Meet Lisa, a San Francisco YA who's been working on incorporating her practice into all aspects of her day.
I started meditating when I was 18, just starting college. Although I’d known that meditation was just one of 8 skills that make up Easwaran’s eight point program, it wasn’t until I’d been meditating for a few years that I really understood how I could incorporate those points throughout my day. Although I’m not always actively working on all the points, I’m starting to find them popping up in my day helping me through challenges (even where I wouldn’t expect!). Each point is designed to be a simple, practical skill to help me get the most out of my morning meditation and though I could go on and on about the details of each point… I’m not going to. I’m going to share some ways I’m finding them pop up throughout my day, but you should check out this page to get the details of each of the points: meditation on a passage, repetition of a mantram, slowing down, one-pointed attention, training the senses, putting others first, spiritual fellowship, and spiritual reading.
4:55 a.m. Wake Up: Good morning! I have been blessed (cursed?) with a finely tuned internal clock that inevitably wakes me up 10 minutes before my alarm and never lets me sleep past 6:30 am (even on a weekend, and even after being up past midnight). However, this blessing/curse does mean that waking up for meditation has never been a challenge for me.
5:05-5:10 a.m. Out of Bed: I roll out of bed onto my meditation bench that lives just two feet from my bed.
Insert 30 minutes of meditation…
5:40 a.m. – 6:45 a.m. Morning Routine: After meditation I try to keep my morning one-pointed so I’ve got my morning routine down to an art: shower, breakfast, make my lunch, finish getting ready, and then out the door. The focused, task-oriented nature of my post-meditation time helps me extending the focus from meditation farther into my day.
6:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Commute to work, Classroom Prep
10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Teaching: A few months ago I started working with students age 5-13 as a math teacher, and have decided that teaching is an endless string of opportunities to practice one-pointed attention (with many an opportunity to use the mantram… or really any of the points). If it’s Wednesday at this time I’m work with a particularly rowdy group of 10-year-old boys. The first few weeks working with these guys I was really scattered and when class would end I’d feel exhausted and really sped up and I wasn’t pleased with the kind of attention I was able to give the students. One week I decided to make an effort to set myself up so I could be more one-pointed during class. I increased the time spent prepping the classroom and the activity and I reminded myself to speak slowly and calmly even (especially!) when I was feeling like the class was heading out of control. What a difference! Modifying my behavior not only made me feel better, but it also helped the students notice when their behavior was speeding up. There are still days when this group of fellows tries my patience, but all the more opportunity for me!
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Lunch: Once you take late student pickup and classroom turnover into account my lunch “hour” can definitely tend to be lunch “minutes”. I take special care to do whatever I need so I can tackle my afternoon classes with the diligence I paid to the morning ones. Sometimes I’ll need adult social interaction so I’ll get up and chat with a coworker. Sometimes I’ll need a mantram walk, and I’ll walk around the block repeating my mantram silently (always a good boost!). Sometimes I’ll need some inspiration and I’ll do some quick spiritual reading in the form of Easwaran’s “Thought for the Day” online. Whatever I do, my goal is to get my mind settled and ready for what’s next!
1:00 – 4:00 p.m. More kids, more math, more putting others first
4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Commute Home: I drive 45 minutes to an hour to and from the campus where I work and it often causes me to feel rushed, especially on the way home. I’ve used putting others first and slowing down to inspire two strategies which help me stay calm on the California freeways, which I think is a feat! 1st strategy: I always let someone into my lane. I had been feeling really resentful about letting other people into my lane when I realized, what’s one more car in front of me? By making it a general rule, I no longer worry about the other drivers. 2nd Strategy: I minimize lane changing. Obviously if there’s a traffic impediment, or the traffic is moving way below the speed limit I’ll change lanes (I’m a California girl after all), but generally, I don’t. This type of slowing down has really changed my outlook from always looking to where I can cut ahead a little bit, to just enjoying the drive.
5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Exercise: I’ve managed over the last four years to build up a habit of exercise (which is a triumph in itself), so after work I usually go for a run. I’ve always struggled with one-pointed attention in this realm because I have a long-time habit of listening to music while doing other things, and especially while exercising. Even though I started running after I had an established meditation practice, initially I would never dream of doing it without headphones. Then a couple of months ago I reread Essence of the Upanishads as part of my spiritual reading. Easwaran illustrates how we can train the will by describing a running race between the trained athlete “Desire” and poor, out of shape “Willie”. He describes how we can train the will, just as we would train our physical bodies for competition. Reading this story made me think about how I can incorporate training the will as part of my physical training as well. As a result I’ve started doing a few regular runs a week without headphones repeating my mantram. I’d say I’ve only gone from 100% headphone use to 65% headphone use, but change comes slowly. One of the cool outcomes of this small change is that I’ve found that I’ve been able to be more focused and one-pointed at other times during the day where I’d previously struggled to hold my attention still.
6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Dinner: In general, I cook for myself. This is actually a real high point of my day since I love cooking and enjoy the time making messes in my kitchen. Training the senses might seem really dull or intimidating, but when it comes to incorporating this into my cooking I’ve actually found it really fun. It’s all about working with likes and dislikes so I’ll experiment with finding new recipes, trying new vegetables, new cooking methods, etc. I try to cook healthy food when I’m at home and save my restaurant/takeout consumption for social occasions when I can share it with friends and family (which has both health and fiscal benefits). I also love putting others first in cooking by taking requests from friends, neighbors and family. It’s so fun to figure out how to make someone exactly what they want!
7:30 – 9:30 p.m.: Work & Recreation: I’m lucky to have flexible hours outside my in-class teaching responsibilities so I’m often able to spend some hours in the afternoon running, cooking, or hanging out with friends. The downside is that this means I often have to do work in the evening on my laptop writing lessons, work email, or homework sets. Real talk? In general, being anywhere near my laptop and/or the internet in the evening leads me straight into distraction. To stay one-pointed in my work, I’ve made a pact to make sure I have dedicated “recreation” time post-work. This serves both as a motivation tool and allows me to put my distractions aside since I know I’ll be able to follow them wherever they want during my break. The recreation time differs by night – sometimes I’ll watch a tv program, or read a fiction book, listen to music and have a solo dance party, or just go ahead and do some mindless internet browsing. I’ve found that setting up a system that supports one-pointed attention has been key for me in working effectively in the evening.
9:30 – 10:30 p.m.: Out of necessity, knowing my internal clock will wake me long before the sun, I’ve cultivated the habit of winding down my evening early. I love reading fiction novels but I’ve found that if I read only fiction before sleep I’ll stay up all hours to finish the book, or my mind will get agitated by the plot points. I try to end most evenings with some spiritual reading whether it’s from one of Easwaran’s books, another great mystic, or even just reviewing a passage. On nights when I’m feeling like I need the engagement of a fiction novel I’ll choose spiritual reading that has a sense of adventure like stories about Gandhi, or an interpretation of the Ramayana, or stories about St Teresa of Avila (who has for some reason always struck me as an adventurous soul!). Regardless of reading I try to repeat the mantram as I fall asleep to keep my mind calm and allow me to have a good night’s rest – I need all the support I can get cause I’ll be up in just a few short hours!