Mindful Mornings with Kai Stowers
Kai Stowers, former Mindfulness Lead for Genentech, runs Organizational Development at Infineon Technologies.
When I ask my friends about what they love about the early hours of the day, they often describe the quiet and stillness of what may be the only moments of solitude they experience throughout the day. They describe the sky slowly brightening as the sun rises and their first cup of coffee. Many share the sense of accomplishment and productivity they gain from working before others have woken up.
I, however, am one of those others who hasn’t woken up for the day yet.
I’ve read about the benefits of meditating early in the morning when the mind is clearest and most alert, and over the years, I’ve attempted to practice this advice. Each time, I rapidly become mindful of how waking up earlier to meditate is far less attractive than gaining a few extra minutes of sleep. I suspect many of you have made similar calculations, whether you are a night owl, a parent of small children, or sleep-deprived from a late night Netflix binging.
While any of us could choose to engage in a battle of will power against ourselves, designing a mindfulness practice for the life we actually have is far more powerful than adopting a practice for a life we aspire to. I’ve personally found that honoring my own biorhythms is key to creating a sustainable practice.
In the mornings, when my time is at a premium, I leverage micro-practices to ground me in the present moment. As I wake up and stretch, I feel the sensations of my body. Stepping out of bed, I notice the sensations of my feet against the floor. Reaching into the fridge, I feel the coldness of the eggs I cook for breakfast against my hand. I can drop into the present moment as my cats rub against my legs in anticipation of their own breakfast, as I taste my first bite of food, and as I feel the thud of the front door as I pull it shut and hear the quiet click of the key as I turn the lock.
Traffic meditation is another way to create a mindful morning. While driving, I can feel my hands on the steering wheel, and I can practice compassion for myself and others when traffic slows to a crawl. As I drive into work, I get curious about what my reactions to other drivers are like. Some days I’m able to shrug off truly dangerous or aggressive behavior I see on the road, and on other days I find myself endlessly annoyed by someone who went out of turn at a four way stop sign. Either way, this builds the self-awareness I need to navigate my interactions with colleagues throughout the work day.
Because I’m most alert in the afternoon and evenings, I do my formal meditation practice just before bed. This allows my mind and body to settle after the day’s challenges. This practice has also allowed me to grow and truly value how this daily routine transitioned me to a calmer, more restful state which then prepares me for a good night’s sleep.
None of these micro-practices add on any additional time to my mornings, and when I practice any subset of them, I find myself calmer and better able to respond to life’s challenges in creative and skillful ways.
Even though the practices are simple, they set me up for a successful day at work.
If you share my biorhythms or simply find mornings too hectic to sit and meditate, I invite you to try any of the mindfulness micro-practices I’ve talked about.
Not a morning person?
Know there is a group of 'non- morning meditators' and we’d love to have you.