Morning Ritual – How It Can Change Your Life

morning-ritual
Photo by myyogaonline via Flickr

How do YOU spend the first hour of your morning?

Is it a flurry of racing around to get yourself together and gather everything you need before dashing out the door to work? Or, perhaps you grab your phone, iPad or computer and check your email as soon as your eyes flutter open?

If you’re nodding in recognition, I’ve got one question: how’s that working out for you?

I only ask because I’ve been there – and it took me close to 50 years to figure out that the disconnection of my scattered morning routine reached into my whole day.

I’m now finally getting it:  It’s all about intention.

Those first moments of your morning are a time when you can set intention and touch in with your essential self, that core of your being that is so much greater than the everyday, ego-driven you.

I’ve come to realize how profoundly this can affect my whole day, and ultimately my whole life. A morning ritual, created with intention, will take you toward your dreams.

We all have some sort of morning ritual, whether it’s intentional or not. Even that bathroom time upon awakening is a ritual of sorts. Brushing your teeth can be a ritual, as can making your coffee or tea.

These practices are all lovely and can enhance your life. But they may not be the sort of rituals that change your life

A ritual is different than a routine. While both are important, a ritual is more of a celebration and a devotion. An acknowledgement of your own connection to the sacred and to that great well of creativity that we all spring from. Rituals can be practiced in groups as well as solo, but generally your morning ritual is a practice just for you.

Now I know what you might be thinking. Are you kidding? How can I add one more thing into my already packed day?

And yes, I hear where you’re coming from. I have so been there. I’m just asking you to suspend your judgment and disbelief a few minutes and hear me out.

This one simple addition to my day has really and truly changed my life. It’s catalyzed breakthroughs that I once wondered would ever be possible.

It might do the same for you.

What’s A Morning Ritual?

Your morning ritual doesn’t have to be some sort of solemn, spiritual practice – although by all means it can be if that’s what calls to you. This isn’t about the actual content of what you choose to do. The magic happens with ritual when it is practiced with intention and repetition.

Repeating any sort of intentional practice each morning can connect you with the infinity that we are all a part of, releasing you temporarily from the endless whine of the ego. And, on a more mundane level, it allows you to start your day with the experience of feeling grounded; setting yourself up to more easily handle whatever life brings your way.

It can be as short as two minutes or as long as a full hour. As simple as closing your eyes and grounding to the earth, or as complex as an involved meditation and yoga routine.

Your ritual can be done in stillness or in movement, inside or outside, in silence or in song.

Your world, your choice, your ritual.

A morning ritual is akin to the sacred practice in eastern spiritualities known as puja. Although the dictionary defines this word as “a Hindu practice of the worship of a particular god,” I believe it refers to the act of showing reverence to the divine, a practice of devotion.

Puja is used to describe many forms of devotion. And the thing about it is there’s no right way to do it; there’s only what’s right for you.

Whether you believe in God, Goddess, the Universe, some other sort of higher power – or none at all, your puja connects you each day with that divinity that resides in all beings and in all things.

It’s ideal to do your morning ritual right after awakening – but let’s face it, that doesn’t work for all of us. Kids might be up earlier than you, or other demands might claim your time. If you must wait an hour before you get those 15 minutes of you time, so be it. It’s still so worth it to build this habit.

Finding My Own Morning Ritual

As I mentioned, it took me a while to get here. I finally incorporated a ritual into my morning about a year and a half ago.  I’d been wanting to get a meditation practice going for years, but never seemed to stick to it. Then of course I just created more resistance my berating myself for my lack of dedication

So this time went for the baby step approach. I decided that I was  going to meditate for just five minutes a day. I challenged myself to try this for a month and see what happened. And I committed to meditating BEFORE I turned on the computer, checked email or otherwise got caught up in daily demands.

For me, what made this more pleasurable – and more like a ritual – was to build some other fun stuff into it. So I’d start by lighting my special candle and smudging myself with some white sage –a plant used by Native Americans to clear psychic energy. Then I’d set a timer for the five minutes and just practice that stillness. Afterward, I pulled three Angel Cards for the day and wrote a page or so in my journal.

Simple, sweet, and it worked for me. I didn’t hold myself to some unattainable goal of a 20-minute meditation twice a day or something. Soon I was able to up the meditation time to 10 minutes.

The activities I built around this mediation time were familiar and comforting to me – and they were things that I sometimes ‘forgot’ to do for myself in the hustle bustle of daily life. Setting some intentional time aside each morning to do this has very subtly, over time, made huge differences in my life and in the decisions I make.

Even though my monkey mind usually babbles away during those 10 minutes, somehow the devotion and the focus has, over time, stripped away various illusions that said monkey mind had set up inside me.

Ideas For Your Morning Ritual

As I said, there are as many sorts of rituals as there are unique fingerprints.

Your ideal morning ritual consists of things that especially delight YOU. The only ‘rule’ that I suggest – and of course it’s just a suggestion – is to try to fit in your ritual before engaging in activities that drag you into the day.

Some people like to exercise as their morning ritual. Or to get outside for a walk.  Devoting the time for prayer, singing, chanting, or saying mantras works for others. Simply lighting a candle and creating a little sacred space for a few minutes is a ritual.

If, like me you lean towards the woo woo, incense, candles, and anointing with oils can set the tone for your day.

Dancing is an invigorating and empowering morning ritual. Journaling or writing can ground you and focus your intention for your day. In her seminal book The Artists Way, Julia Cameron describes a practice called Morning Pages – and thousands upon thousands of people use this practice as a daily ritual to stimulate their creativity – no matter what medium they work in.

Morning Pages, as described by Cameron, involves keeping a notebook right by your bed, and writing three full pages of stream of consciousness right after you open your eyes. It’s basically like freewriting, and it’s writing that no one ever sees but you. Anything goes – whining, dreaming, gibberish. It’s just a way to free up your creative spirit, and so many people swear by this practice.

Another great morning ritual – particularly if you’re pressed for time is to do a simple and short grounding exercise, connecting yourself with the earth before you begin your day.

 

Okay, this is all well and good, but here’s the thing:  practicing or not practicing a ritual such as this is definitely not another excuse to beat yourself up!

Do it if you are called to, don’t if you are not. But whatever you do, please don’t spend any time thinking that nasty ‘should’ word!!

Remember too that if you get a sweet little ritual going and then you get derailed – maybe family comes to town, or you go traveling and your routine gets disrupted. Or maybe you just forget and or get distracted for a few days – or weeks, or months. NO BIG DEAL!

All you do is begin again. This  all about you and nurturing and caring for yourself! All too often when we fall off the wagon with a new healthy practice, we decide ‘that’s it, I blew it.” Guess I can’t do that. So, so not serving! Every present moment is a point of power, so who cares what you did or didn’t do yesterday or last week? Who cares if you will follow through tomorrow or the next day? Do it now if you want to do it.

Okay, so I won’t lie, there is one thing that really really REALLY sucks about all of this (at least for me), And its having to get up that much earlier to allow that ritual time. But the psychic spaciousness it creates is worth it many times over. I believe it even makes up for 15-30 minutes less sleep (but don’t push this too far! )

This is one of those ‘healthy’ practices that can become just as addictive as potato chips or your favorite TV show. You start to feel like something’s missing if you skip it.

Your morning ritual can make all the difference in how you show up to your day, to others and most of all for yourself.

 

Do you already have a morning practice? Or if not, what would your idea morning ritual comprise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

I talked about all this and more on the Golden Goddesses radio show a few weeks ago. If you want to hear the expanded audio version, it’s right here.
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13 Responses to Morning Ritual – How It Can Change Your Life

  1. oh Sarah! You speak to my heart! I love morning rituals and teach it as often as I can. It is so special to spend time this way! Everyone must give it a try, you will be amazed at the difference it makes.

    • So true Lori! And believe me, I was a reluctant convert. I love my sleep and rarely feel like I get enough of it. But it’s so worth it to get a a little earlier to get this time. As you say – it’s so amazing what a difference it makes!

  2. Sarah, you have inspired me to get back into the habit of a morning ritual. I loved what you said about making sure it is something that delights you. I love that word delight! :) And I appreciate the idea that my morning ritual sets the intention for how I show up for my day and for myself. So true! I’m not sure yet what my morning ritual will be, but I have to admit that yours really resonated with me. Perhaps I’ll try a variation on the same theme. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Oh yay – so happy to have inspired you dear Carol! And feel free to use my ritual or vary it to your own unique delight. (And yes, I’ve been loving that word lately. It just arrives on my tongue.)

  3. Such a wonderful post. I’ve wanted a morning ritual for a long time and finally have one now, for about six months. Not at all what I thought it would be but I stumbled upon it and it works well for me. Every morning I go in the hot tub, first thing, or as near to first thing as I can. I’m outside in the garden soaking in the water for about 15 minutes, taking in the flowers, trees, sky, etc. It empties me out, opens me up, centers me and puts me in just the right place to do the work I do. I love it! On days when I don’t do it I definitely notice the difference. At first I wondered if it wasn’t “serious” enough for a morning ritual, and then I decided…screw that!

    • Wow Patty! Now THAT’S the way to love yourself. I absolutely adore your ritual, it wins the prize in my book. (And may I say I’m a little envious of your outdoor hot tub?)
      I’m so glad you were able to say ‘screw that’ to being serious and just open up and enjoy the hot water and natural world that called you. Fabulous!

