Have you ever lied down in bed at the end of an epic day and wondered what the hell you did with your waking hours? It was all just a big blur of events, “to-do’s”, and fulfilling others expectations… it would be hard to elicit a memory of anything that touched your heart or even supported what you value most in your life in the past 16-17 hours. Sure, there is a case for the “we are slaves to the grind” or “I’m too busy for that” mentality, but this is more about your awareness and spirit than your time!
Our brains are designed to utilize as little energy as possible to get from the starting line of our day to that wonderful finish line of crawling into our comfy bed at night. To do this, they primarily operate from habits and pattern written into an area of our noggin called the basal ganglia. The area of the brain that can actively change the direction of our habitual thoughts or actions is, by comparison, an energetic vampire! This is called the prefrontal cortex and it only springs into action when called upon. When acting from the habitual part of our brain, we are rarely fully aware of our performance… it’s only when we kick in the conscious mind that our full awareness can be realized.
That’s the very “head brained” aspect of this… our spiritual selves must also become engaged to create a new experience. In Buddhist teachings, awareness is king. Did you know that only 1% of the input that your brain receives and responds to becomes apparent in your consciousness? Now you really understand how you can slip through a day and have little to recount. Want proof… try this little experiment:
- Set the timer on your phone for 60 seconds
- Close your eyes and bring all your focus to your breath
- Notice your body moving to inhale and exhale
- Notice the feeling of the wind through your throat and nose
- Count how many seconds you breath in and breath out
- What else is happening inside your body?
- Take in and welcome all the random thoughts that drift through your head
- When the timer goes off, make a list of all the things you noticed during the 60 seconds
Got it? That list your created is just a miniscule representation of the processes and stimuli that are rocketing through your body and mind every second of every day… and, you are completely unaware of it!
The path to improved awareness and appreciation of our daily lives cannot be left to chance. Once the brain sets itself in motion, it’s incredibly difficult to redirect. We can’t change what we don’t intend to change. There must be a proactive shift in what we do to affect what we see.
Morning Rituals are what I’ve found to be most profound in changing how I walk through my day. If I say that my family, my health, my relationships, and spiritual connection are the most important things in my life… I damn well better make them a priority. My first ritual in the morning is simply making coffee… this is not a mindless flick of a button on Mr Coffee. The time spent mindfully preparing an incredible cup of coffee for my wife and me is specifically honoring and drawing my focus to the love I have for my family. It’s not just a message to myself but also to the Universe that she is the most important thing in my day. Next comes Morning Meditation. Don’t get hung up on “how” to meditate… you don’t have to go find a mountaintop and disappear into a misty haze of enlightenment to experience the power of mindfulness. Here’s how Michelle and I practice our 5-10 minutes of meditation every day:
- We light a bit of cedar (or sage if there is a special occasion of something we really want to put some extra energy into) which is a clearing smudge in native tradition
- Close your eyes and bring your focus to your breathing for a moment.
- Thank whatever spiritual essence you believe in for the day, the opportunities the day will present, and all the greatness that exists in your life
- Imagine anything that you want to let go of (beliefs, relationships, etc..) peeling off of you and being carried away by the smoke of the cedar – it’s important to feel this in your body. I can actually feel a sort of shell that’s being pulled away from my body.
- *** you want to avoid putting focus on the negative story behind what you are releasing during this practice… to do this, draw your focus to the positive feeling of allowing those things to drift away!
- We now light a bit of sweetgrass. In native tradition, sweetgrass invites the good of the world. Some hang it by their front door or even weave doormats with it.
- Bring your attention back to your breath and invite what you want in your day. What do you want to experience? How do you want to interact with the world and the people around you? Is there a new home or a vacation your wanting? – Again… it’s so important to feel the emotions of these events as you visualize them happening.
- To wrap it up, again give thanks in whatever way feels congruent with your beliefs
What’s most important is to make this meditation practice yours… I’m providing this as a beginning point. Do you have to burn cedar and sweetgrass? No… light a candle, burn your favorite incense, or do nothing but sit and be thankful! Anything is better than nothing here. This is followed by exercise (regardless if it’s 5 minutes of yoga or a full visit to the gym) and food that honors my health.
Will this change the events of your day? Maybe. Will it change the experience of the day? Most definitely! Like all things, there is a cumulative and compounding effect to this… the more often and more consistent you are with creating your intention for the day, the greater the awareness grows and you will experience every day in a different light.
As always, I want to be a student too… please share what your rituals are with me and the other readers so we can grow from your discoveries!