Saturday, April 13, 2013

A 5 Step Practice for Greeting the Morning ...

Now that spring is here, the mornings are arriving at an earlier and earlier hour. How we greet these mornings can make a significant difference to the rest of our day.

Here are some ideas for a simple morning practice that will help you to start your own day well:

1.  Open your eyes, smile and breathe:

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh

In the Cherokee tradition, the element associated with
 the time of dawn and awakening is air or wind. As we rise
each morning we are reminded of our own call to awaken
to the needs around us. We inhale that first deep breath of the day
and remember that we are sustained moment by moment through
the gift of breath. The dawn is the time of promise,
when the world seems full of possibility.
We are invited to hope and new beginnings.
Christine Painter

If possible, wake yourself with gentle music. Smile as you return to consciousness and breathe some deep full breaths, in and out. (The word, inspiration comes from the Latin, spiritus, which means spirit or breath. Each moment of the day, we are in-spired with this sustaining breath or spirit.)

2.  S-t-r-e-t-c-h:

Stretching is easy to learn. But there is a right way and a wrong way
to stretch. The right way is a relaxed, sustained stretch with your 
attention focused on the muscles being stretched.
Bob Anderson

Now, take a satisfying, full-body stretch to increase the blood flow to sleep-cramped muscles then rise slowly from your bed. Stretch again by gently shaking out all the parts of your body you can comfortably shake. Then, holding your hands palms upward toward the sky, reach as high as you can for a count of ten. Then, let your arms and head hang down toward the floor. Finish with some waist twists, letting your arms swing, and then drink a glass of water to banish the dehydration of the night.

3.  Sit and give thanks:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have
into enough and more.
Melodie Beattie

Sit in a quiet spot in your home, settling into a comfortable position. You might like to light a candle to welcome the coming day. Think of at least three things for which you are thankful - the beauty of the new day, the love of a partner, a roof over your head when the rain is falling, shoes for your feet, or the chair you're sitting on. Write each one in a gratitude journal or just let the thankfulness flow through you.

4.  Meditate and/or pray

Meditation brings with it inner peace.
Mayo Clinic

Prayer makes your heart bigger.
Mother Teresa

Spend a few moments in quiet meditation and/or prayer according to your faith tradition. If you haven't a regular practice, writer and teacher, Geri Larkin, suggests the following meditation in Spirituality and Health Magazine:
With your eyes slightly open, sit on the chair with your back straight, feet flat on the ground, and hands on your lap. Take a few deep belly breaths and wish the world well - allow images of the people, places, and things to randomly flit across your thoughts, and with each image simply think, Take good care of yourself.
 You'll find that there is a slight pause after the initial rush of images. When that happens all you have to do is to breathe quietly and deeply, listening to whatever sounds are filling the space around you. If you find yourself worrying or cranky about something just tell yourself, It's okay, and go back to listening.
 This is not a time for problem solving or for mentally writing that rebuttal to a tweet that nastified you. Instead, let yourself feel how good it feels to be taken care of by the world, which has given you this chair to sit on, the beauty of the light from the candle, and the energy of the sounds around you. 
Sit like this for a few minutes, or longer if you like. 

For those of you who would like to engage in a more formal practice, mindfulness meditation and centering prayer are two of many possibilities you can explore.

5.  Read something inspirational:

Man's reading should be intensely alive. The book
should be a ball of light in one's hand.
Ezra Pound

Reading a brief passage of something inspirational can help to set you off on the right foot for even the hardest day. I try to keep a number of books by my bed, and more by my meditation chair, to dip into each morning. Among my favourites are:

1. To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O'Donohue
2.  Quiet Mind: One-Minite Retreats from a Busy World by David Kundtz
3.  Moments In Between: The Art of a Quiet Mind by David Kundtz
4.  A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller
5.  Morning Mist: Thoreau and Basho Through the Seasons by Mary Kullberg
6.  A Thousand Mornings: Poems  by Mary Oliver (And most of her other works)
7.  Listening Below the Silence: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne LeClaire
8.  Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison
9.  99 Blessings: An Invitation to Life by Br David Steindl-Rast
10. Teaching With Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach - SM Intrator, Editor 
Now, like all other practices, this one will only help your day to go well if you actually practice it! So, may I suggest giving it a try for one week and then deciding for yourself whether the difference in your experience is worth the time (under 30 minutes)?

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