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morning rituals.

I like the concept of rituals versus routines.

The official definition of a ritual according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

ritual

 noun

: a formal ceremony or series of acts that is always performed in the same way

: an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time

…and if you read further down, you also get this medical definition:

: any act or practice regularly repeated in a set precise manner for relief of anxiety <obsessive-compulsive rituals>

rou·tine

noun \rü-ˈtēn\

: a regular way of doing things in a particular order

: a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way

: a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance

I do need a degree of order in my life even though I am on this mission to live through my senses this summer.  And as I began establishing a new morning routine, I realized that “routine” wasn’t the right word.  I was looking to create a “ritual” for myself – a ceremonial and sacred way to start my day in keeping with living each moment of my day fully alive.  With a routine, one can become automatic and unconscious quite easily: wake up, wash face, change clothes, make breakfast…  It is exactly its definition: “a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way.”

If each day was going to be a heightened sensory experience, shouldn’t I start it as soon as I wake up?  How should I greet the day?  I mean, really greet it?  How do I start each day feeling like the return of daylight and waking up to it is a blessing in and of itself making the day that comes equally as special?  How do I make it a daily personal wake-up call not just to the morning but to life, to gratitude, and to love?

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(View from my back deck.)

Sounds lofty, doesn’t it?  For goodness sakes, it’s just the morning – wake up and get up and continue about your day full of lists and schedules.  The earth turning towards the sun to signal morning in our hemisphere is a fact of life.  We count our days on earth by this process and depending on your age, you have awakened to this grand shift to light every day since you were born (although there were days that I slept the day away in my youth in a dark basement bedroom).  We wake up most days taking this for granted and go on with our days that often seem never-ending because we get lost in routine.

Many ancient civilizations and peoples celebrated the dawn and the return of the sun with festivals and religious ceremonies.  Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra who, at sunrise, was Khepera.  Khepera means “to become” often depicted with a beetle on his head.

Khepera is the dawn embodied, a god who rolls the sun across the sky much as the dung beetle rolls a ball of dung, pushing the ball into a hole and laying her eggs there so that her emerging larvae can feast. Long ago, Egyptians noticed the hatchlings geysering up from the earth, heaving themselves into existence, and decreed Khepera a god with a gift of self-invention and rebirth.

– Diane Ackerman, Dawn Light

Self-invention and rebirth.  A new opportunity each day to re-do, re-try, re-commit, re-invent, and to be re-born.  Each and every single day.  I want to start with that intention as soon as my eyes pop open with actions that make the beginning of my day a ritual in celebrating the re-turn of light.

For the past week, I am trying this new morning ritual to start my day:

1. Wake up before the children and greet the day.  This was easier in the winter and I haven’t made much of an effort to do so this summer.  Upon waking, I say hello to the blue/grey/cloudy sky and I take a moment to sit in the light of dawn/daybreak for a few minutes – absorbing the light.

