned to be a morning person -- or, at least capable of being a morning person. I dedicated this weekend to voluntarily waking up at 6am both Saturday and Sunday, with absolutely nothing to do all day on both days. If you asked me whether I would foresee myself doing this five years ago, it would presumably be unthinkable. Over the past few months, in addition to waking up at an unreasonable time to teach a regularly scheduled class on Thursday mornings, I've seemed to have doubled down on a commitment to do my meditation practice in the morning.

I have had a meditation practice for a year and a half or so now; usually about ten or fifteen minutes a day, and until recently, mostly in the evening. I have had various levels of commitment to it -- at some points, doing anything I can to ensure that I do it (even sacrificing sleep on nights where I would otherwise have had very little), and at some points, being unable to bring myself to do it at all. I think that is how meditation practices are, to be honest; I suspect there are very few who have no problems committing to it for a long time.

A few months ago, I participated in Kayla Mendez's Winter Inquiry -- a five day, hour and a half per morning, 6:30am sadhana (more or less literally, a "doing"). Beyond the joy of being in a room with twelve or so others and holding space for each other for a simple morning practice (no need to really beat on the body; if poses are in order, they can be easy and energizing, rather than difficult and tiring), Kayla offered suggestions for an even-before-we-arrive part of the practice over the course of the week. Some didn't jive with me: scraping the tongue, or a mug of hot lemon water, or an abhyanga self massage -- those did not make sense to me. But one practice that has stuck with me has been to set the shower as cold as it will go, and splash my face a few times, and get in for about 90 seconds or so, and then towel off and go about my business.

It is said that the first day that you do this is the worst. That is not true. The second day that you do this is the worst. By the third day or so, it becomes more tolerable. It is a good reminder: "if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I am doing all right". (Sometimes, "this is not the worst thing that will happen today", and that puts the cold into context, too.)

We were told to keep up some kind of morning practice for another 30 days, if we wanted continuing education credit for it. This was part of mine, and I looked forward to not having to do it any more when 30 days were up. But a bizarre thing happened -- when it was time to be done, I ... kept doing it.

In recent days, as I've had more time at home after my ski crash, it seems that I've committed to it further, and it's become a habit as part of a virtuous cycle. In the mornings, I wake up now, somewhat earlier, to leave time. I drag myself out of bed, and go and have a morning conversation with the toilet. Even with eyes bleary, the shower stares back at me. It dares me to do it, if only I'll listen. The excuses will come, and it seem to always have an answer. On the verge of running late? It takes 90 seconds. You'd take longer than that staring blankly into the mirror instead of brushing your teeth. It's cold out? It's cold in, too. Come on, get in, let's go.

And it feeds into the next. I would skip the seated meditation many mornings, for any number of reasons. But if I take an icy shower, making a few movements to stretch my body seems like next thing to do. And if I do that, then I might as well just have a seat on the zafu and close my eyes for a moment to center in. Even if I don't do the whole practice, surely it will be of value. And before I know it, I'll have done the whole practice anyway.

I don't know why I do it. Each day that I don't do it rarely feels any different than each day that I do do it.

But maybe it doesn't get that specific, day by day. The days that I don't do it sure do feel different than the days that I do do it.

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