The One Thing That Starts My Day on the Right Foot

Like most people, my day is a patchwork of multiple and conflicting desires. I want to have a vibrant spiritual life, but I want other things too:  I want to care for my family, I want to spend time with friends, I want to respond to my work and professional obligations, I want time to read.

Truth be told, I also want to eat chocolate, snack on peanuts, take naps and relax in front of the television (just for fun, not always something artsy or profound). In addition, I need to contend with the daily chores of life that support all the rest.

I’m busy. And it’s easy to get caught up in the small details of the day. So how do I make time in my schedule for the things that enliven my spiritual life?  A key element is having a consistent structure for how the day begins. It does not have to be elaborate or time consuming, you can start with ten minutes and if you find it useful, build up from there. I know that for me, the first activities I do after waking set the lens for the whole day. Let me share some ideas with you here.

Like any spiritual practice, your morning ritual has to be honest. It should feel connected to your essence, the truth of who you are. Choose activities not because they fit an image of what a spiritual person would do, but because they ground you in that part of yourself that feels real, beyond external validations. This connection to your soul should feel good!  If it feels like drudgery, you’re unlikely to continue. The duties and distractions of daily life can lead us away from ourselves. Returning to our ground brings a refreshing relaxation all its own.

A morning ritual is most effective if it is the very first thing you do, before you check email, before you read the news, before you browse the internet, before you pick up your phone. Those activities are likely to lead you away from yourself and down endless rabbit holes of distraction. There will be plenty of time for that later. For this one, small period each morning, choose to reconnect with your center. Me, I do my ritual even before I have coffee, and that’s saying something.

Your morning activities are also best done in a contemplative, unhurried manner. So much of the rest of the day can be cluttered with noise, demands, pressures and stimulation. This is your chance to be with and explore the interior dimensions that we so often ignore. Slow down, feel your breath, recognize the reality and presence that rests at the core of your being. Although I’m describing a morning ritual in terms of “activities,” they are more like opportunities for being, not actions intended to accomplish a result. Just being with your inner self is a soothing, calming, grounding way to start the day.

Here are examples of activities (should I say non-activities?) to consider for your own morning practice:

  • Body    I start my morning ritual with a set of mindful stretches. Some people prefer a walk first thing. I know one colleague who gets up early to ride her horse every day. Each of these can be done with gentle attention to the felt sense of our physical bodies.
  • Meditation   Most mornings, I include a session of meditation, either guided or silent. Meditation trains the mind to pay attention to itself, which allows me to see patterns of thought and emotion that otherwise run my awareness on autopilot. Done over time, consistent meditation practice builds a clarity and freedom that is hard to develop otherwise.
  • Study   Reading books and texts broadens my exposure to ancient wisdom and new ideas alike. Spending a few minutes reading spiritual material in the morning sets a frame that is often refreshed throughout the day. It’s uncanny how often I encounter something that recalls the very point I read about that morning.
  • Journaling   Not everyone enjoys journaling, but I get a lot out of it. I often start with a question and then answer it in a free flowing conversation between me and my pen. I find it physically gratifying to write in a bound journal with a fountain pen. I usually uncover ideas I did not know I had.

Establishing a morning ritual brings a peculiar kind of freedom. Once it becomes a habit, the agony of choice is gone. I don’t decide each day whether to meditate, I just get up and do the normal routine. I get the benefits of a strengthened spiritual life as well as setting the stage for a brighter day.

How would your days be different if you started each morning with a ritual of spiritual practice, or if you already have a regular routine, if you substituted something new?  I would love to hear about your morning practice. Add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

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