2. Read a chapter from this book:

She writes about the dawn with easy bite-sized chapters weaving stories from nature, other cultures, biographical stories and her own reflections on the morning.  It really is a perfect way to start the day.  For example, I read all about Monet today and his morning painting rituals:
Monet simply proclaimed, and adored, what we all experience from moment to moment: the wash of sensations that greet us on waking, and which we try, at our cost, to dismiss as wasteful, self-indulgent, unproductive, or by some other term designed to separate us from our true self.
3. Write my morning pages.  This is highly recommended by Julia Cameron in both her books, The Artist’s Way and The Artist’s Way for Parents.  It’s PRIVATE and it’s a way to clarify what’s living inside your head including your fears, frustrations, and struggles you are going through.  Three pages a day.  No overthinking allowed.  Just a complete brain dump.  After I’m done, I close the journal and move on.  After doing this for only a week, I am noticing patterns and questions I put on paper at the beginning of the week are working themselves out in the journal as I keep writing.  There is a clarity I am finding that I am able to discover through this process.
4. Write.  And now is the time for directed writing.  I jot down notes or add to articles I am writing or brainstorm blog post ideas and do a rough outline of what I want to say.  Sometimes I blog and save it in the drafts to work on or I post immediately like today and yesterday.
5. Train.  My training days have been whittled down to 4 days a week for this current 6-week program.  The program prior to this one was intense.  It was for 4 weeks and I was training 6 days/week for about 35-40 minutes.  But I needed it.  Not because of weight loss or even because I needed to increase my strength.  My mind needed it.  I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and tired all the time.  I knew I had to ramp up my training schedule to combat this oncoming storm.  Ever-Patient was going to be away for a week and in that week, we had a busy schedule and I would be on double shifts.  Anxiety was mounting weeks before he had even left.  We decided together that we would try this program and I say ‘we’ because he designs them for me taking into account my mental and physical state.  This time I really had to convince him that I was up for the challenge.  I was about to push my body harder than I had in a long time but I knew that this would help me “get out of my head.”  When I train intensely, I am focusing my entire body on the execution of the skill I am performing.  It’s like a form of meditation.  If I lose tension in my body due to lack of concentration, I will injure myself.  It’s that simple.  Maintaining focus for 35-40 minutes was difficult at first and I really had to place all my mental efforts into each and every second.  It worked.  After the first week, I felt much better mentally.  My energy levels were through the roof and I was smiling first thing in the morning, bouncing down the stairs which startled everyone because I am NOT a morning person.  Even the “dreaded week of rage” came and went without much fuss that month.  I worked out on the back deck so the kids could have the run of the house.  When they saw the change in my mood and my patience levels, they were willing to give me that extra time to train.  Extending my training time, I wasn’t sure if it would fly with the kids.  But they were fine and they ended up cooking their own breakfasts instead of waiting for me to finish.

Now I am finishing up Week 4 in this program and I do love the return to 15 minute sessions but I have to admit that the burst of energy I get is not the same as the previous program.  This is an easy strength program and I feel good afterwards and my mood and patience is still positively affected.  I just know that pushing my body to safe but uncomfortable limits make me feel great and when I have an off day for training, I make sure that I counter that with some type of physical activity outside like playing soccer with the kids or going for a bike ride.

My morning ritual ceremonial items: My morning read, two journals – one for morning pages and the other for directed writing, books that help me create, and my two kettlebells which the kids have named “Cloudy” and “Blue” :

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And the two things I drink first thing in the morning – 1. Water with lemon, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, sea salt and 2. Coffee (Of course.)..always in a mason jar and my mug:

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If I can get these 5 things done in the morning, ending at whatever time I end at, I am calmer and more patient throughout the day.  I move a little bit more deliberately and can choosing gentle words become easier as the days progress.  Being present in my morning ritual also sets the tone for the rest of the day.  I am more open to spontaneity and embracing the unexpected.  I also don’t remain in negative spaces for long periods of time especially when the kids are having a rough time.  I have a newly found optimism for the day.  Not for all the days to come, just today.

This 2-hour ritual may seem self-indulgent and it is.  It really is.  I am indulging in my life.  I am fully taking pleasure in this one life I have.  And I want the kids to do that too.  There can be a balance of needs for the rest of the day, a balance of work and play, but the early morning is mine.  All mine.  I can have an evening ritual with the kids and Ever-Patient, touching base before the end of the day, saying brief farewells until the morning, giving all reassuring kisses – a send-off to dreamland.

But that dawn is mine.  There is a comfort to know that I can have this intimate moment with myself and the first light of day – a chance to become “en-lightened” over and over again.

Alive moments can be anytime, anywhere.  If I closely watch any natural wonder, really watch it, nonjudgmentally, in the present moment, noting its nuances, how it looks in changing light, or on different days, yet remains recognizably the same, then the world becomes dearer and less trying, and priorities rearrange themselves with an almost audible clicking. – Diane Ackerman, Dawn Light

Try devising a morning ritual for yourself that delights your senses as you greet the day.  Can you hear that “audible clicking” of priorities re-shuffling themselves?  Does the world look a little brighter?

