I was always one of those people who never had enough time in the day, constantly rushing, focusing on being productive.
I thought taking time to meditate was a waste. Why would I want to sit still when I could be crossing off more things on my to-do list? I practiced the physical limb of yoga every day—the asana—but neglected the practice of meditation—the dhyana.
Six months ago, after herniating two discs and developing horrible nerve pain, I finally decided to listen to my body’s message to slow down. Since I wasn’t able to do my physical practice each day, I started to meditate.
It started with five minutes of sitting still in the afternoon. I’d sit on a pillow in front of my window with the sunlight streaming in, and I’d usually end up nodding off, since it was the first time I’d slowed down all day. Either that, or my mind chatter would be so loud that I just became frustrated.
I’ve never been a 6-a.m.-jump-out-of-bed kind of person. I always wanted to linger under the comfort of my blankets and take just a bit more time to luxuriate in that feeling of a new day beginning. I would stay in my warm, comfy bed just a bit too long.
After hitting the snooze button four or five times, I’d drag myself out, thinking things like, “I didn’t get enough sleep” and, “Why am I always so tired?” Complaining about one thing or another, I’d head straight for the kitchen to get a coffee. Then I’d rush around the house trying to get myself together, always running a little late, never feeling like I’d had enough time. I’d jump in my car to rush to teach my first class of the day, coffee in hand and my stress level already at a six or seven.
I started to have trouble sleeping because of my nerve pain. I found myself waking up at 6 a.m. or earlier, unable to go back to sleep. That’s when I decided to try meditating in the morning, while still in bed.
That’s when I began the morning ritual that has become sacred to me. This is how I begin my day now:
It’s not quite 6 a.m., and my alarm goes off.
The sound of soft bells chime gently to bring in the dawn. I turn it off and reach for a candle and a box of matches on my bedside table. Striking a match, I hear a whoosh and feel the heat against my fingertips. I light the candle, and it casts my bedroom in a warm golden glow.
I sit up in bed, get comfortable against my pillows, and reach for a small bottle of oil on my table. I open it and place a few drops in my hands and on my temples, the smell of rose, lemon, bergamot, rosemary, clove, frankincense and mandarin filling the air. I rub my hands together and place them over my nose, inhaling deeply.
I feel transported to an exotic place, shadows flickering on my walls and the spicy scent of tropical gardens, wildflowers and forgotten times perfuming the air.
I close my eyes again, bring both hands over my heart and say, “I love you. I’m listening,” and I begin meditating.
I start by simply focusing on my breath, letting that take me deeper into my body—the feelings, sensations, space and stillness I find there. Instead of filling up, I use this time to create even more space, find emptiness, and feel stillness and presence.
Thirty minutes later, feeling relaxed and aware, I bow my head, kiss my fingertips, and open my eyes.
And so my day begins.
When I’ve finished meditating, I turn on my bedside lamp. My cat jumps up on the bed, already purring and ready to snuggle, and I reach for my spiral bound notebook and begin to write. I am still in that “in between worlds place,” not asleep, yet not fully awake. My body and thoughts are calm and focused.
I begin to write whatever comes to mind. I honor this time to notice how I’m feeling, still lingering in that dreamlike state. The words spill out onto the pages, making a dance of their own, creating and cleansing, setting intentions and letting go of everything all at once.
When I’m done writing, I wander into the kitchen and make a cup of tea. I glance at the clock and it’s only seven o’clock.
How is that possible? I have so much time! I still have an hour until I need to leave.
I found an extra two hours each day through my morning ritual—and so can you. I truly believe it will make a difference in your mornings, your days, and your life.
Here are five ways that my sacred early morning ritual has improved my life:
1. I feel calmer and more grounded.
I wake up rested and excited for my day. I honor that time between my two worlds, not thrusting myself into action mode as soon as I wake up. I calm my body and my mind by focusing on gratitude, sitting with my breath, being in my body, and feeling instead of thinking my way into wakefulness. The act of beginning my day in a state of feeling, instead of thinking, sets the tone for my entire day. I am much less stressed, too.
2. I have developed so much more inner peace, and feel more connected with myself.
By taking this time every morning, I gently show that I honor, I love, and listen to myself. I find that I am much calmer, have an easier time staying focused, and find more joy in the little things. I know that, throughout my day, I can always slow down to place my hands over my heart and again say, “I love you. I’m listening.” My new morning ritual is precious; it has made the beginning of my day a sacred time.
3. I find myself more present and mindful the entire day.
Once I started practicing my morning ritual, I found myself taking other short moments throughout the day to close my eyes and re-center myself with my breath. Sometimes I do a five-minute guided meditation, sometimes I listen to the sound of ohms, chimes or music, and sometimes I just pay attention to the sound and feel of my breath. That in itself makes me softer, kinder, and more compassionate to myself and others.
4. It’s a source of inspiration that allows me to tap into my creativity and listen to my intuition.
I find that I now do some of my best writing in this quiet, calm time. I am more centered and can truly tap into my creativity and pure ideas. I write without the distraction of all the thoughts in my head pushing their way in, telling me what I have to get done. And throughout the day, when I’m faced with decisions big or small, I find it easier to stop for a second and feel my way to the decision, listening to my intuition instead of my stories.
5. I get to stay in bed, snuggle with my cat, write stories and poems, and do what I love.
I love to be in my body and out of my head, and I love to work on myself. I now have the opportunity to practice self-care in a different way.
And here’s the best thing: I started to see a difference after less than a week of this morning practice. Almost immediately, I started going to bed a little earlier, sleeping better, being less hard on myself, and letting go of my need for perfection.
I now consciously take more time to slow down throughout the day, and I’ve started to create more rituals in my day to make more parts of my life sacred.
Try it for a day or two—or more. It might just turn into your sacred morning ritual, too.
By Melissa Snow