My mornings used to be simple. I got up. I took a shower. I got dressed. I ate breakfast. I went to work.
Then I quit my job and started reading lots of self help and personal development books and watching TED Talks and meeting lots of interesting people.
That's how I ended up with my first morning practice. Through an interesting person.
Practice #1: Vedic meditation
I met a woman who practiced Vedic meditation. She seemed happy and zen so I went on a course to learn how to be a Vedic meditator. They told us we needed to practice 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon for it to be effective. But that was ok. My mornings were simple and it was easy to fit in 20 minutes of meditation. And it felt good. It calmed me down. Made me less anxious.
Practice #2: Gratitude
I remember watching a great TED talk by Tal Ben Shahar about the importance of gratitude. Gratitude clearly made you happier so I figured I should start doing that too. So when I woke up in the morning, I thought and wrote about the things I was grateful for in my life.
I enjoyed it. It was nice to think about all the reasons I had to be grateful.
Practice #3: Visualisation
Later I started learning about the power of visualisation. You know, because the pictures we paint in our minds are really powerful and the more clearly we can picture and feel something, the more easily we can bring it into reality. So after I finished my Vedic meditation in the morning, I'd spend another 10 minutes focused on visualising something I wanted to create in my future.
By now things were getting a little tricky. I was meditating for 20 minutes and writing in a gratitude journal and spending time visualising. Oh, and I forgot to mention I was trying to further my yoga practice in the mornings too. My teacher said it wasn't so much the class, as the work we did at home that mattered.
Practice #4: Daily writing habit
I read that serious writers sit down and write every morning and don't stop until they've written at least a 1,000 words. And since I loved writing and wanted to get better, I started adding that into my morning routine too.
Writing in the morning was good because I usually wake up with ideas and sentences and words floating around my head. A morning practice meant I could get them out onto paper before they disappeared from memory forever.
Practice #5: Vipassana meditation
Then I went on a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. I got a lot out of that. They told us we had to practice for an hour every morning and an hour every evening, preferably in the same spot every day. So I switched Vedic meditation for Vipassana meditation and added an extra 40 minutes to my morning routine.
So by now I'm waking up and writing and meditating and doing some yoga and making sure to be thankful for my amazing life and visualising exactly the way I want things to look in the future. Such beautiful practices.
But with all those practices to keep up with, I was beginning to find myself pretty stressed out. Because, you know, my morning practices were taking all day.
Practice #6: Affirmations & self-love
People swear by affirmations. To be honest, they've never really been my thing. I've never even read a Louise Hay book.
But I saw Marissa Peer speak at an event I was attending and she told this really cool story about how thinking we're not enough is what most people's major problem is. She told us about this practice of writing "I am enough" on all the mirrors in your house and repeating it to yourself over and over whilst you're in the shower.
That seemed like a good idea. So I did that too. This one didn't really take up a lot of my time, but it was still something else to think about in the morning.
So I learned all these really amazing practices and skills to bring more peace and ease and joy into my life. Except now they were just causing me lots of anxiety and stress because I'd told myself I had to be doing all of them all of the the time. If I wasn't, I was a bad human being. A failure.
Then at some point I realised it was ridiculous that the very things that were meant to be making my life better were making it worse. So I stopped (almost) all of them.
Taking the stress out of morning practice(s)
I went to this dance workshop recently. I spent a whole day in a room with five other people just moving my body around to different pieces of music. It was liberating. Divine. The music helped me work things out. Work things out of my head. Work things out of my body. Thoughts. Tension. All worked out just moving around in whatever way I felt to the music.
So you know what I've been doing for the last couple of weeks?
I've been waking up and writing first. I wake up, make myself a cup of tea, take my laptop back to bed and write. Because it's what's important to me and writing in the morning is best (for me).
Then I take a shower.
And then I put on some music and I just move my body around in whatever way I please. And it feels meditative. And it gets my heart rate up. And it helps me forget my life's worries and heartaches. And it helps me work through my tension and my emotions. And it's fun. And it's freeing. And it makes me thankful to be alive and to have my body.
This was all a very long-winded way of letting you know:
The only rules are the ones you make for yourself. Take what works for you and ditch the rest.
And yes, I'm very grateful that I have the luxury of having the time and freedom to practice any of these things at all in the morning.
Love and courage,