 

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Princessperez July 18, 2014, 11:07 am

    I think I’m going to change me morning routine into a ritual too:)
    Sounds much more as a want than a should (huh?!)~you know what I mean!
    I too prefer exercising in the morning and start my day with water and lemon, and coffee ofcourse! Interested about the apple cider vinegar and baking soda! I do chug apple vinegar when I’m having a gall stone attack…what benefits do you drink it for?

    • rozanne July 19, 2014, 9:44 am

      I am loving the word ritual – bringing something sacred into the ordinary things we take for granted. Even with babies that wake you up before dawn, a mom can take a moment to start the day by taking a whiff of an essential oil or playing soothing music. Any little thing that you feel celebrates morning would be so wonderful to wake up to than just the normal rigours of a wake-up routine.

      As for my little morning tonic…
      This helps alkalize our body first in the morning since most of things we eat are acidic and even the air we breathe contains a bit of acid, especially living in an urban area. (Outside of the body, lemon juice is acidic. But inside the body, after it’s been metabolized, it’s effect is alkalizing and raises body level’s pH.)The sea salt helps us absorb the water into our body to rehydrate after a night’s sleep. For the past few years, I have had issues with my pancreas and since drinking this daily, my bouts of pancreatitis have decreased – purely anecdotal evidence but I feel much better so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing 🙂

  • Jane July 19, 2014, 6:39 am

    Good morning Rozanne. I saw this post and saved it for this morning to read during my morning ritual. Although I get get caught up with reading emails, Facebook and the morning newspaper I like the quiet and stillness of the morning just for me.
    I sit and have my coffee and read for an hour (although I am inspired by your post to find reading and journal writing that nurtures me) and then on most days my exercise program. Followed by preparing my breakfast, packing my lunch then get ready for work.
    That two hours is important to set me up for the day. Getting up at 5:00 most days to have that time is important although I am an terrible sleeper and often wonder if getting an extra hour of sleep would be better for me.
    I remember my mother working late on her art after we all (4 kids) would go to bed, but each morning I would wake to her sitting on the floor in the kitchen by the heat radiator in the winter, with her coffee quietly contemplating her day. She would always say this was her favourite time of the day, the quiet of the morning. The quiet before the storm!
    She also loved the book ‘The Artists Way’, and I believe her copy is in the Pegasus Art Room. I am going to spend some of my morning ritual reading and journaling -which I find extremely difficult, inspired by the books you mentioned.
    Book store on my weekend list to do – thanks again Rozanne for inspiring me with your writing!

    • rozanne July 19, 2014, 9:57 am

      Thanks for sharing Jane! The “morning pages” journal writing is the best way to get into writing. The fact that Julia Cameron describes it as a stream of thought put onto paper is perfect. I just write whatever comes into my mind without censor or judgement even to say: “this is so hard, I have nothing to write today.” The great part is in the ritual of it and the fact that it is for my eyes only – I’m pretty sure that I will be burning it after I fill it. Julia says that we shouldn’t even read what we wrote before. It should be a safe place in every way.

      This summer, as the kids roll out of bed, they often find me in quiet contemplations – either reading, writing or on this blog – with a coffee in my hand too. I wonder if they will have the same memories you did of your mother. They wait for me to sing our morning verse together: Morning has come. Night is away. Arise with the sun. And welcome the day. This signals that Mama is ready to be with them.

      I’ve been meaning to read and do The Artist’s Way but haven’t been ready until now. I hope to work through it over the next few months on my own and do the parent/child version as a family. Living creatively in any capacity is part of our family mission statement and sometimes even creativity takes a bit of dedicated discipline and habit. I’m excited to finally start it – it’s been on my personal to-do list for the last 15 years!

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