December 28, 2012

My 4am Meditation Hour Is a Baby Step toward Iyer's "Joy of Quiet"

(I've used this photo before, but I like it and just may use it for all my posts on meditation)

Writing yesterday's post about Pico Iyer's "joy of quiet," I was reminded that for about one hour almost every day I have that joy. Lots of good things have happened in 2012, but near the top of the list is developing a meditation technique that works for me. 

It evolved slowly. Now, I engage in my version of  "mindfulness meditation" at about 4am (or whenever I get up for my middle-of-the-night bathroom visit). Typically, the meditation now lasts for about an hour. Then I go back to bed and sleep soundly until 7 or 8 o'clock.

The house and street outside are quiet at 4am. I sit in a straight-backed chair with a pillow in my lap, where I  rest my arms. Then I grasp my hands in the much joked-about "secret handshake". Here I'm meditating indoors as you'd expect this time of year.

(Please, no comments about the look-alike photos!)
I look forward to the warmer weather and my favorite meditation locale: my back porch, where I can watch the breaking dawn and listen to the waterfall in my garden pond as I meditate.

Meditation Never Did Much for Me Before. So, Why Now?
I've tried meditating off and on for decades. I usually felt it perhaps helped me mellow out a bit, but more often than not I'd end up being upset with myself for my inability to empty my mind and just focus on my "breathing in, breathing out." Random thoughts kept popping up.

Then three things happened:
  1. I decided to try "mindfulness meditation" where you don't try to clear your mind of the thought bombardment but instead relax and just observe, without passing judgement on the distracting thoughts and feelings as they parade by. This was much easier than trying to stop the parade.
  2. I stopped  trying to use someone else's template for meditation. One of the problems with my past meditation was my fixation on following the instructions of famous meditation gurus. Now I pretty much do it my way, and my way keeps changing and evolving. Periodically, particularly if I find I'm chasing my thoughts down a dead-end street, I'll interrupt with a spell of focusing primarily on my breathing.
  3. I realized that getting one solid stretch of seven or eight hours of sleep was not essential. Breaking my sleep up into two segments actually has left me more refreshed  in the morning. (I recently saw a report on a scientific study confirming that two separate blocks of sleep is just as good as a single block.)
My "Joy of Quiet" Hour
That might be a better name for my 4am time than "meditation." Actually, it's just "My Hour." Sure, I spend some of the time doing what legitimately could be called "mindfulness meditation." But I also do a few seated stretching exercises, some muscle tensing and relaxing, some listening to what my body has to say. Sometimes I'm surprised by new thoughts to resolve an issue that had troubled me.

As I reported a few weeks ago, I ended up in Iceland with most of my family as a result of a thought that popped up out of nowhere during my quiet  hour. Some new thoughts have surfaced since then about possible travels in the new year. I was reminded the other morning of the field of geysers we saw in Iceland, as thoughts kept erupting as I meditated.

Iyer described better than I could the joy I get from this hour. It's a time when I "try to keep my sanity and ensure that I have time to do nothing at all, which is the only time when I can see what I should be doing the rest of the time."

But What About The Rest of My Day?
The "joy of quiet" is pretty scarce during the rest of my day. I spend too much time online and I need to work on reducing that in 2013.

I don't spend much time watching TV. The PBS News Hour a few nights a week and the Redskins game on  Sunday -- that's about it. I'm so fed up with our dysfunctional political system that  I no longer watch  the interview or talk shows.

As most of my friends know, whatever the word is for someone who is the opposite of a telephone addict (phonophobe?), that's me. I resent the  intrusiveness of the phone. I have an iPhone, but I only turn it on when  I want to use it. Very few people know my mobile phone number, and it doesn't do them much good since the phone is seldom on.

I'm on Facebook, but mainly as a way  to let people know about my blog posts. I never respond to Facebook chat  invitations. I like seeing what friends are up to and I'll hit the "like" button often. But that's about it.

Although I'm on Twitter, I know zilch about it. A pal takes care of that for me.

Nevertheless, I'm often online six or more hours a day. (I debated whether six or eight hours would be the more accurate estimate.)

I love internet research. I like handling my finances, my shopping, and lots else online. I love writing this blog.

But, as has happened consistently with me over the years, I find that, once again, I'm following Mae West's advice -- "anything worth doing is worth overdoing." and/or "too much of a good thing is a good thing."

So, once more, I need to see if I can find my way  back to the middle of the road. I don't think I'll try what some of Iyer's friends have done: paying over $2,000 a night for a room in a retreat house for the privilege of not having a TV or a wi-fi connection.

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