Surf Into Peaceful Sleep

 

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”; this is a quote from Jon Kabat Zinn, creator of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Our thoughts can be relentless coming one after another. The all too common habits of worrying   about the past and worrying about the future can spin us up, when we really want to sleep. There is another choice. We can choose to notice what is happening in the moment. Noticing is one way to practice mindfulness.

Noticing what is happening, in this very moment, gives us a break from our usual thinking patterns. You’ve probably experienced how fast a chain of thoughts can grab you and whisk you away! When this happens you are off, leaping along to who knows where. The moment you become aware you are thinking, you have the opportunity to gently return your attention to noticing in the moment again. The exercises described below will give you a simple and doable way to practice being present with noticing.

I’m not an advanced guru of meditation. I have practiced enough to, most often, fall back to sleep when I’ve woken up way too early. Surfing my thoughts and feelings has taken practice over time; however, it didn’t turn out to be the uncomfortable drudgery I once expected. 

What I call the noticing practice is a solid first step to becoming an accomplished mind-surfer. It’s is ideal to practice once during the day and again when you go to bed. I’ll give directions for both below.

 

Sit, breathe, notice.

Sitting inside or outside for a minute of self-compassionate noticing will bring a degree of peace.

 

The Daytime Practice: One minute of noticing

Here’s why:  

Experiencing more peace is the purpose here. Practice during the day to learn the skill. Keep practicing daily. You’ll get good at it. Eventually you will “own it”.

Here’s what: 

Practice noticing for approximately 30 second to 1 minute during the day. Practice sitting standing or lying down.

Here’s when: 

Tag your noticing practice on to something you already do. It is so much easier to remember to practice when it’s added on to an already stable habit. Review your day. When would it fit in? Then ask yourself, “What do I already do in that time?” Here’s are some possible suggestions.

After exercising 

After you get the mail

After you put the tea water on

After you step into the shower

After you put your shoes on

Where:

Noticing can be done anywhere you like. It’s very portable!

Here’s what: 

Take a few easy full breaths. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. This style of breath is calming for your mind-body. Taking these two or three conscious breaths can bring you more in touch with your body. Let your eyes close or just soften your gaze as you exhale on the 3rd breath. I’m suggesting just 2 or 3 breaths so we can keep this exercise within a minute. A very short practice is optimal for the purpose of starting this habit. It is easy to have success, this way. You are building a foundation on which more mindfulness practices can be built, if you wish.

Next begin to notice the space around you. Listen for sounds coming to you from close by and then from farther away. Notice any sensations on your skin. In turn, notice any smells or tastes.

Do this for a brief time. No need for a timer. A guesstimate of a minute or less will be good. Now, bring your attention to your feet on the floor. Notice your body in the room. Take a moment to come back into your day.

Celebrate your success. How do you give yourself an “atta-girl”?  Happy dance? Saying awesome? Do that little celebratory thing. Success. You have complete a tiny step. It’s the beginning of your noticing mindfulness practice. Do this daily for as many weeks as it takes to become automatic, at the time you have cultivated. Once this habit is automatic go ahead and add more time to your practice. Add other mindfulness practices as you wish one tiny or perhaps small step at a time. Once this seed of noticing has sprouted and taken root, the full plant or practice flourishes, given a reasonable amount of care.

This completes the daytime practice instructions. Read on for the second part of the practice. It is done in bed.

After getting comfortable in bed, practice noticing.

After getting in bed is a wonderful time to practice noticing.

 

The Nighttime Practice: One minute of noticing

 

Here’s Why: 

Use the noticing practice to shift into neutral and experience more peace. Let your body relax. Make a choice to rest. When you are resting; sleep can follow with ease.

Here’s when and where:

Once you’ve gotten comfortable in your bed and the light is off, is an excellent time to practice noticing.

Here’s What:

Take a few full and easy breaths. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. This style of breath is calming for your mind-body. Taking these two or three conscious breaths can bring you more in touch with your body. Let your eyes close or just soften your gaze as you exhale on the 3rd breath. 

I’m suggesting just 2 or 3 breaths so we can keep this exercise within a minute. A very short practice is optimal for the purpose of starting this habit. It is easy to have success, with a tiny step.

Next begin to notice the space around you. Listen for sounds coming to you from close by and then from farther away. Notice any sensations on your skin. In turn, notice any smells or tastes.

Do this for a brief time. No need for a timer. A guesstimate of a minute or less will be good.

Quietly celebrate your success, now that you are finished. You have completed a tiny step. You may want to simply let go into resting, at this point. Alternately, this might be when you want to move on to a gratitude practice. See the *Bonus Tip* below for a specific gratitude practice suggestion.

This is the beginning of your noticing practice. Do this daily for as many weeks as it takes to become automatic. Once it is automatic, go ahead and add more time to your practice. Add other mindfulness practices, as you wish, one small step at a time. After this seed of noticing has sprouted and taken root, a full practice will flourish, given a reasonable amount of care.

*Bonus Tip* – – – This is one way to practice gratitude. Name 1 to 3 things, from your day, that you are grateful for. Feel your gratitude. Gratitude brings a peaceful feeling. This allows for an easy transition into restful sleep.

There you have it. A daytime practice and nighttime practice for noticing. If you find practicing twice a day too much for starters, I recommend practicing during the daytime only. Starting this habit is the important point. Once you are comfortable doing this one minute practice in the daytime, you can add the nighttime practice. Through this practice of noticing non-judgmentally and with self compassion you will become a better and better surfer of your awareness.

Pease share any experience with noticing and awareness in the moment that you would like, in the comments section below.

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