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April 18, 2017

My “Not Yet” Morning Practice: The Art of Starting Slow.

There is a phrase I’ve seen floating around that says, “If you win the morning, you win the day.”

This year, I began to honor a part of myself I have always battled—my morning self. Waking up is a challenge for me, especially without a constant routine like work or school.

I’ve come to realize I have trouble focusing when I’m with other people, so I recently started waking up early enough to have the house to myself for a few hours. These quiet mornings in solitude have become everything I need for a well-balanced day.

When we first wake up, we are open and vulnerable. These early hours of transition from sleepiness to consciousness are precious. How we shift from one to the other can be a pleasant or jarring experience depending on how we choose to act.

Before an intentional morning practice, my mind would always jump straight to planning the day. I would scroll through an exhausting mental to-do list until it was time to finally get up. Now when I wake, I push the list away, choosing to lay in bed and simply exist for a few minutes.

When my brain pulls me back into planning mode, I do my best to push it away. I tell my mind, “No. I’m staying in this moment of simplicity a little longer.” I enjoy the warmth of my sheets and the comfort of my bed. I notice the light spilling in through my half-open curtains and onto the floor. If my mind gets anxious to plan again, I simply remind myself I have a whole day ahead of me to work and be productive. It can wait.

I call this my “not yet moment.”

I see the clothes on my floor and think, “You should put those in the closet.” Not yet.

“You should check Facebook or your email to see if so-and-so replied.” Not yet.

“You should put the heat on and make some coffee.” Nope. Not yet.

I wake up slowly, with limited input from the outside world. After waking up mindfully, I do a three-page journaling exercise, called “morning pages,” from The Artist’s Way. With no direction or intention, I let my thoughts pour onto the page, emptying the business and worry out. Writing like this wakes up my body so it can fully integrate with my mind.

It helps to start the day with a release. We receive information constantly from other people, from media and technology, even from the sensory reality before us. All this input shapes our thoughts and takes our mind in a different direction. Input can be intentional and beneficial (like taking a class or watching a documentary) or mindless and random (like scrolling through social media). Input is an inevitable aspect of living, but it can be managed. For me, postponing any excess input for an hour or so in the morning helps me feel centered and clear carrying on.

In this quiet space, I take the time to get to know who I am on this day. Am I moody, determined, happy, calm, lazy, or sad? Whatever I am, I honor it. I accept it. My solitude allows me to check in with myself the same way I would with a friend. How am I doing? Is there anything I can do to help? What do I need to be happy right now?

I’ve come to deeply value establishing this relationship with myself first thing in the morning. No matter how my day turns out, I know that I am on my own side through the ups and downs. Whether I fail or I succeed, that place is always there inside me.

It is a safe space that is true, stable, and connected—one I can return to with a just a few deep breaths.
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Author: Katila Whiteman 

Image: Nomao Saeki / Unsplash

Editor: Danielle Beutell

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