"'Hardest of all is to practice the Way at home, second in the crowd, and third in the pagoda.' It is only in an active and demanding situation that mindfulness really becomes a challenge!"
- Thich Nhat Hanh
This week is "starting fresh" week on the Buddhaimonia blog and podcast, and with it come a few things you can use to start fresh not just in the New Year, but in any moment of your life.
Every moment is an opportunity to start fresh, to become fully awake to our lives in the present moment and let go of the past. In fact, to become fully awake to the present moment with mindfulness is itself to let go of the past.
In every moment that we're mindful, we've decided to live our lives most fully and have chosen freedom instead of the chains of the past. And this doesn't have to be something specific like a relationship or difficult challenge, it can be anything.
But that can be easier said than done when we have so many responsibilities. And if it's not responsibilities getting us, it's just plain forgetfulness with all the potential distractions that exist around us in each moment.
One of the most beautiful and powerful tools I've found for helping me live with more mindfulness has been my morning routine. And indeed, I'm not alone in seeing the power of the early morning, as morning routines and early rising, in general, have become an entire topic on their own in the past several years.
The morning is a special time for us to be with ourselves, reflect within ourselves, and simply be present to the peaceful silence of the morning.
I've talked before about being an early riser, morning routines, and morning rituals. I do indeed take my morning routine seriously and find it a very important part of my day (I wake up at 3 A.M. daily), but everyone is different. So know that when I talk about morning routines and creating a mindful morning, I don't mean anything specific except for waking up in the morning and being fully present for a few simple activities to start your day off on the right foot.
You don't have to wake up super early or do anything specific, you could simply decide to wake up 30 minutes earlier and what you do in those 30 minutes would be your mindful morning routine.
Whatever you do, do it with mindfulness, fully present for the peace and quiet of the morning and find solace in the silence. Silence can be a very nourishing and empowering experience.
How to Create a Mindful Morning Routine That Nourishes Your Mind and Jump Starts Your Life
So, where do we start? How do we begin to take advantage of the power of the early morning to help us live a more mindful and deeply nourishing life? Here are 4 steps to creating a mindful morning routine:
1. Get enough quality sleep (have a nourishing nightly ritual)
First thing's first- before anything you need to decide on a time to wake up and have your sleep schedule down pat. Even if you're just waking up a few minutes earlier than normal, without proper planning it not only won't work out but you'll be lacking sleep in the process, and that will affect the entire rest of your day.
Before you can wake up early, you need to make sure you're getting good sleep and have a regular set bedtime and nightly ritual. Without these things in place, your morning routine goes from being nourishing to just being a headache and totally unsustainable. You're falling asleep more than you're mindful and that just defeats the purpose.
In ZfEL podcast episode #4: How to Design a Nightly Ritual That Nourishes the Mind and Brings Rest to the Body, I talked about designing a nightly ritual, or routine, that helps you improve the quality of your sleep, nourish your mind, and deepen your mindfulness practice in the process.
This nightly routine is exactly what you need to help support your mindful morning routine, so I'd check out ZfEL episode #4 and begin by creating your nourishing nightly ritual.
2. Wake up (at least a little) earlier
This one might sound obvious, but it's the most difficult point on this list to do and something I'd be doing you a disservice by passing over, especially since I have a complete guide to helping you become an early riser.
Again, remember that this doesn't have to be anything crazy. Just because I wake up at 3 doesn't mean it's what you should do. I don't do it just because, I do it because of the circumstances of my life (3 crazy kiddos) and everyone's circumstances are different. So decide what time you'd like to shoot for and work on it in 30-minute increments.
I moved down in 30-minute increments personally, only adding another 30 minutes on every couple of months, so it can be a slow and very long-term process depending on your goal.
It actually took me some 2 years to go from 7:30 to 4, so don't think you're messing up if you're having a hard time all of a sudden waking up an hour earlier, I never tried to do such an intense jump.
In about 2 months I'll be releasing a new (short) eBook on creating a mindful morning routine from start to finish and it will include a brand new and updated version of my How to Become an Early Riser guide.
Until then, check out the original: How to Become an Early Riser: The 12 Techniques I Used to Go from Being a Night Owl to Waking up at 4 AM Daily.
This guide includes literally everything I used to go from staying up until 1-2 A.M. on most days to waking up at 4 A.M. Lots of great information and really everything you need to begin waking up a little earlier each day.