  4. Sarah, you force yourself to wake up 15 to 30 minutes before you feel you’ve had enough sleep? So you set an alarm? I’ve found a better way to start my day. I experimented with bedtimes until I found a time that allowed me to have the amount of sleep I need and then wake up naturally – 10.30 – 6.30. Allowing half an hour to go to sleep (I think of all the good things that came out of the day) and half an hour to wake up this gives me 7 hours a night. I love the luxury of waking up naturally, when I need to, and without the jangling of an alarm. No more dragging myself to the bathroom bleary-eyed. This gives me 1 1/2 hours to myself at the start of (almost) every day. My morning ritual consists of slowly making my breakfast, which is as good for me as I can make it, involving soaked oats, berries, nuts, seeds, yogurt etc. I really enjoy the process of putting it together and it looks so colourful and delicious. Then I eat it slowly along with a cup of Japanese sencha that I’ve brewed lovingly. I use my best china and utensils. While I’m doing this I read what I call my ‘Inspirations’. Blogs like yours that fill me with great ideas for personal development. Then I either have a quick shower if I have to go out early, or soak in the bath with oils for half an hour before getting dressed. Whatever the rest of my day holds (often not good atm, and not under my control) I know I’ve had the best breakfast possible, and really enjoyed some quality me time.

    • Hi Marian, I love your morning ritual which is so infused with self nurturing and self=love! You are treating all of your 5 senses in your preparation and enjoyment of your breakfast. Beautiful!

      I don’t always force myself to get up earlier than my body would like, but I admit I sometimes do this. And that is only because I haven’t been proactive about settling in under the covers early enough – which would be around 10 or 10:30 like you. I really, really enjoy the quiet and peaceful energy of the very early morning, so I’ll even set an alarm to give myself that time. (But it doesn’t jangle thankfully, it’s more like a gentle harp.) Since I sometimes also can get a second wind in the evening and feel like a night owl, I make up for it with power naps during the day if I feel a little shorted on the shut-eye.

      That said, I admire you deeply for listening to your body, noticing your biorhythms, and adopting a set schedule for sleep and wake up. Ultimately I believe this is more healthful – and especially if you’re in a situation where you might not get to enjoy the day’s activities as much as you’d like.
      Thanks for your inspiring comment!

  5. I’ve been thinking about this type of thing because starting in August, I’m going to have to drop my son off at school by 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and then continue on to be at work no later than 8:00. I know this sounds very normal for many people, but getting up and ready early is not something I’ve ever been good at in 51 years, which has resulted in a pattern of stressed-out mornings.

    But I have made a decision that this is going to be a positive change for us. I refuse to make every morning a hectic, stressful rush. I want our up-and-at-’em mornings to feel spacious and relaxed. No doubt that will mean going to bed earlier too.

    So I’m going to need an evening *and* morning ritual. :) I think both will involve several minutes of stretching and breathing exercises, perhaps some essential oil, and some gratitude (evening) and nature (morning). I have also made my shower a lovely ritual recently by splurging on better shampoo, scrubs, soaps, lotions, etc. so that every day can be spa day! I’ve become so girly in my middle age!

    I also do love my morning and evening commutes and consider them something of a ritual as well. I love the 20 minutes by myself to listen to music or an audiobook, maybe with a nice travel mug full of coffee, and enjoy the beautiful scenery where I live.

    You make a great point about the difference between a ritual and a routine. What makes these things rituals for me is the mindfulness and appreciation with which I do them. I hope I can keep that up even as we set the alarm for an earlier start!

    • That mindfulness and appreciation is exactly what makes the difference Sue! It sounds like you already have a head start in setting the intention for more mindful, peaceful mornings when you get into your new schedule this fall.

      Evening rituals are definitely key for a smooth and calm morning when you have to be somewhere early. I agree with the stretching, breathing, gratitude – and even with the more mundane things like setting up your clothes and supplies so that you’re not having to break the morning tranquility by pulling all that together.

      And, mmmm, what a delightful morning ritual to turn your shower into a spa!

  6. My morning ritual changes according to what I feel I need most. Sometimes I rise early to meditate or do yoga. At the moment I get up at 6 every morning and cycle on my exercise bike. It envigorates me and prolongs my energy through your the day. It also means I’m calm and in control when my kids wake and I love being a positive role model for them too.

    • Getting those endorphins flowing is a wonderful ritual to start the day Ciara. I agree that getting the heart pumping can prolong your energy during the day. Especially if you listen to your body so you don’t ‘over exercise’ (something I’ve become way more conscious of lately).

      And yes, it makes sense to have some fluidity around the morning ritual. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but can change with your needs. The key is have time set aside for SOMETHING for yourself.

  7. Hi Sarah,

    I have had a morning ritual for about three years now. Doing the most important thing for me first has made it easy to wake up each morning at 5. And yes, it has changed my life.

    My current morning ritual is to journal. I have changed the ‘most important thing’ from writing to walking or meditating.

    Despite changing the sequence of these rituals each of them remain anchors in my daily life.

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