Morning Routines matter.
There have been a million and one studies on what the greatest minds throughout history have done in their mornings. There is a website (which the voyeur in me loves) called My Morning Routine which profiles modern day creatives across the spectrum. Everyone varies, but certain patterns stand out to me: exercise, creative activities, time alone without distraction (often meditation).
Now this time alone without distraction I believe is the hardest thing to come by. It's because we no longer need other people around or urgent meetings to distract us. We have our phones, often right next to our beds, that awake us with glowing red numbers, calling out to us the feeling of already being behind. I used to be a wake up and start chugging away at email person. It made me feel efficient and like I was getting shit done from the first conscious breath of my day.
But then the quality of my days over time deteriorated. I was constantly seeking out the feeling of getting things done. Which lead to reactivity, to focusing on other people's requests and to urgently responding to non-urgent requests. It was things that I love the most: the feeling calm and quiet, the space for deep thinking, the room for creativity that became lost to me in this pattern.
All of which reminds me of the year I was living in Cambodia.
When I first arrived, physically and culturally jet-lagged, I awoke at 7:30. I'd rush around to get ready for work. The street would already be buzzing with motos. The construction across the street would be in full swing. The heat of the day would have already begun setting it, trapping me in a sweat that would not cease until i came home that night. It was stressful.
Though I was busy with people all day, I felt immensely lonely. And of course a good amount of that came from being halfway around the world from my family and the majority of my friends, the deepest part of it was a disconnection from myself, a lack or grounding or rootedness. A loneliness that felt like a complete separation from me and my routines and the habits that I'd honed over 23 years to bring me joy: movement outside, writing, the time alone with my brain I used to get for 20+ hours a week as a collegiate swimmer.
One of my roommates at this time was a teacher. He had to be at school at 7am and was often gone before I awoke. But he rose at 5am to take time to write and listen to music -- his two favorite past times. So I began getting up with him. We'd take turns brewing coffee and then would sit at the table on our front porch writing. The air was the coldest it would be all day and it felt delicious to wear a long sleeve shirt and socks -- to "get cozy"-- before the heat set in. We wrote together, breaking to chat or for me to ask him about the music that was playing, to get each other more coffee. It was delicious. It was spacious. It made me feel vibrant and connected and energized.
Being back in the states, I no longer had the need to avoid oppressive heat. I no longer had a job that required me dashing around on the back of a moto through the hectic Phnom Penh streets, and so I let go of those habits that had felt so necessary and joyful in Asia. In fact, it took me almost 8 years to get back these joyful, centering mornings.
It actually took one mosquito harassing me and my husband one night, my husband thrashing like a wild man until I was fully awake, to get me up early again. I needed to entertain myself quietly until my husband and neighbors awoke, so I brewed a pot of coffee and sat down to meditate in the dark, completing my practice as it completed it's brew. I sat down to my morning pages (750words.com) and just wrote like I used to in my journals.
That alone was enough to ground me throughout the day.
Meditation. Writing. Coffee. Three simple, joyful, accomplishable items. Whenever I've attempted more ambitious routines (practice a new foreign language for 30 minutes!) I inevitably fail at eventually. So my goal is to keep it simple. Light. Joyful. To make it be the time I look forward to as soon as my eyes flutter open (from my alarm clock buzz:).
The point is this. Life is happening. Now. Each day. You get to choose how you feel right now. You get to choose your experience.
The best way I know to set up my experience as one of creating, enjoying, relaxing is start off with my morning routine.
How do you spend your mornings? Are you an early bird or a night owl? What time do you wake up? What's been the best morning habit you've adopted?
Resources: My Morning Routine