I have taken on a lot of new projects in this new year.
I began Yoga Teacher Training (yay!), became the coordinator of a new journalistic website, took on my first undergraduate student as supervisor, started up the Two Sisters Read Book Club with my sister, started work on my general exams and am currently writing an article for a forthcoming academic book.
Needless to say, I get heavily overwhelmed very often–and have found it difficult to juggle all the new projects in my life and keep my marriage, Ph.D. coursework and social life in balance.
So I gradually developed a morning routine that would help me transition into work every morning without feeling overwhelmed. The routine developed out of extensive reading of spiritual and mindfulness books and articles.
It begins with a promise to myself that, no matter what, I will not begin working till I have gone through my morning ritual. This helps me greet the day in a state of calm, optimism and balance.
I begin with my morning mantra, “Thank you God for this most wonderful day.” I stay in bed and do some mindfulness practices including observing my breath and communing with the inner child in me to ask her what she wants to do today (a practice I learned from the writings of Sara Avant Stover).
For breakfast, I make a fruit and veggie smoothie, throwing in almond/peanut butter, maca powder and chia seeds to give me fiber and energy to last through till lunchtime.
Then I sit down and meditate in a seated position for at least 15 minutes. At this stage, I engage with my inner critic, to address upfront any self-doubts about what I want to accomplish today (again, a practice of Sara Avant Stover’s). Once I have addressed everything that surfaces for me, I sink deeper into meditation for as long as is comfortable.
After meditating, I spend a half hour reading whatever book my sister and I chose for the month, sometimes while sipping ginger tea (peppermint tea in the summertime).
Only then do I consult the to-do list that I write every night before going to bed for the next day and start working on one of my projects.
So it takes me up to two hours sometimes to actually start doing anything “useful.” But without my morning ritual, I drive myself insane before I have even begun work. Between resisting the work, self-doubting and not having the right attention and concentration yet; working before setting the tone for the day with my meditative practices puts me at an immediate disadvantage.
I change some parts of my morning routine as needed and periodically ponder whether some things need to be added or eliminated. For instance, I want to start incorporating a short yoga practice to help hone my concentration and attention even more.
But my rule of thumb is that if I add something I have to take something away to honour the fact that I am a human being that needs a balance, not a constantly growing to-do list.
And that’s how I get my day started every day!