I’m disobeying sound advice this morning as I sit and write while the sun comes up.
I so did not get eight hours of sleep last night, and I can feel the yawns in my brain. I am operating with a sleep deficit this week as we prepare to leave on vacation (to a family wedding on a farm in North Carolina—which I get to officiate, happy me!)
In this, our final week of the Summer Meditation challenge, the focus is on practices which complement a regular meditation practice and nourish the transformation it brings.
Sleep tops the list.
Even more powerful than meditation, sleep is the number one way to recover from stress. It is literally the mechanism through which our body recalibrates on every plane: boosting memory, immune function, and making us more stress-hardy.
So if you are having a challenging time incorporating meditation into your daily or weekly routine try to get to bed earlier, starting in 15 minute increments.
Don’t do it because you should… do it as an experiment.
Note the next day how life feels.
One of the side effects of living in a culture wed to work is that we delay sleep to get things done. Ironically the same stress which pushes us to stay up late can actually disrupt our plans to sleep in the next morning.
Normally your stress hormone cortisol spikes around 8AM (have you ever wondered why you wake up with racing thoughts?) This can make it hard to sleep later, even when you are really tired. So if you stay up stressed to complete a task your cortisol levels will likely be higher than normal in the morning making it harder to sleep in despite your exhaustion. No fair!
The good news is that meditation can actually reduce your corisol levels and enable deeper and more refreshing sleep. So while honoring your circadian rhythms and slowing down/unplugging starting at 6PM is definitely a good goal …sometimes in real life we need to work late or push through to get the family packed for a trip.
But sticking to your regular meditation routine even on those days will make you more stress hardy and enable you to sleep deeply when you can. This can make the difference between getting sick or being super crabby and actually having the energy to meet and enjoy the next day.
The other powerful way to reduce stress? Digest well.
Eating mindfully is a big topic on its own but I just wanted to offer one idea this week which I learned from a coaching client: Eat it hot.
Try it! No matter what is happening in your life, when the food is ready you stop, sit, chew and enjoy. If kids are having a hard time making it to the table, enjoy your meal first and eat a second smaller portion with the family. If eating alone… warm your food and simply sit at the table with it. Warm food is its own kind of company.
And there is something really fabulous about stopping no matter what balls are in the air and just eating. Most spiritual practices are like this– they create a bubble around you, like the eye of a storm, and allow a spacious connection to the Big Picture to take root in your consciousness. If only for a moment.
I hope you have enjoyed the summer meditation series. I feel the benefits in my own life of a daily practice and am encouraged by comments and emails from many of you who are courageously and creatively finding ways to integrate meditation into life.
I’ll be back in touch once we return from North Carolina and hope these final days of summer are full of long nights of sleep, hot food and the presence of mind to enjoy it all.
PS Love the benefits of meditation but finding it hard to cross the gap and find a practice that you can consistently enjoy? It can be hard to know where to start! I love working with people to find the exact set of practices (art making, journaling, hiking, meditation etc) that speaks into the particular constriction they are experiencing at this phase of life. I have three spaces remaining for coaching clients starting in September. Please click here to read more about my ten session program (weekly or bi-monthly) which continues many of the themes we have explored this summer and can help you make the shift from being tuned into (and tortured by) externals to living soul-centered in every arena of life.
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