Try it every morning for a month and see what happens.
We get up in the morning with a vague sense of dread. Then we pick up our phones to flesh out what it’s about.
Me too. I reach for my phone immediately upon waking; and then I ‘doom scroll,’ checking my news sources for the latest awful thing going on in the world.
I do this without thinking, and I do it every day.
But recently I busted myself for my own hypocrisy. I realized that I professed the importance of tending our consciousness like a garden…while regularly filling my mind with toxicity first thing in the morning. Why did I even want all that toxicity? What is it about feeling so bad that makes it addictive? I think part of the answer is that if I can imagine myself living through these dark times, then it gives me some illusionary sense of control.
Whatever. Let’s look at how we might stop filling up with poison so early in the day. Let’s look at what we might do differently.
I came across the following ritual that some Buddhist nuns engage in every morning. A ritual that imbues them with calm no matter what is going on externally in their lives. We don’t have to be nuns or monks to follow their example…but we might benefit in a huge way if we did. Check it out.
1. Before you open your eyes, breathe intentionally. Upon awakening, lie still and keep your eyes closed. Feel the force of gravity pulling you toward the bed. Notice the texture of the sheets and blankets and any clothing you might be wearing.
Now breathe in consciously. Feel the texture and temperature of the air going in through the nostrils and filling the lungs. Then, as you exhale, release all the tension in your neck and shoulders. Inhale and relax. Exhale and relax. Do this for about five or ten breaths.
2. Practice tonglen. Tonglen is a powerful Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice, also known as the receiving/sending practice.
Picture someone in your life who’s suffering. (You can also practice this by picturing anything from a small animal to the entire planet.) Inhaling, you breathe in their suffering. Imagine taking that pain into yourself, and watch it dissolve into nothing as it passes through you.
On the exhale, imagine yourself offering the person, animal and/or the planet a vast sense of space, clarity and calm. Profound well-being. Watch it move from you to them on the momentum of your exhale.
Don’t get caught up in ego here. The suffering is not entering you personally, and you personally are not the one sending well being. The in breath is freeing them from pain and constriction. The out breath is filling them with spaciousness and freedom.
Practice this for as long or as short a time as you wish. I generally spend five or ten breaths with this practice, and then move on to the third step.
3. Make your bed mindfully. As soon as you ‘get up,’ it’s time to set about making the bed. Not by rote or in a hurry. Do it as though you were making it for the Buddha (because you are). The awakened one who lives inside you — that’s the one you’re making it for.
Touch the sheets with reverence. Fold carefully. Tuck in with strength and tenderness. Make it beautiful. ‘How we do anything is how we do everything.’ Keep this in mind as you move around the bed, completing this simple task.
Now you are ready for the day.
It might not seem like much — breathe, imagine some stuff, then make your bed — but I promise you if you do this every day, and you do it sincerely, for a month, you will notice a well of calm that sustains your spirit under all kinds of conditions.
You will show up as a calmer person, stronger, more resilient.
Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.
Blessings, and may all beings benefit.