Like many, I feel the urge to make resolutions at the start of the new year, but I don’t like resolutions because I never keep them. Therefore, I’m making a Bold Plan instead. A Bold Plan sounds more important, anyway.
The core of the plan is completing an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program on my own. By “on my own,” I mean that I’m fifteen minutes away from the founding clinic of the MBSR program but I’m choosing to do the program as outlined in the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn rather than sign up for the classes that begin late January.
I began taking the MBSR classes in Salt Lake City, but we moved halfway through the 8-week program. The jury was still out for me about whether it was helping or not, but I’d like to give it a try again, especially since my vow to go to bed at 9:30 lasted only three nights.
What this means is that I’ve decided to wake up at 4:30 am each day. My husband gets up at that time, and with him on-call for the toddler, this should (should) give me at least one hour during which I can practice the meditation and yoga techniques suggested in the program. At the very least, I think it’s more likely to work than trying to meditate during the dinner-and-bedtime cavalcade in the evening. By the time I’d have a chance to meditate, I would just pass out. Yes, I will likely lose consciousness when I attempt it at 4:30am, too, but I’m hopeful that, in time, I’ll be able to get to bed earlier, get a greater amount of more productive sleep, and be awake and alert at 4:30am.
I am not at all sure that this will work, but I’m going to give it a try.
Along with the waking up at 4:30 plan, I’m instituting a few more guidelines to help me, maybe, minimize the distractions that keep me up until all hours every night.
At a basic level, this is a simplification plan, although I know that life will become more complicated as I implement the plan. I’m prepared for this.
It’s like when you pull a whole bunch of stuff out of a closet to de-clutter it: It looks much worse before it looks better. I’m hopeful this is the way this Bold Plan will work (although I’d be totally happy if it never looked messy at all and I just slid easily into a mindfulness-induced state of blissful calm).
Here’s the detailed plan:
1. Get up at 4:30 each morning for 8 weeks to meditate and/or practice yoga for an hour. With any luck, after eight weeks of this, I will have a firmly established meditation practice that I will be able to continue indefinitely.
2. Reduce internet use to one hour in the evenings on weekdays (while I’m nursing the toddler to sleep).
3. Plan to blog only once per week. I may well find time to blog during that one hour of daily internet use, but I won’t be planning on that. I’ll journal during the week, though, so it’s possible that, come the weekend, I’ll just go on a blogging spree and post enough to cover the prior week.
4. Read just one book at a time. This to me means one “pleasure” book at a time. I’m planning to read Full Catastrophe Living as I move through the program, and I want to keep working on the Dalai Lama’s How to See Yourself as You Really Are, because I think that with a daily meditation practice, the insights from that book might yield some pretty powerful fruits, but I’ll only read one other book besides those. I find I need fiction to maintain balance.
I am not making “go to bed earlier” part of the plan. I resist a bedtime so much that I fear putting it as a goal will just make me feel contrary and will decrease the likelihood that I’ll go to bed earlier. Instead, Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends coming up with three goals for the 8-week program, which you then set aside and actively not work towards during the program.
My three goals for the program:
1. Reduced anxiety levels (including decreased anxiety around being yelled at/tailgated/flipped the bird while driving in New England and decreased anxiety in social situations and commenting on blogs).
2. More effective sleep. Whether this means more sleep or just better sleep, I don’t really care as long as I feel better rested.
3. Responding in anger less often. I almost immediately translate fear, discomfort, sadness, lack of control, and being overwhelmed into anger. I’m hoping to let each of these things be what they are rather than jumping to the fight-or-flight response.
So, those are my goals, which I will now forget about for eight weeks.
Oh, did I mention that the mindfulness program is based in Buddhist teachings? Yes, well, that’s the reason for the indirect and paradoxical approach to achieving goals. I’m cool with it, though. I’m not great with keeping to my goals, so maybe I can trick myself into accidentally working towards them.
I’m beginning this program on January 1st, although not at 4:30 am since my husband doesn’t have to work that day.
So, there’s the Bold Plan. Let’s see how it goes.