An Uncomfortable Silence

Today is the last day of Week 7 of my self-guided Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living). This was the week when I didn’t use any of the recordings for my yoga or meditation. While I made it through the week, I found meditating in silence to be very challenging. My mind went 770 miles an hour without Jon Kabat-Zinn’s instructions to focus on. I guess that’s the point, but I definitely found it challenging to be all alone with my thoughts. They’re very noisy without something else to drown them out.

Up to now, I’ve used a combination of several different recordings. There’s a Jon Kabat-Zinn CD I got as part of the in-person MBSR class I did (in part) in Utah. I’m not sure where my instructor got it, although it might be from The Mindful Way Through Depression audiobook. On the recording I have is a 30-minute body scan track, and then three 10-minute sitting meditation tracks that each build on the next so you can choose a 10-, 20-, or 30-minute sitting meditation practice. I enjoy using all of these tracks. I also occasionally use the Sitting Meditation track from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1 recordings. It’s 45 minutes long and includes much of the same guidance as the choose-your-duration recording I have.

For yoga, I use one of four recordings. My favorite is Shiva Rea’s Yoga Sanctuary. I use the Lunar Practice CD and do tracks 1, 2, 3, and 6 for a 40-ish minute practice. I sometimes add in track 4, too, which is inversions, but I’m not a huge fan of shoulder stand since I had kids, so I don’t do it that often.

I also use Lauren Peterson’s The Yogi’s Companion CD, although that’s a little more intense and takes a little more concentration to keep myself from striving to do more in my practice (rather than staying present with my breath and body).

The other two recordings I use for yoga are the 45-minute yoga practices in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1. They are very gentle and really promote a connection with the body. The only reason I prefer the Shiva Rea Lunar Practice is that it opens up my muscles more. Regardless of which I use, I feel warm and rested after I practice yoga and ready to start my day.

This week, instead of using these recordings, I mostly used an awesome free online meditation timer to keep track of my time in sitting meditation or practicing yoga. I downloaded mp3’s for 10-, 20-, 30-, and 40-minute durations (with the Tibetan Bells option, a 40-second delay, chimes every 10 minutes, and three chimes to signal the end of the practice), and burned them to a CD so I could listen to them while practicing down in the basement.

Two mornings, I tried keeping track of time by listening to music I used to use while practicing yoga back in my early 20’s. Charles Sorgie’s Odysseys Into Alpha: Prana is very relaxing and worked well to keep me focussed on my breath for a 45-minute sitting meditation (incidentally, I once listened to this on my headphones while getting a root canal). The other morning, I did a shorter sitting meditation followed by a more energetic short yoga practice. For this, I programmed some tracks from Land of Forever by 2002 and used the song changes to tell me when to move from meditation to yoga.

I liked the music pretty well, but I found I preferred the silence. Such as it was. My son almost always wakes up about halfway through my practice. I hear my husband greet him.

“Hi, Buddy!” he says.

“NO!” our son replies.

He accepts no substitutes in the morning. When I come up from my practice, I find him sitting at the top of the stairs, waiting for me.

“Mommy!” he laughs and holds out his arms.

While I prefer to have a little more time to make some breakfast and maybe—if the stars are aligned—read for little while before being on Mommy duty, it’s difficult to maintain my disappointment with his sweet little arms around my neck and a wet little toddler kiss planted on my cheek. It’s a little more challenging when he starts in with the 2-year-old “NO!” to everything I say, but after a good mindfulness practice, I’m in the mode to live in the moment and appreciate the sweetness while it lasts.

For Week 8—the final week of the program—Kabat-Zinn sets us free to choose just how we want to practice. Sitting meditation, walking meditation, body scan, yoga, music, guided meditation cds…it’s our choice.

I’m a little nervous to have this much freedom.

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