I’m so excited to welcome Jennifer Louden as our first guest contributor EVER here at Life After Tampons. Some years ago, when I was really pulling myself up from some big losses in my life, Jen’s book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, was a HUGE help to me. Her latest work, The Life Organizer, is just coming out in paperback. (She shares a bit about that in her bio at the end.) I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love her beautiful heart, too.
I groove on daily rituals, yes I do.
I resist daily rituals, oh hell, yes I do.
For most of my life – since I was 12, I kid you not – I have struggled with the truth that starting my day in touch with my essential goodness and with something larger than myself (stillness, nature, poetry or a general beseeching to the heavens) is a complete day changer.
I know how we start our days is how we shape our lives.
If you begin the day before you even get out of bed with anxious thoughts of “I never called the gas company yesterday and I didn’t exercise,” or by checking email or wrangling with the kids, you risk getting lost in the fray of life.
You risk losing sight of everything that matters to you. You also train your brain to be grumpy, dumber, and reactive, neural pathways you want to be weakening not strengthening.
Those kinds of morning add up to way more stress and far less intention, even to feeling empty and unmoored, adrift without that glowing center of purpose we all need.
But wait, I’ll bet you’re thinking, “She said she resists morning rituals. If they’re so good for you, why isn’t this easy for her?”
I wonder about that myself. My best answer, as of today, is starting my day with conscious intention means taking my self and my needs seriously. It means believing in my ideas, my dreams, and my self. Even more scary? It means being willing to be supported, connected and loved.
Because when I make time to connect to that which is larger than me –I have no idea what it is or what to call it – it means being seen. Being accepted. Being loved. And for whatever wacky reason, that’s hard for me. Vulnerable with a capital V.
I’m also a rebel who hates to be told what to do, even by myself.
I have tried on so many ways to start my day – mindfulness meditation, mantra, pranayama, silent walks in the summer quiet, morning pages, copying out prayers, sacred reading (Rumi to Mark Nepo). And in all these experiments, I have learned a thing about morning rituals – see if this is useful.
- Play. Especially if you are rebellious like moi. Combine elements – playing an instrument, coloring a mandala, chanting, memorizing a poem, sun salutes, moon walking. Let your ritual be an act of creative joy.
- You do not need a circus act with fire-eaters, elephants and a choir of Mongolian throat singers. If you make it a big ding dang do, you will quit.
- Skips should, eschew goals. The world is full of “secret” advice for the sake of extreme productivity and Steve Jobs-level creative brilliance. It’s mostly bullshit because it doesn’t translate. Borrow, sure, but know your motivation. Do nothing blindly and detach from outcome.
- Check in with yourself every month or so. What is the trend – more kind to yourself and others, more patient and awake, more curious and relaxed? What impact is your ritual having?
Okay now to me. What do I do these days? Here’s the current morning ritual (subject to immediate change):
- Sit on the meditation cushion, set timer on phone, ring chime.
- Notice my body, my mood, and my thoughts. Allow space for all. Really allow space for all. Soften.
- Tune into my heart. Bring up good memory – say my husband’s many kindnesses or a hug from my daughter. Bask in good feelings; take it in deep while dropping the particulars.
- Watch my breath in and out. Maybe some chanting or Sufi remembrance practice.
- Prayer. I am agnostic and have no idea what I am praying to but it makes me feel good to acknowledge I am not in charge of this thing called life.
- Choose a mindful question from The Life Organizer http://jenniferlouden.com/lifeorganizer/, sometimes a random question, sometimes I work with one for a few days or weeks. Lately it’s been “What do I really want to create and experience?” as I’m in 2014 planning mode.
- Note what comes to me, write it down if needed, take a few big breathes with my arms overhead, say “I can!” and then it’s off to make a big cup of black tea with heavy cream.
And when I resist and don’t want to do any of this? I ask my very favorite question, “What do I really want?” (very different than “What am in the mood for?”) I tap into desire. If that doesn’t work, because I’m too tired or got distracted by checking email first thing, I cherish the words “begin again” knowing I will start with one minute of mindfulness, and build again from there. No guilt, no fancy plans for the perfect future.
Simple ritual + consciousness = a life fully lived rather than a life reacted to. A life with less drain and no blame.
What do you think? I’d love to hear!
Jen Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 5 additional books on well-being that have inspired more than a million women in 9 languages, and she’s even sat on Oprah’s couch. Her book The Life Organizer is just out in paperback. Visit http://JenniferLouden.com/lifeorganizer for a fantastic new app & other super-useful freebies.