I am often asked about my writing practice and whether I have a certain routine. The answer is yes, I am, for the most part, a morning writer. What I don’t really talk about, however, are the steps I must take before sitting down at my desk. About six or seven years ago I incorporated morning ritual into my life, intentional actions beyond brushing my teeth and washing my face and getting dressed that have fueled not just my writing but my life.
During this time of self-isolation while anxiety and fear seem to hover like a dark cloud, my morning ritual has become even more sacred. Expressing control over the day’s beginning sets me on the most positive trajectory possible. The quiet of early morning is also very beautiful and taking it for myself is a wonderful act of self-love.
Even under normal circumstances my morning ritual provided a mindful entry into creative work. On days when I have a busy schedule, the ritual brings me back to calm clarity and away from media distractions.
Since many are now working from home, possibly craving a more deliberate delineation between “self” and “work” mode, I’d like to suggest morning ritual as a way to transition. If you have pets or children who make early demands, getting up before them is an option, as is making a deal with a partner to cover for you. The best option will be training your children and your pets to be patient, but that will take time.
There are days when I need to be flexible and do a condensed version, but I set out my complete morning ritual below. You will see that it is meant to not just boot up the mind, but the body and spirit as well.
- Peaceful Warrior routine on a yoga mat. I learned this from Dan Millman, Author of “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” in a class he gave on Mastery at Kripalu about 6 years ago. In the video I’ve attached it takes 5 minutes, but I’ve seen Dan do it 3, or it can be extended to a 15 minute routine.
- A few more for good measure — I add about 5 more minutes of floor exercises prescribed by a physical therapist to combat some of my chronic sports injuries. Use this time for any additional stretches or movements you like, but do them in a specific order, so that you create a true ritual. All you need to do is focus on your breath.
3. Go upside down — I invert for several minutes on a yogi stool which settles the weight in my shoulders and off my head and neck. The reversal of gravity on my spine and oxygen to my brain are two benefits. I also tuck my knees into my abdomen for a few upside down crunches.
4. Meditation — I go right from the inversion to sitting on a bolster. I rub essential oils into the soles of my feet, light a candle and then begin. Ten minutes is my sweet spot.
5. At the end of my meditation, I say a prayer, and read the day’s affirmation in “Journey to the Heart” by Melody Beattie before blowing out the candle and standing up.
6. Transition off the mat…. Note — it is not uncommon for random ideas to come out of the blue to me at this point. They often relate to old friends I should be in touch with or ideas for my writing. I am grateful for this guidance and jot them down for later. I like to act upon this intuition as a high priority in order to encourage the universe to keep it coming.
7. I drink a tablespoon of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar mixed in 1 liter of water while walking the dog.
8. I blend a green smoothie consisting of: kale, cucumber, fruit (usually frozen mango), ginger, protein powder, fiber blend, fish oil, aloe vera juice, and coconut water.
9. I drink my smoothie while writing “Morning Pages” per Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” My journaling is sometimes nothing more than a unloading of all the crap that is bothering me. Don’t feel like writing in a journal has to be an artistic endeavor — it might be, but I think of it as an extension of the meditation, a way of clearing even more of the “to-do’s” from my brain. I write 3 pages, long hand, in a spiral notebook, delighting in the flow of school-girl cursive. Pen on paper is an important part of this practice.
10. Pour a cup of coffee and get to work!
It’s a curated ritual which I developed over the years. I’ve experimented with different things, but these are the ones that have stuck. I couldn’t have spent this much time on a morning ritual when my kids were young and all I could do was get them fed and off to school, BUT even then I could have snuck in a 5 minute peaceful warrior, or a 5 minute meditation. Sure, there have been mornings when I watch myself go through the motions and wonder why? But then there are so many more mornings (especially this month) when I have thanked GOD I have a prescription for how to get started when my feet hit the floor.
I’d love to hear what works for you.