Memo 1 - Getting started
Hello, fellow awareness seekers!
After a couple of weeks of procrastination, here I am, sharing some initial reflections on my first few days of practice.
I got in the class with the intention of exploring self-discipline. One of the most intriguing metaphors of this class is that “you are your lab”, so I jumped into exploring self-discipline by practicing it, and observing myself.
Here is what I put in place since day one:
Shifting my sleep schedule
Practicing unguided meditation
Keeping a daily handwritten journal
Sharing one new thing per day
Sleeping at least 7 hours a day is something that I was already doing, but my sleep schedule was very inconsistent. I used to go to sleep late (between 11.30 and 1am) and get up between 7 and 9, according to the time of my first meeting in the morning. One of my goals was to try a more regular rhythm.
I was also inspired by Joi when he shared that he gets up at 5 to meditate. I usually enjoy the silence and the light of first hours of the day (the few times that I’m awake), and many people that I admire wake up very early. I asked myself: would I be able to do that? It turns out that I’m able to do that (at least for now, with exceptions during the weekend).
In the last two weeks I’ve been going to sleep around 10.30 and woke up at 5.30. Going to sleep early hasn’t been a big issue so far. Actually, I realized that the time after 10.30 was a kind of “black hole” – aside of chatting with my roommates and occasionally watching a movie, most of the evenings I was just wasting time, I can’t even remember what kept me up late.
Waking up is usually much harder for me, no matter how long I sleep. A couple of tricks helped me out. First, I disabled the snooze function on my alarm app, and I kept the “smile to disable” feature (that is always a good way to start the day). At 5.30 it’s still dark in my room, so I have to get out of the bed, turn on the light, smile on camera, and “just” resist the temptation to get back under cover.
Another crucial change was to establish a morning routine. That was a huge shift for me: I now realize that last time I had a morning routine was in high school, more than 18 years ago! Here is the current version: wake up, meditate, breakfast, shower, journal. In the first days I was able to keep a very food pace and a consistent time, but I noticed that recently it started to take longer. Most of the times the problem is that I look at my phone and I get in the time-black-hole again. In the next few days I’ll be working on that.
I started meditating two years ago, when a friend who was taking this class told me about the app Headspace. Since then, I’ve been doing guided meditation almost every morning for 10 minutes. Usually when I travel or during the weekends it gets harder but I’m generally able to get back to it in a few days. Recently it had become harder and harder, and sometimes I’ve been skipping it for weeks. Even when I did it, it felt like a habit or a duty, and I wasn’t really present while doing it. I couldn’t approach it with a beginner mind.
I saw the class as an opportunity to revisit and tweak my meditation practice. First, I extended it to 20 minutes – waking up early made this transition easier because I didn’t feel rushed. Also, inspired by something I read in Ariel’s journal, I started meditating standing up instead of sitting, and that helped me to stay awake and gave me something different to experience. Lastly, I tried unguided meditation, focusing mostly on my breath. This has been the most challenging part, as my mind wonders much more. I’m still not sure if I’ll keep doing it or come back to guided meditation, for now I’ll try to stick with it.
I’m very interested in trying out Qi Gong, as I heard good things about it from different people. So far I haven’t had the opportunity to try it out but I’m looking forward to the session with Peter Wayne next week, and hopefully I’ll get some guidance and resources to get me started.
Keeping a diary is something that I’ve always tried to do (since I was 9 or 10), but was never able to keep for more than a couple of days. I’ve recently tried to write memos (usually when I was struggling and needed somewhere to dump my unstructured thoughts) but never consistently. This class seemed to be the perfect opportunity to try again, exploring a powerful reflective practice in the context of a broader exploration of self-discipline.
The goal of the journal is to reflect on my practice. Rather than dumping random thoughts, I’m keeping notes of how I sleep, how easy/hard is to focus, things I notice about/during meditation, things that tempt me or distract me, things I resist, things I’m experimenting with, and things I notice about the things I notice.
I chose to write in all caps, that gives me enough time to think while I write, and I try not to go back or stop too often. I plan to keep the journal private, but I’m curious to explore what are the type of things that I would particularly resist sharing, so I’m writing most of it in ink, but the most private parts in pencil. At some point it will be interesting to go back and see what are the things harder to share and why.
So far, I’ve been writing one page (almost) every morning for more than two weeks. The only day I skipped journaling, I didn’t skip other things like meditation. Being the first thing that I let go made me realize that it is the toughest part of my practice, and something to which I want to dedicate more intention and effort.
Memo 2 - Getting stuck
I’m writing this post after one month, and I’m feeling ashamed.
I was struck in class about the discussion around shame. I’m still not sure if I fully understand the difference with guilt, but I like the idea of a “virtuous emotional state that allows observation and reflection”. So here I am, observing and reflecting.
I’ve been “wanting to want” to update this journal way before, but I never found myself “wanting to do it”. I kept procrastinating. There was never a “good time” or a “good place” to sit down and type, and the longer I waited, the harder it became. After procrastinating for a while, I finally felt stuck. Talking after a long period of silence felt hard. And looking at other people’s journals made me feel even worse. While I really enjoyed reading so many thoughtful reflections, I also realized how many opportunities for my own reflections I’ve missed so far. I was feeling lagging behind, and that made it harder to choose a moment to start.
And then, this morning the Universe gifted me with an unexpected “free” hour (I messed up with my calendar) and I finally decided to start writing .
I realized how similar it is to meditation. No matter how long you have been distracted, whenever you realize it, just gently put your attention back to whatever you are doing.