Morning Rituals

Mornings are a sacred time. The way we start our day off can flavor the hours which follow. This is why many religions have specific practices designed to start the day right. The Sun Salutation in yoga was created as a way to greet the rising sun, for example. Many people choose to meditate first thing. There are specific prayers to welcome the new day. Julia Cameron (author of The Artist's Way) created the concept of Morning Pages as her way to start the day with creativity.

During some phases of our lives, our mornings tend to be chaotic, rushed, stressful, and out of our control. If you have an infant, young children, noisy neighbors, shift work, a variable schedule, puppies, or other unpredictable factors, your mornings might often be hijacked by the immediate and urgent needs of others.

Choosing a morning ritual--something you can do upon waking, something that sets the tone for the rest of your day--can have a huge impact on how you feel. Instead of starting your day by responding to others (through email, Facebook, text messages, phone calls, meetings, etc.) you can take the time for yourself. Your morning ritual could look like any number of activities, as long as it serves you, uplifts you, makes you feel positive and excited about the day to come.

Here are just a few examples of different morning rituals. You can, of course, create your own based on your particular needs and preferences. Or you can blend a few of these together.

1) Begin the day with gratitude. I tried this myself today. Before even opening up my laptop--but not before making myself a cup of coffee!!!--I wrote a list of ten things I'm grateful for. Since my winter session of classes began yesterday, I was already feeling deeply grateful for my students. I am so privileged to be able to teach such enthusiastic, open, and appreciative people. I have enough students in ALL my classes this session to make them run so I didn't need to cancel a single class. I have the opportunity to do exactly what I love most as a career. As you can see, writing my list this morning was a piece of cake!

2) Begin by breathing. You can call it meditation. Or mindfulness. Or being present. But whatever you wish to call it, you can start your day by simply taking some deep breaths. If your mind tends to run off in a number of directions--making lists of things to do, worrying about things you've forgotten--you might want to focus on something in particular while you breathe. You can notice the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Or you can focus on expanding the belly with each inhale. Or you can look out the window and focus on a tree. You might close your eyes and count along with each breath. You can mediate on absolutely anything: drinking a cup of coffee or tea, mindfully eating an orange, listening to a piece of music, watching a candle flame. Meditation is extremely personal. Find what works for you.

3) Begin with movement. You might try a Sun Salutation or whatever gentle yoga poses call to you. Tai Chi is another slow, meditative movement practice which is perfect for a morning ritual. If you have lots of energy in the morning, you might want to lace up your sneakers and go for a morning run before breakfast. If that sounds too energetic, perhaps a morning walk with the dogs or a friend. Or just close your eyes and move, with or without music. Let your soul dance.

4) Begin with creativity. If you wish to create something new--whether it be a novel or a sculpture or a dance or a symphony--mornings are a great time to work. Our heads are often filled with the influence of others--our parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, bosses, celebrities, other artists--and early morning is a great time to tune into your own unique voice. Before all the other voices start piping up and offering opinions, see if you can get something down on paper, or paint, or clay, or film. Don't worry about making anything perfect. Just get it out there.

These are just a few suggestions; there are many other ways to start your day off in a positive way. Let me know if you try any of these, or if you discover something wonderful for yourself!