I don’t know about you, but most mornings my brain feels like it’s full of hyperactive gerbils. This could be my multiple sclerosis, or it could be pandemic brain fog. Either way, I understand that song by The Police in a brand new (and very real) way these days: “Too much information running through my brain / Too much information driving me insane.”
So, instead of coming straight down and getting to work, I’ve tried two new things to help slow and focus my mind. The first is an app called Pray As You Go, created by Jesuits in Britain. It’s also available in Spanish, French, and Dutch.
Each day of the week, two speakers (a man and a woman) lead you through a Scripture reading, guided prayer, and quiet meditation. Sessions are between 11 and 13 minutes. I sit down in my chair, close my eyes, and allow the music and voices to guide my thoughts.
Making time for just a few minutes of quiet contemplation has really made a difference, and I actually look forward to completing a session each morning before the sun has fully come up. Sometimes, if I time it right, it’s still dark when I close my eyes and dawn when I open them. I finish refreshed and ready to face the day.
After that, I’ve been reading a book of haikus written by my favorite Japanese poet, Kobayashi Issa — just a few pages each day. For those of you who don’t remember sixth-grade language arts class (or don’t want to!), a haiku is, according to the Poetry Foundation, “A Japanese verse form most often composed, in English versions, of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. [It] often features an image, or a pair of images, meant to depict the essence of a specific moment in time.”
It only takes a few minutes to read a selection of these poems. They’re short, but don’t let that fool you. They’re meant to be read slowly and meditated on. For example, take this piece from the set of Issa’s poems I read today:
“Like misty moonlight,
our temporal way”
Simply gorgeous! By putting those two things together — the visual image as well as the feeling — he gives us language to understand life and its brevity.
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