What is your first thought upon awakening?
How often is it about physical or emotional exhaustion, time pressures, or worries about the new day?
Are you aware of the process of waking from sleep, or do you immediately and automatically move through a series of activities to get yourself up and out of the house?
How does the beginning of your day affect the hours that follow?
The questions above were posed by Richard Rohr in his weekly newsletter from the Center of Action and Contemplation. They’re courtesy of a book on the eighteenth-century Rabbi Hayim Heikel which poses one more telling question:
How might your morning unfold if your first thoughts were devoted to what is most significant in your life?
A Change to the Wake-Up Routine
I know that as I’ve grown older, when the alarm clock goes off, I no longer jump out of bed to greet the day. I e-a-s-e into the morning, taking stock of the various aches and pains in my body. I consider what the new day will bring. But the question above poses a new wrinkle: What if each day before rising, we considered what is most important in our lives?
In the book on Heikel, authors Rose and Leder further explain what this early morning practice might entail. Heikel’s thinking constitutes a new way to greet the day and set the tone for the hours that follow:
When you awake in the morning
that the blessed Creator has acted toward you with
goodness and kindness,
for He has returned the soul to you;
the soul that fills your whole body. . .
Before opening your eyes,
draw the Creator to you—
likewise with your ears, mouth, and mind.
If you follow this practice,
all your deeds will be holy that day,
as it is written, “I foretell the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10).
Next: Make the Most of Your Day
Now that your morning is off to a spiritually satisfying start, Leo Babauta of the blog site Zen Habits offers additional ideas on how we might “make the most of 24 hours.” (Thanks to Recomendo for bringing this to my attention.) He provides a list comprised of 4 simple daily practices which I have lightly edited, including tacking on an additional thought at point 4.
- Be intentional at the start of each day. With a fresh 24 hours before you, it’s easy to just get started in your usual way. But to make the most of this new batch of hours, take a few moments at the start of the day to reflect on what you want to do with them. If it helps, make a list. You might not end up doing things exactly as planned, but you’re much more likely to spend the hours wisely if you set intentions at the start.
- Don’t shoot for doing more, do what matters. Having a list of 30 things to do each day can give you a feeling of stress and scarcity. What if you had a list of 3 important things? If you could only put 3 things on the list, you’d choose carefully. As you do each of the 3 things on your list, do each one as if it were the only thing that mattered. After you do those 3 things, do others, if you have the time.
- Create moments of transcendence. Rushing through tasks and chores like you need to get to the next thing only creates an experience of life that blends together in a dull soup. But what if you could elevate the moments of your life to something special, sacred, alive? What if cooking soup for dinner became a transcendent experience? A moment of transcendence is something you experience when you feel connected to the world around you and a part of something bigger. You can intentionally create these moments in your everyday life. As you’re doing the things on your list, washing the dishes, having a conversation or driving home, you can elevate each moment into one of transcendence.
- Reflect with gratitude. As you get ready for bed, take a few moments to reflect back on your day and think about what you’re grateful for. What good things, or good people, came your way today? Matthew Fox, writing in Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, advises us to “love your life with all your strength and energy, growing daily in appreciation of the joys of life.” When you learn to give thanks each day for all the good in your life, your appreciation for life grows. Day after day after day.