morning routine

Morning Routine

First, a series of questions

Do you have a morning routine? Don’t be so quick to say no if you don’t have an elaborate ritual you move through each and every day. Chances are you brush your teeth and feed your dog, or look at the news, or make your bed, or do something consistent most days. What is it?  

Next question: is your morning routine intentional? Do you feel like it’s something you decided and consistently choose to do? Do you feel like you have at least a moment to level-set with yourself before your day is up and running?  

Wanting to and not doing it

It took me years to get into a consistent morning routine. For three years I wanted to meditate every day, and it just never took. Partially because I wake up tired. I am not a morning person. I’m groggy for at least an hour after I get out of bed. Being friendly to other people is an absolute struggle. I’d much rather anyone near me pretend they can’t see me. Turns out I just needed to dedicate that groggy, unfriendly time to my practice instead of stumbling into a kitchen grunting, reaching for coffee.  

It was a conundrum how I could so badly want to get up and meditate every day and fail to do it time and again. Really, I annoyed myself. What is so hard about setting five minutes aside in the morning to sit and breathe? I ask that knowing that if you have ever thought to do the same, you probably know what’s so hard about it. Not that any explanation really feels like a sufficient excuse, but honestly, it’s just hard until it isn’t anymore. Until you just do it (Nike had it all figured out).  

Making it happen

My shift came with a watercolor painting I made one day, pictured above. I taped it to the wall where I could see it from bed and the next day I got up and meditated. And the day after that, and the day after that, for four and a half years now. I wish I could tell you the secret sauce, or say something less patronizing than “you just have to do it,” but I got nothin’. 

Hating it terribly

What I can say is that most days in the beginning I really didn’t want to do it and I did it anyway. I hated it, to tell you the truth.

I felt like both an obstinate teen refusing to get up for school and a persistent, stern mother who gave no other option. You’re going to get up and do it, I don’t care whether or not you want to. It’s not about wanting to. You have no choice. Do it. I’d pout and drag my feet to my little corner, sit, set a 5 minute timer and the whole time I’d hate it.

It took a long time to stop hating it and slip into the smoother feeling of resentment towards it. Over more time it became as routine as brushing my teeth. Later still, I came to recognize what I was getting out of it. I needed it. I need it. I will always need it.  

Loving it thoroughly

The five minutes I spent begrudgingly meditating for that first six months has morphed into a 10-40 minute movement practice (called lovingly in my house “rolling around on the floor for 20 minutes”) and a 15 minute meditation. Most days now I want to do it. Some days I still flirt with the idea of skipping, but it’s now just a passing thought and nothing I’d seriously consider.

I’m flexible with myself, though. Occasionally I skip the movement practice and go straight to meditation. If I wake up late, I might only meditate for 10 minutes. If my body hurts, I lay down and mediate in savasana. Seriously, laying flat on the floor for 10 minutes does wonders for aches and pains before the day begins.

What my morning routine means to me

My morning practice is a time when I touch base with my feelings for the day. Because I sometimes have general anxiety or depression, especially as my hormones fluctuate, in my meditation I have the opportunity to notice what I’m working with for the day ahead.

It’s helpful, because without checking in I might just blame the first person in my path for “making me” anxious or upset. That wouldn’t be true. I woke up that way, it’s no one’s fault. It just is what it is and I know I need to take more mindful care of myself and my emotions on the harder days. Without my practice, I wouldn’t necessarily know I was having a harder day in the first place. It’s part of how I’ve learned to better respect myself. 

Getting started

I tell you all this so those of you without a morning routine but with the desire to get one hear that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

I don’t think it’s true for everyone, but I really did have to “get through” the initial stages. As with anything new for me, it sucked at the beginning and I felt kind of crappy about it. (I’m working on this attitude, new things are also fun!)

What you’ll get out of it

Getting over the hump is worth it. The time for yourself first thing is precious, even just a few minutes being mindful between brushing your teeth and making your tea if that’s all you can carve out. It helps the day feel attainable, not like the whole thing is one step ahead and you’re rushing to catch up.

Longer term, cultivating daily dedication is a good way to experience and prove to yourself that you can, in fact, do the things you say you want to do in life day by day, a little bit at a time.