3. Decide on your morning rituals
So, how do we decide what's a part of our mindful morning routine?
A morning routine is really just a collection of activities, usually referred to as morning rituals, and they can be anything from meditation to arts and crafts to your daily work. Anything can be done with mindfulness, so really anything can be included here. But there are certain things we're shooting for.
As I mentioned, it's best to keep it simple here as anything overly complicated will be difficult to stick to. When it comes down to it, it should just be 2-4 simple activities you do each day, preferably activities that promote mindfulness (anything can be done mindfully as I mentioned, but some activities lend themselves to greater mindfulness).
What kinds of activities are those? In my article, 7 Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life, I talked about 7 different morning rituals which I did or thoroughly tested in the past. Many of those I still do daily, although not necessarily in the morning. Here are some examples:
- Drink tea (or coffee) mindfully
- Keep a journal
- Mindful walking or running outside
- Do something creative (write, draw, paint, create)
- Create something / Passion project
For more examples, read 7 Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life.
Remember, the main idea to keep in mind is the question, "what do I want to accomplish with my morning routine?" A mindful morning routine is about nourishing the mind and finding a quiet moment of peace through the practice of mindfulness. But of course, there's many ways to do this and a productive morning routine can bring many other benefits as well.
Know what you want and decide what you'll do with your mindful morning routine based on that.
4. Be mindful - Give your best effort
So, you've planned out your morning, gotten your nightly routine down and begun improving the quality of your sleep, and have started waking up earlier.
The only thing left is to give your best effort to sticking with your morning routine, which will no doubt take a bit of work at first, and make the effort to be mindful during this special time in your morning. That's the main idea here, to be mindful throughout this entire time you have in the morning to yourself.
If you're waking up 30 minutes early and you've decided to sit and meditate for 15 minutes and then walk mindfully outside for another 15, then you're goal is to be mindful in every moment from the moment you wake up to the moment your routine ends and you have to get ready for the day.
Of course, you're making your best effort here. Being mindful for 30 minutes straight will feel impossible, but you're just giving your best effort. A morning routine done mostly mindfully is hugely beneficial and not to be underestimated in the scope of the rest of your life.
A mindful morning routine such as this has far-reaching effects. It literally will help you jump-start your day, each and every day, and as a result- your entire life.
A few tips for making the most of your mindful morning routine:
- Move slowly- It's a misconception that you have to do something slowly to do it in mindfulness, but that's mostly because slow + mindful is a very nourishing combination. I'd suggest that whatever you do (for the most part) you do it slowly, paying close attention to each and every little action. Work, if you choose to do some of that in the morning, is an obvious example of something you wouldn't do more slowly so there are exceptions.
- Appreciate the silence- You could always appreciate some good music in the morning, but my suggestion would be to bask in the silence. Silence is a very nourishing experience and no time is better for that then in the morning. And silence is another great complement to mindfulness practice.
- Change it up- You don't literally have to do the same thing each and every morning. From time to time I've experimented with many different morning rituals, if for no reason other than to try them out. This can really help keep things fresh and that makes it easier for you to stay in mindfulness.
Remember that this time you have in the morning is your time to start fresh. Each and every morning is a moment, an opportunity, to start fresh and begin anew.
No matter what happened the previous day, month, or year you can put your best foot forward and walk mindfully, live mindfully, fully awake to the beauty of the present moment.
Depending on what you'd like to do with your own mindful morning routine, your morning will differ. Here are a few resources to help you get started with some of my favorite mindful morning rituals:
- Meditation - How to Meditate for Beginners
- Mindful walking (outside or inside, really can do either but outside is amazing in the morning) - The Beginners Guide to Walking Meditation
- Tea meditation (substitute your drink of choice, this can be done with anything) - How to Find Peace and De-Stress with a Simple Tea Meditation
- Other morning rituals - 7 Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life
Mindful morning mantra
To close, here's mindful morning mantra for starting fresh each day and making the most of your mindful morning routine:
As I open my eyes,
I awaken to the beauty and freshness of this moment,
A whole new 24-hours has been given to me,
I will live it mindfully,
Appreciating deeply every moment of it.
Keep an eye out...
This week's podcast episodes are How to Make a Fresh Start in Every Moment with Mindfulness and the guided meditation for this week is Mindful Refresh: A Guided Morning Meditation. If you liked this article, be sure to check them out: