Morning Meditation Without Tears
October 27, 2019 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I need a 20-30 minute guided meditation that I can do every morning, in bed, upon waking. I'm allergic to affirmations and most guided imagery. I used to enjoy metta meditation, and to tolerate mindfulness, but a recent mental health downswing has made both of those difficult. I don't know what other options I have. I'm looking for concrete suggestions, ideally of tracks I can either download or listen to online, but if you have ideas for general techniques I'll take those too - I just need something that won't make me feel worse.

I need this as part of my morning routine. I've always found mindfulness difficult but it's something that at times when I'm feeling really bad has triggered me into some really bad headspaces. It's also not a great morning technique for me - I prefer to practice it when I'm a little more awake. I've always enjoyed metta/lovingkindness meditation, but at the moment I'm struggling so much with thoughts that I'm poisonous and harmful to people that it's causing me intense distress. I just get the idea in my head that I am not capable of true metta and what feels good and warm to me will be intensely toxic to others, and I can't get it out. I will be working on this in therapy, but for the time being it's not a good technique for me.
Anything to do with positive affirmations ('you are wonderful, you are strong, you are full of light') makes me intensely annoyed and occasionally upset. Also, stuff that's primarily focused on physical relaxation doesn't work when I'm just waking up, because I'm often quite physically relaxed but mentally distressed. Mostly I want to be taken out of my head for a bit in a healthy way.
posted by Acheman to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I just want to reiterate that I would like sessions between 20 and 30 minutes long, and that I am specifically not looking for mindfulness meditation.
posted by Acheman at 11:31 AM on October 27, 2019

I get a lot of mileage out of Meditation Oasis podcast. Not all episodes are perfect, most do not use affirmations. There is a bit of instruction in many of them about specific things to notice, but I don't lump them in with "mindfulness."
posted by bilabial at 11:39 AM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are you practicing in a community and do you have a teacher to discuss this with? It is well understood, both scientifically and spiritually, that meditation can result in negative experiences. A good teacher can help make sense of this.

You may also find inspiration and non-triggering exercises in David Treleaven's new book, Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. There may be some recorded webinars or youtube videos of his work you can checkout for resonance. Looks like he also has a podcast.
posted by 10ch at 11:47 AM on October 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Mantra-based meditation might work. My go-to is working through poems I have memorised, focusing on the imagery and wording. The Raven is about fifteen minutes long, so you might need something longer or a fragment of an epic. This has been working for me since I was a Poe-obsessed teenager.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:13 PM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm getting the sense that nothing's going to turn this ship around, but I want to repeat again that I would like things that aren't mindfulness. I have a complicated relationship with mindfulness and I'm aware of the effects it can have which is why I've taken the informed decision that it's not the right thing for me right now. I am not asking for advice on ways to incorporate mindfulness into my life, I am asking for help in finding a 20-30 minute meditation that I can do at this specific point in my day, namely when I'm just waking up and am still in bed.
posted by Acheman at 1:19 PM on October 27, 2019

This is perhaps a bit out of left field and may not work at all for you, but have you considered listening to a piece of music during your mediation period, perhaps classical, or ambient, or electronic, or something else without lyrics (or even lyrics but in a language you do not understand?) This is what I do when I am not in a space to coexist with another human's words/ideas/desires/directions, but I need to slow down the introspection/anxiety/stress wheel. It gives me something to focus on and analyze that is largely free of explicit emotional/informational prompts. You could choose a piece or create a playlist that fits into the time you have structured for this, and then try to decontextualize to the beat.

Preludes, Airs, and Yodels is one of my favorites for this but you should definitely adjust to taste.
posted by jordemort at 2:33 PM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Insight Timer is what you need. Download the app and search for "morning." There are hundreds of results. Try a few out until you find a meditation you can tolerate or even like.
posted by 6thsense at 3:39 PM on October 27, 2019

Insight Timer definitely has options, and I agree that the "morning" or "focus" searches offer a lot of options that are geared more towards getting up and going for the day, or focusing on work tasks kind of thing. But you're still likely to run into visualizations, physical relaxation guidance, positive messaging, and mindfulness concepts in those because that's just common concepts in meditations.

They do have a section of "sleep stories" - generally retellings of fairy tales/folklore - that might give you a way to purely focus on the words and music in a way that isn't directed at you but is engaging enough to sink into and give yourself a break from your internal loops for 15-30 minutes. If that turns out to work for you, you might try out audiobooks of short stories or poetry or just a book you love. A while back I was in a physical health situation that just made me super agitated trying to meditate (or concentrate in a useful way on anything distracting) but when I did just need to go be still for a bit I would use the sleep timer and Audible app to listen to 20-30 minutes of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, an old old comfort read of mine.

