Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison is a Zen teacher and Co-Founder, with his partner Robert Chodo Campbell, of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care —the leading organization engaging and integrating contemplative training with caregiving through study, care and meditation. He serves on the faculty of two medical schools, their curriculum is now implemented in thirty-five medical residency programs, and they have trained over 1100 physicians from across the world in contemplative approaches to care of the dying. We sat down with him to talk about his book, Awake at the Bedside.
I’m just going to say it … I think the holiday season needs a radical overhaul.
We see ads for the perfect holiday meals, served in a lovely setting where everyone is smiling, especially the gracious host. Truth is, in order to achieve this type of perfection, we nearly kill ourselves with stress trying to get that end result.
I’m sure your mind, like mine, is kicked into high gear this time of year to attend to the million things you have to accomplish between now and January first, but time is limited and your body begins to suffer. It will only be a short time before insomnia and exhaustion set in. Instead of enjoying our time with loved ones, we can wind up emotionally unavailable and stressed out.
Whenever my friend Shannon can’t sleep because too many thoughts are barreling through her mind, she calls it “riding the A train.” She’ll text me at 3 a.m., “I’m on the A train again.” Of course, I get the message because I’m awake, too. My type A personality and business responsibilities are battling it out with my dire need for some mental stillness and rest.
Fortunately, I have a snooze-inducing ally in yoga, and when I get up and do the following sequence, miracles happen. In about 10 minutes, I’m back in bed, shifted toward sleep in a natural, easy way that no pill can provide.
Perhaps stillness comes naturally to some people. I, however, am not one.