your bed is your head

September 4th, 2017

Every day is a good day — Zen koan

Before your feet hit the floor you’ve already run through the reasons. First, there’s not enough time. It’s pointless. You’ll just have to do it all over again. You have more important things on your mind. It doesn’t matter. No one will see it. You don’t care. You’re not uptight about it. It’s a waste of energy. You hate it. After all, you’re not Martha Stewart.

The bed is a nest of egocentric attachments: our cravings and aversions. In the one minute it takes to avoid making your bed in the morning, you can observe the ways you battle the reality of your life all day, everyday. You might think it’s unfair to deduce all that from a tangle of sheets and pillows, but it’s not an exaggeration.

The state of your bed is the state of your head. To be sure, the bed and its adornments are a mirror of your psyche, a reflection of your thoughts and feelings, the locus of your dreams and nightmares. But more than that, your bed actually is your mind. Like all phenomena that arise within your field of perception, your bed appears within your own consciousness. How do you respond to what appears?

By habit, we respond with dualistic judgment, dividing the whole of our experience into the few precious things we like and the greater load of what we dislike, accepting the former and rejecting the latter. We thus move through our lives as if maneuvering through enemy territory, attacked on all sides by the overwhelming forces of displeasure. It’s no wonder that we have the urge to crawl back under the covers as if defeated before the day even begins.

Luckily, this one piece of furniture not only serves to diagnose our ills, but to treat them as well. Transform your reality. Transcend dualistic thinking. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. Make peace with the world you inhabit. Take one minute—this minute right now—to enfold your day in dignity. Tuck in the sheets, straighten the covers and fluff the pillows. Every day is a good day.

Learn to pay attention to your life:

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat
Sunday, Sept. 17, 9-3
Hazy Moon Zen Center
Los Angeles
Register by email


  1. I love to make my bed every morning. I love the gratitude I feel for my bed, for my comfort and safety and warmth, every morning as I make it. And I love to come back to it each evening, covers tucked and smooth. But then you know I also love laundry, so I may be a little bit odd.

    Comment by Marianne — July 29, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  2. I love this so much. And it is indeed a huge struggle in my life. I make my kids’ beds every day with tender loving care, and usually leave mine in an unkempt mess. How’s that for a reflection of my thoughts? Thank you for the reminder and the honesty.

    Comment by Sarah Stanton — July 29, 2013 @ 9:38 am

  3. I love it! my house may be a mess but I take the time each day to straighten all of our beds before I leave the house. Yes, eventually my children will do their own but it’s my way of nurturing, loving and protecting them even when they’ve left for the day. xoxo

    Comment by Rachel — July 29, 2013 @ 10:47 am

  4. Arrgh! got me again! I tend to be of the “I’m just gonna get in it again tonight; why bother?” school of bed making. Well, I’m fixing to move. Maybe I can get my act together this time. You reckon? 😛
    The fact that I live alone and that my mini-dachshund considers it HER bed and burrows under the cover any time she wants to doesn’t help. Is that a good enough excuse. I doubt it, but one has to try. Loved this one.

    Comment by Buddhacrone — July 29, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

  5. Maezen–you have really helped me with this one. you show the importance of taking care of each moment. (and I now make the bed every morning since you wrote this). so much of your teaching is bringing the zen experience out of the zendo and finding yourself in every moment in everyday life. we’ve needed this a long time. the great koan is how you live each moment every day. finding Buddha and finding your self.

    Comment by daniel — July 29, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

  6. I run a program called The Joy Up. There are 5 fundamentals we start with. The first is to make your bed every day. Boom. Joy. The ritual and rhythm that keep the joy ticking.

    Thank you for these gorgeous words, as always. xo

    Comment by Hannah Marcotti — July 29, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

  7. Oooh… Now I want to know the other 4….

    Comment by Sim — September 6, 2017 @ 1:51 am

  8. Oh my gosh, what does it say about my head that every day I have to line my bed with bubble wrap and two huge pieces of foam core because that’s the only way I can get my cat to stop peeing on it?

    Comment by Deb Stark — July 29, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  9. This is so true & so eloquently written!

    Making the bed most definitely changes my experience of the day and often the next night…especially on the days when my four-legged friend sneaks into bed with all of his glorious fur funk.

    I do have to say, you have also redefined BedHead for me.

    Comment by Buffy Owens — July 30, 2013 @ 4:30 am

  10. It’s a great consolation to me that about 90 percent of the effort needed to engage with life/practice involves just getting out of bed.

    Comment by Dave O'Neal — July 30, 2013 @ 7:52 am

  11. Dave, in so many ways you are my great consolation in life/practice.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — July 30, 2013 @ 7:54 am

  12. With all the fluff written about Buddhism, it’s refreshing to wake up and read, hey, your bed IS your mind (caps mine, italics yours).

    Comment by Jon — July 31, 2013 @ 6:10 am

  13. Hmmmm….my husband is religious about making the bed, often before I am ready to give it up. I climb out for a trip to the bathroom, and return to find it made…message being…”time to face the day!”. After 30 some odd years, this game is an old standbye. What does that say about us, I wonder…. 😉

    Comment by Clare Kirkconnell — July 31, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

  14. After I read “your bed is… your mind,” I’ve been making mine in the morning and even after napping. My thoughts rebel: there’s nothing wrong with a messy mind; don’t tell me what to do. Still, and this surprises me, I’ve been making the bed, and my mind settles down while I’m doing it, which also surprises me. Assigning cause and effect is way above my pay grade, but something tells me, thanks to your post, the intention to have a clear mind is now wrapped up with performing this daily task. Turns out that making my bed has nothing to do with the bed.

    Comment by Dawn Downey — August 1, 2013 @ 4:47 am

  15. Please! Making my bed in the morning is not important.

    Comment by mary — August 5, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

  16. […] sure who came up with that phrase, but notable influencers like Karen Miller, Zen priest and author, as well as Christine Carter, sociologist, author and public speaker, swear […]

    Pingback by People Who Make Their Beds In The Morning Are Happier And More Productive - Trendingnewsz — May 7, 2015 @ 10:43 am

  17. […] sure who came up with that phrase, but notable influencers like Karen Miller, Zen priest and author, as well as Christine Carter, sociologist, author and public speaker, swear […]

    Pingback by Singapore News Funnel — May 7, 2015 @ 6:26 pm

  18. […] sure who came up with that phrase, but notable influencers like Karen Miller, Zen priest and author, as well as Christine Carter, sociologist, author and public speaker, swear […]

    Pingback by Making your bed in the mornings could mean that you are a happy person!!! | iGroove Radio — May 10, 2015 @ 4:37 pm

  19. […] a downer. A made bed on the other hand is a productivity starter. Karen Miller in an article called Your Bed is Your Head, says “Transform your reality. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. […]

    Pingback by 7 Itzy Bitzy Keystone Habits That Will Transform Your Life. | Workplace Navigator — December 12, 2015 @ 7:01 am

  20. Ahhhhhh– I love this post. I love a made bed. I love getting into one and I love getting out of it in the morning. I love reading in it and lingering in it with the man I love. I love dreaming in it, too. I love it as the “head.” Thank you for this lovely post. Face what appears in front of me.

    Comment by Elizabeth Aquino — September 5, 2017 @ 10:05 pm

  21. A similar corrollary… the state of my house is the state of my mind!

    Comment by Chris Bertrand — September 7, 2017 @ 7:45 pm

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