Insight Timer also have a lot of music-only tracks for all kinds of lengths, not all of them binaural but there's a broad selection of hertzes if you want to try that out (you'll need headphones for that), which would give you a time duration you can pick for the music to play to effectively serve as a timer to keep you from listening to the music for longer than you have time to.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:21 PM on October 27, 2019

There are lots of recordings of birdsong in a forest or area with audible water. I was reading The Nightingale to my grandson and I wanted to know what they sound like. There were hours of nightingale song and others. I read him the story with that in the background. I think that would work to create a clear meditative space. I would do some breath exercises or calisthenics first in bed, then you are quickened and ready, not fighting for breath or fightimg sleep.
posted by Oyéah at 5:38 PM on October 27, 2019

I signed up with Calm to get the sleep stories for me and my daughter. They have morning meditations as well. I just checked and there are two specific morning wake-up body talks that aren't mindful, and a bunch of general meditations that could be used in the mornings that aren't mindful. They have mindful ones listed specifically, then ones that are for physical relaxation, anxiety, stress reduction, etc. They also have something called scapes or meditation music of different lengths. I really like the scapes as natural music background.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:47 PM on October 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

You might like the Kirtan Kriya with mudras I posted about here. It’s not mindfulness, although it is meditative and is proven to produce alpha brain waves which is what lets your mind and body destress and relax. I think doing it in bed in the morning would be ideal and once you know the words/rhythm you don’t need to use music as an accompaniment (although it helps me).
posted by stellaluna at 7:44 PM on October 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've also had a lot of luck with Insight Timer. The specific morning meditation I do is too short and wouldn't be quite up your alley (it's a bit "rah rah I'm going to do good today") but I found some VERY helpful meditations there when I was dealing with some slow-to-heal pain stuff that were really useful, and also some "there there it will be okay even if it's not okay" types of meditations when I was really in a hole. There is a little trial and error which can be aggravating but once you click with a meditation or even a practitioner, it's really simple to stick with one, or get notifications when a person you like there has a new one. You can also search very easily by meditation length so if you've found that 20-30 min is your sweet spot.

Based on what you've said it seems like some guided stuff that might be worth searching for

- setting an intention for the day
- a body scan (if you're feeling mentally icky but physically okay it might help you to concentrate on something going well, not relaxing just awareness)
- nature stuff, I no you said no relaxation but if you can sort of shift it from "relax your body" to "relax your mind" it might help you ease out of worried/distressed morning mind
- something that is a bit of a story. I used to like one that was all about imagining where your breakfast came from. Ultimately it was a gratefulness thing which I think is not what you are looking for, but it did get me out of my own head and thinking about breakfast and that was useful.

In short, Insight Timer has some good options, what works for me won't be what works for you, but those are some search options you could try.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 PM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've gotten a lot of value out of Tonglen meditation -- you can find Pema Chodron talking about it on youtube, and there are a couple of tonglen meditations in the guided section of Insight Timer, so you can see if that suits you. It's a variation on metta in spirit, but I find the structure of it more helpful sometimes.
posted by spindrifter at 6:39 AM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would like to +1 on stellaluna's suggestion for Kirtan Kriya.

Here is a link to a Spotify track that I use, and here is a link to the explanation of the process.

Based on what you wrote, it should work well for you. It's 11 minutes for the short version but there are longer versions if you google for it (or do the 11 minute one twice to get to your desired length). The combo of the chanting and finger motions are amazing at getting you out of your head because you are sufficiently occupying your brain that other thoughts don't have a chance at sneaking in.
posted by aaanastasia at 8:12 AM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

How are you feeling about fantasy? The Honest Guys have a ton of guided meditations to choose from, the most notable of which are the fantasy series (The world of Navarr/Fantasy Worlds collection, as well as the earlier Middle Earth-inspired episodes). They also have a number of guided meditations in different categories, just look through to see what might interest you.

Here are the Middle Earth meditations.
Here are the fantasy worlds meditations.
Here are the healing meditations (pick and choose).

Some other favorites:
A gift from your guardian spirit
Releasing anger
Running with wolves
Warrior of light
The seat

They have been doing this for seven years now; there is a wealth of material to chose from (ofc, ignore the sleep and mindfulness meditations for your purposes).
posted by Ender's Friend at 5:50 PM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

Moving meditation in the form of Tai chi or yoga. Sometimes sitting and being present is too difficult for me especially if Im particularly stressed. Moving somehow makes mindfulness easier for me. Plus it feels good to start my day with a good stretch.
posted by ljesse at 10:55 PM on October 28, 2019

Transendental meditation might be up your alley. It's not mindfulness, relaxation, or affirmations. You might like it. This is a question I asked about it recently which also has some low-cost options for learning it. Ultimately I did go through the program and it didn't work for me, but it seems to work for a lot of people and it sounds like it's along the lines of what you're looking for.
posted by bleep at 9:55 PM on October 29, 2019

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