In my book, Pilgrim Principles: Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life, I devote an entire day’s reading to developing a morning ritual and refer back to it often in the days that follow. It falls within the fifth pilgrim principle, “A pilgrim establishes daily rhythms to ground himself,” and it is by far the daily rhythm that has been most life-giving to my relationship with God and myself over the past many years.
I won’t deny it—I am tempted by my warm bed on a dark winter’s morning and become disoriented during busy seasons just as much as the next person, and often my morning ritual suffers because of that. Some days during a chaotic week, I wake up early and get straight to work, telling myself that I’ll get to my morning ritual stuff later—this time I really will. But you know what? Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t. Instead I go to bed tired and frustrated, wondering why I never had a break in the day to pause and go deeper.
Here’s what this cycle is teaching me: When my morning ritual suffers, I suffer. When I don’t take the time, I won’t make the time. Could I be so bold as to say that that small amount of time set aside in the morning has the power to make or break my day? And, of course, the ways we spend our days are how we spend our lives.
I want to wake up each morning and not immediately feel the weight of the day on my shoulders. I want to enliven my senses with the smell, taste, and feel of hot coffee. I want to cozy up in a Sacred spot that’s all mine, at least for an hour or so, and light a candle as a representation of the presence of the Divine. As the sun slowly rises I want to read words that make my soul sing—poetry and prose by spiritual midwives that have assisted seekers like myself in birthing the holy for countless years. I want to take time to reflect, at least for a page—to locate myself before the tasks of the day carry me away. And I want to finish with a time of centering prayer and meditation—ten or twenty minutes in my day where I can simply be. Oh, it’s a challenge; it always is. But in the end, I feel so much better for it.
And so I set the alarm for 6am each day, waking much earlier than necessary so that I can have the extra hour in my day for what has become my morning ritual for the past year or so. I pour through books, I discover new insight, and I learn again what stillness is and why it’s so important (it’s a practice, after all—a lesson I relearn each day, again and again).
Sometimes I incorporate yoga (more on that tomorrow), and I keep telling myself I want to try out a little dance. Maybe someday I’ll switch out centering prayer for lectio divina or art for reading or writing, but right now this is what works for me.
Coming from a tradition that was big on “shoulds,” I’m trying to be aware of what I’m doing because I think I need to versus what I’m doing because it brings me life, and in this season, this ritual feels good. It’s just the right combination of self-care and stretching to my edges, and at the end of my time I don’t feel like I’ve checked items off of a list; instead, I feel fulfilled.
I want you to have the same experience, too, and a morning ritual might be just the thing to fill you up and take you deeper toward the Divine and your true self. Here are the steps I list in Pilgrim Principles for how to create a morning ritual of your own:
HOW TO CREATE A MORNING RITUAL
1. Find a time
Does it feel best to begin your morning ritual right after you wake up? Or perhaps once you’re ready for the day or while you’re eating breakfast would be more suitable. Choose whatever feels most spacious for you. As you consider a time, also think about the length of time you want to spend doing your morning ritual. This might determine what you do.
2. Find a place
Morning rituals are often personal, so the best location is probably one that is private. A good place might be a chair by a window or maybe outside on a porch swing. Wherever it may be, make sure it is somewhere where you are able to connect with the Divine, making it a Sacred space.
3. Determine your practices
It could be as simple as pouring a cup of coffee and reading through a devotional book. Perhaps you spend your time in centering prayer or meditation, practicing yoga, journaling, creating, or reading poetry. Simply choose a practice that helps you connect to the Divine and enables you to feel like your true self, whether the practice is traditional or unique to you. Do one or many, or perhaps consider changing them monthly or seasonally. Trying out new spiritual practices is a great way to stretch your edges and grow your faith—something the pilgrim knows well.
The above tips and “Go Further…” question below are taken from Week 5: Day 5 of my book, Pilgrim Principles: Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life, available in print online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and also available for Kindle.
What would your ideal morning ritual be? If you already have one, what does it look like, and how does it set the tone for your day?