Most mornings, when I don't feel the pressure of the day bearing down on me, I sit down for a 23 minute meditation as soon as I arise. Chilly in the house, I keep my bathrobe on and slip into the warmest corner of the house and kneel on my balance cushion. I set the timer. Why 23 minutes? My watch has the annoying habit of beeping at the 3-minutes-remaining mark, and every 30 seconds thereafter. I figure 20 minutes of stillness is about what I can currently handle, and I use the remaining 3 minutes as transition time.
The past couple of weeks have brought some changes to my developing dhyana practice. It's always been cold and dark and silent as I sit, but now the sun is making its way through the clouds earlier, around 6:30am or so, instead of after 7am when I'm making my breakfast. Even more notable, our neighborhood cardinal is back, and I can hear his (I think the males sing this song) chirping accompanying my quiet breathing. Birds and sunlight, yes, spring is indeed coming, what a relief!
As my watch counts down its last 3 minutes, I switch from watching my breath or using a mantra to a more active "social" practice of meditation. I began this in India, sending pure unadulterated love and benevolence to my teacher, Geeta Iyengar. Since then I've added my family members to my "list" and I send them love, unconditional, infinite, benevolent. Malachi and Ed, still asleep. Katja in New York City in her triple dorm room on 5th Avenue. Meiko all the way in Bamako, Mali. It's a form of prayer, of holding someone in the light, as the Quakers say. I tack on others whom I know are needing support. By now my feet are starting to fall asleep and I know my sitting time is just about up. So is the sun now, and the cardinal has already moved on.