I spent the summer of 2011 on a writing sabbatical. It took a lot of planning and juggling to make it happen, but it was one of the biggest gifts I’ve received in a while (read about the fruits that came from this summer including the exciting New Way of Being tele-course launching this month).
As invariably happens, life threw some curve balls in June (the passing of a close friend, my son had to get stitches from a summer camp accident, my whole family got sick—I’ll stop there), so things got off to a rocky start. But as the summer unfolded, I received many insights from this deep, rich time. One of the biggest was the absolute importance of starting my day intentionally. Just about every spiritual practice highlights the importance of starting your day with reflection or stillness.
In fact, Marianne Williamson, internationally-known modern mystic and best-selling author of Return to Love says that devoting as little as five minutes every morning to your inner life can set a positive course for your entire day. (As someone who battled for years with trying to commit to a daily 20-minute meditation practice, this wisdom really spoke to me. For many, five minutes is about all we can find on those hectic school mornings.)
Here are Five Tips for Creating More Peace in Everyday Life through dedicated morning time:
• Schedule your daily morning time. Ideally, it works best to do this early in the morning (maybe when the house is quiet before anyone else is up or immediately after dropping kids at daycare or school).This is when our minds are most quiet and clear. If you’re not an early morning person, mid-morning might be better for you: possibly in your car or during a mid-morning nature break while at work.
• Create and identify where you’ll pause for your practice: Is there somewhere in your home you can go that elicits peace, healing and self-nurturance (maybe it’s a special reading chair with a candle next to it, a creativity altar, a chair or hammock in the backyard or a spot under your favorite tree). If this seems impossible, your “space” can even be at your office with the door closed, in the car alone, or at a nearby park or green space. Get creative!
• Find a source of comfort/inspiration: not necessary, but many like to enjoy a book or beloved teaching, the bible,www.dailyword.com or www.dailyom.com, self-care/reflection cards or poetry from a favorite writer to set the tone for their day.
• Breathe: if you’re feeling anxious or “to do” lists are running through your mind, don’t forget to breathe! Breathing detoxifies, energizes, changes our mood and biochemistry, wakes up the brain and helps you feel more present and calm (one technique I use is breathing in very slowly for three, holding for three and exhaling for three—all through your nose with your mouth closed). Keeping your eyes closed while doing this helps focus your awareness inward.
• Create ritual and flow for your morning time. For example, you might: 1) light a candle, close your eyes and feel the silence, then 2) enjoy a short inspirational reading or choose a self-care card (see resources above), 3) pray, meditate or reflect on what you’re grateful for and close by 4) setting an intention for the day, asking for guidance on an issue or help releasing something that has been bothering you. Or you might just do one of these things—they’re all good!
For your morning practice to have the greatest effect, I’d recommend releasing “shoulds or have tos,” finding a rhythm that you can enjoy, keeping it short, simple and above all-- personally meaningful. Really allow yourself to experience what it’s like to be fully present and comfortable sitting in silence. But, be easy on yourself. Even just starting with setting an intention before you begin your day, would be huge! There are days when my morning time is in the car with my son on the way to school. We do a quick check in and together set intentions for what kind of day we want to experience.
I have been keeping a morning meditation practice for almost 3 years now and it has had a HUGE effect on how peaceful I feel throughout my day (I have always had some type of morning reflection, but really formalizing and committing to this practice has made all the difference in the world.) Read more on the benefits I have enjoyed and my favorite meditation resources.
October Self-Renewal Challenge: This month I challenge you to start integrating morning time into your day and continuing this for seven consecutive days. Maybe you start with just setting an intention for the day, maybe it’s a 5 minute meditation or increasing the time you currently meditate or maybe it’s adding an evening meditation practice before bed if you already meditate in the morning. Notice any shifts that start to happen. I think you’ll be amazed. Let me know how it goes. And enjoy this beautiful gift of self-care. An invitation: If you’re interested in getting support and tips for beginning a daily morning practice, sign up for our New Way of Being tele-course taking place over 4 Thursdays during the lunch hour (participate via telephone from anywhere in the world or download the classes at your convenience).