In The Power of Myth, the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell said, “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning. You don’t know who your friends are. You don’t know what you owe anybody. You don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
This is what the morning ritual is about. It’s a time and space of “creative incubation.” It’s the place where you come back to day after day to look into the mirror, to see not just the lines that are accruing on your face, but to see the beautiful wisdom that wants to and needs to emerge through you. It’s a time where we don’t need to understand or make sense in conventional terms, but simply to be connected to the essence of life.
Morning rituals are times when we spend 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour or whatever time you need to connect with yourself, to connect to spirit or whatever term you want to call the great mystery. The heart of all ritual is about connecting. It's about establishing a relationship to ourselves and our emotions, and also about letting go in an unadulterated way to the creative urges that are moving through us. It’s not about getting caught in doing it right or following someone else’s prescribed ritual to a tee. One day, you might wake up and want to do some yoga postures. Another day, you may just want to read poetry or write in your journal. Maybe it’s just about sitting with your sadness or lying down with your exhaustion. The important thing is that you meet the experience in a flexible and adaptable way such that you find your inner connection.
Some people do not do morning rituals because they say that they do not have time, but all that is needed is 15 minutes. We can all surrender 15 minutes of our sleep time for this period. And even though we may have time in the morning, we often feel too distracted. We want to check our emails, or the Facebook feed, anything but go to the mat or pillow. One trick I often teach my clients is to roll their yoga mats out or set up their meditation cushions right next to their beds. That way, when they wake in the morning they stand up and get immediately on their yoga mat or sit down on your meditation cushion.
Below are some possible items that may fit nicely into a morning ritual of your choosing. These are meant simply as suggestions and are not intended in any way shape or form to be performed in a fixed way or in chronological fashion. Take what works. Remove what doesn’t. These are just rough guidelines for you to use as a tool.
- Start with an invocation. An example might be a loving kindness meditation The one below comes from the vipassana tradition as taught by S.N. Goenka:May I be filled with peace.May I be filled with harmony
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be healthy and safe.
May all beings share in my peace.
May all beings share my harmony.
May all beings share my loving kindness.
May all beings share my goodwill.
May all beings near and far, seen and unseen, human and non-human, sentient and non-sentient be happy.
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be free of suffering and ill-will.
I forgive all those who might have hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously, by their deeds of body, speech, or mind.
I seek pardon from all those whom I might have hurt or harmed, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, by my deeds of body, speech, or mind. All are my friends. None is my enemy . All are my friends. None is my enemy.
May all share my peace.
May all share my harmony.
May all beings be happy, be peaceful, be happy, be happy
- Extend your gratitude. One of my teachers, Angeles Arrien says, “Begin and end the day with gratitude. When the heart is open, anything is possible. Gratitude extends curiosity. We want our curiosity to be greater than our criticality.” You might express a prayer of gratitude that is your very own, or you may use one that you’ve learned. Or you can take up a gratefulness practice. Check out Brother David Steindl-Rast’s Gratefulness.org (http://www.gratefulness.org/p/)
- Take action that lifts your spirit? Examples might be an anonymous act of kindness, something that might surprise and delight someone. Maybe it is doing some yoga postures, some breath work, and/or some seated, lying, or standing meditation. Maybe it is about drinking coffee or tea with a loved one while reading poetry.
- Set intentions by asking yourself, “What is the value that would support my well-being today? What would comfort or strengthen me?” Examples include: trust, humor, flexibility, compassion, or humility. Wait and watch for that to be revealed to you. And then imagine placing that value above you, below you, to your left, your right, inside of you, outside of you, and all around you.
- Call on your allies: your teachers; your ancestors; your favorite animals, birds, flowers, or trees for their guidance: “Oh ancestor, please live through me today to support the common good for all humanity and for the betterment of all our relations.”
- Remind yourself of certain proverbs, sayings, poems or stories your teachers have taught you. A reminder I often love coming back to lately is from Angeles: “Anything that is at my gate, I can handle; otherwise, it wouldn't be there.” Others might be: "This too shall pass" or the old Beatles line, "All you need is love." You might read a story from a spiritual tradition that resonates with you.
- Finally, consider a pattern of behavior that you want to let go of today. Examples might include negative self-talk, pessimism, or gossiping.