I’ve been thinking a lot about rhythm lately.
I’m still transitioning back from a big year of study in the desert to life in the city, and teaching yoga every week. I’m in the liminal/in between space now where what was–is over and what is to come–has not yet fully manifested. The gap between what was and what will be is pure potential, which can feel exciting and creative one minute, and terrifying the next. In a culture obsessed with taking action and making things happen, it takes courage to surrender to the pause and wait. My practice these days is to go slowly and listen to instructions. And in this time of waiting, my daily rhythm, and especially my morning rituals, are a huge support.
My Ayurveda teacher, Dr. Vasant Lad, taught me to begin my day with gratitude, awareness of impermanence and tending the needs of my mind/body. So, what I'm sharing comes from him and from Ayurveda, that 5,000 year old wisdom tradition of wise living. I want to share my morning rituals with you to inspire you in your own morning rhythm this season, and finding creative ways to take good care of yourself before your turn your attention to others.
I used to be a late riser. I was always intrigued by those who got up early, but couldn't imagine it for myself. I made the shift as I was raising my son, because I wanted some time for myself in the morning. Having made the switch, I would never go back. The morning hours are so fresh and magical. I had to train myself to unplug earlier, and I often have to go through periods of re training in this regard. It's not hard because the pleasure of the mornings is so much better than the late night zone out, that I can usually exert a little will power to unplug earlier, anytime I'm spending too much time with media in the evenings. I live alone right now, and sometimes get into periods of filling the empty space with media. This is OK for a while, but if it becomes habitual I notice it has a negative impact on my spirit. I feel better when I take time to feel into myself at day's end, even if what I'm feeling is lonely. That very action of turning towards myself rather than zoning out soothes that longing for contact.
So I start my day by awakening early, in Brahma Muhurta time. Brahma refers to the hindu god of creation. Muhurta is a 48 minute period of time. This time is the muhurta before the sun rises. These predawn hours have long been used for meditation and prayer because the qualities of that time are light, subtle and expansive. Whether you choose to get up in Brahma Muhurta or not, how you begin your day has a powerful impact on how the rest of the day unfolds.
There's something sweet about acknowledging yourself when you first wake up. Dr. Lad taught me this. Good morning, dear. I love you. I take some time to breathe in bed and get a feel for where I'm starting from, mentally, emotionally and physically, and that informs how I move forward. And I take a moment to remember impermanence: This body will die; today could be the last day, Thank you for this day of Life!
Once up, after using the toilet, I scrape my tongue and rinse my mouth to rid accumulated bacteria from overnight. (You can use a tongue scraper or a toothbrush or washcloth for this--BTW, a foul tasting mouth indicates incomplete digestion from the night before. A coated tongue, indicates toxicity in the system). I splash cool water in my eyes, and then drink a big cup of hot water. The water gently hydrates and awakens the bowel, supporting a morning movement. Taking time for these few things in the morning makes my body feel so good.
I like to drink chai in the morning, and so I sit with my cup, and a candle lit, looking into the darkness outside. The end of chai is the beginning of movement. Depending on how I feel, might start on my back, or I might begin standing. I usually move for an hour or more, followed by some relaxation and I often sit for meditation (sometimes I do this before bed instead). Even if I only have 5 minutes, I move and breathe.
When I finish my morning rituals, I bathe. I rub warm oil into my skin before bathing, (this can take as little as as 2 minutes, or as long as 20 if I leave the oil on my skin for a while) This article explains how to do it as well as how to deal with oil in the shower floor, on your towels and in your drains). The oil adds a protective layer between you and your environment, and nourishes the skin and deeper tissues of the body. Unlike lotion which stays on the surface of the skin, the oil penetrates and has a relaxing effect overall. Once I started oiling my skin, I never stopped because the good feeling was so immediate for me. Everyone's different, and some people prefer to use a dry brush for more stimulation, or do a little massage without oil. Massage is another way to support circulation and work out tension in the body, and a very loving and soothing/stimulating experience to give yourself.
After bathing and dressing, I enjoy a light, warm breakfast: I often rotate grains: oats one day, brown rice the next, white basmati and quinoa the following; and I often cook raisins or apple into oats. I also like to add a small handful of soaked, rinsed nuts or seeds to my oats or other grain along with a little ghee or avocado and some nori strips if I'm eating rice or quinoa. Sometimes I chop up some vegetables, and cook them in some water with an egg and some rice noodles and make soup. I squeeze 1/2 a lime and 1 T of braggs for broth. Everyone is different in terms of what they can digest, these are just my standard go to's in the cooler months.
I'm on the other side of child rearing, and don't have pets, so I'm able to give myself more time in the morning at this point. You may not have time to get to everything, every morning, but consistently showing up for yourself first thing will change the quality of your life in wonderful ways. Research into these kinds of things has shown that its not the amount of time we take, but the consistency we bring to these practices that brings the deeper benefits.
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
In Service and Love, Shannon