Tamiko Nimura is a longtime Source Yoga student and is enrolled in this summer’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction series. She will be sharing her experience over the next few weeks through a series of blog posts. This is post #2. Read Post #1 here.
Normally, I’d be all about the homework. I am one of those people who’s ridiculously happy to be a lifelong student. I have 2 grad school degrees, for goodness’ sake. I miss taking classes besides yoga. But I have to admit that the MBSR homework is a struggle.
MBSR is a big time commitment: two and a half hours for each evening class, for eight weeks. An all-day retreat towards the end of the series. Plus, we have daily homework, about half an hour to 45 minutes (and sometimes more). There are small practices that can take just a few minutes and meditation practices that take longer. When will I find time to do the homework? I also wonder if I’m concerned because we don’t turn anything in, and we’re not graded. Then there’s my inner yoga-teacher voice, the one that’s a combination of all the great yoga teachers I’ve had. That voice is laughing at me, gently: Grades and feedback and achievement again, huh? Maybe it’s like writing. Focus on the process.
Mindfulness is not for the busy, I think. And yet I know that’s exactly part of the point.
Every day, we are supposed to do a body scan meditation, listening to a recording that Erin’s sent us. It’s about 40 minutes long, and it requires us sitting still or lying down for that entire time. My kids are old enough now to self-entertain for that amount of time, but I’m wondering how and when I need to schedule in my meditation. I decide to add it to my morning routine, which is slower and less crowded in summertime. I’ve also read that morning’s also the best time to add in new habits, so I start there.
I wake up when my husband Josh leaves for work, then start the morning meditation. I fall asleep about 5 minutes in, just after meditating on the left toes, foot, and leg and as we move on to the right leg. Fail!
As the week goes on, I keep falling asleep at different points during the meditation. Sometimes I miss the meditation on the abdomen, sometimes I miss the meditation on the arms and hands. I usually wake up before the end, but sometimes I don’t make it that far and wake up to find that the recording’s over. Erin actually addresses this during the meditation, I find out eventually. There’s a special section of the recording for those of us who fall asleep: “If you find that you’ve drifted off, that’s fine. Just join us right here.”
During class the second week, Erin says that falling asleep is actually quite normal for people who are starting meditation. “This is part of why we need this practice,” she says. “As a society, we’re just tired.”
So I practice holding onto that thought for a bit when I find myself falling asleep during the body scan meditation. And I do find that overall, I’m sleeping more soundly. I do have a couple of episodes of insomnia, but overall, sleep feels easier to reach. Maybe more rest is what I need.
In addition to a few other practices, Week Two means another week of the body scan meditation. I have to confess that I’m kind of disappointed by this news, to be honest. Maybe I’m hoping for variety, a walking meditation, which might be nice. Maybe I’m hoping for a shorter meditation.
Maybe I’m hoping that it will be easier, is the deeper truth.
I want to be good at meditation. Oh, that achievement piece. I have that picture, as so many of us do, of meditators who just manage to sit down, make an ohmmmm sound, and drift off into bliss. My eight-year-old can even do this caricature of meditation with (yes) her eyes closed. And if that’s the ideal, then most of us are going to fall short. But my inner yoga teacher nudges me: Falling short of an ideal isn’t really failure, is it? Isn’t that how most of us live most of the time?
So I keep going. I’m working hard on the other pieces of the homework for the week. One of the pieces is focusing on a routine activity mindfully. I think I might be cheating a bit by combining habits: I am writing in my journal for 10 minutes (a habit I’m trying to develop) and bringing mindfulness to that activity. I notice that I’m trying to notice a lot during those freewrites: the sensory details of the pencil scratching on the page, the sensation of my hand moving over the smooth paper.
After a week, though, I notice that I am slowing down, not racing to put down all my thoughts at once. I am leaving space between paragraphs, even. I am not adding little arrows that tell me to add an item to my to-do list. And that might mean something. Oh! And I have discovered that I can do the body scan meditation by placing my legs up against the wall (a yoga pose!), which keeps me from falling asleep. It’s multitasking, but at least it’s all restorative.
But the end of the week arrives again and I realize I’ve forgotten one piece of it. We’re supposed to be practicing the 10-minute breath meditation, and I haven’t scheduled any time for it. Time for some more self-forgiveness and beginning again. I try just one meditation, sitting on my couch and setting my phone timer for 15 minutes. Surprisingly, it’s easier than I think.
Just wait until I tell my teacher.