Sacred and sweet. Hectic and heavy. I struggled with mornings for a long time. There was a kind of resistance to starting the day, even when there was joy. And I’ve known that mornings are so significant to how the rest of my day (my LIFE) unfolds, so I decided to take a deeper, psychological look—and it shifted everything for me. With a little help from my psychotherapist, essentially I created my own therapeutic approach to mornings.
Welcome to MORNING THERAPY with Danielle! I am not a therapist nor am I clinically trained in anything. But I’m in a great f*cking mood most mornings so, take what you want and leave the rest.
Habits and rituals are effective, but we need to get them in the right order (I’ll just tell you now, rituals need to come before habits.) But even before we jump into optimization mode, we need to look beneath the surface, into our psyche to examine what’s really up when we wake up. And that’s what most productivity methods miss—our history with mornings.
So here’s the question: What’s your relationship to mornings? And how did it start?
Let’s see what dawns on you. (Could not resist a little morning punny.)
What’s your relationship with stillness?
Some of us crave stillness. Some of us get sweaty palms thinking about it. And some of us can only feel the shoulds: “I should be more monk-like, more Buddhist. I need to retreat more. I should be meditating more. I need more blank space.” And there’s this… pressure. But no need to feel the stillness pressure!
Make yourself a Stillness Sandwich. Stillness isn’t necessarily about creating more of it in your life—although that’s what needs to happen for so many of us. Stillness is a matter of sequencing: about when you are still, not how much you are still. It’s about the timing of it. Like in yoga, when you begin a session in calm repose and end in savasana. The most powerful times to be still are in the morning and in the evening—at the beginning, and at the end.
Stillness at the beginning is about tapping into life force—the nourishment that’s always there for us—and setting intentions. Stillness at the end is about integration—marinating in the life force—making the most of all the motion, everything you have endured, and stretched, and strived for, and created in between.
Good habits feel good.
I’m just going to write you a cosmic permission slip here: if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Why would you repetitively start your mornings with something that makes you feel crap? The whole point is to move you into a higher state.
Not saying there won’t be some resistance at first. Resistance is a sign you’re moving towards success. But if there’s extended resistance to a habit… it’s a “no fucking go.” K?
Rituals come alive in the heart.
There’s some overlap between habits and rituals. Good habits are actions we take to make progress and maintain steadiness. Rituals are more esoteric in flavour—they’re active blessings.
Krishnamurti says, “Discipline is a tool that numbs the mind.” Meaning: anything that you do habitually without examination, without consciousness—without the presence of Love—is turning you into a robot. Habits should move you in the direction of keeping you awake and alive and open. And rituals help us declare that we are inviting life in.
My laundry list of morning habits + rituals. (It’s a long one.)
Let me preface this with: I do not do all of these things everyday. (I’d never leave the house.) I do these things in different seasons, according to my moods, the depth of my pain that day, the height of my joy, my schedule…
I plan my day the night before. What will I do tomorrow to feel the way I want to feel?
I optimize my sleep. Darkened room. Wind down before bed. I still struggle with tech before bed but I’m working on it.
I don’t sleep with my phone on or next to me. And I don’t turn it on right away when I wake up. When I do, I feel anxiety-creep in.
When I wake up, the first thing I do is I tune into how I feel. No matter how I feel, I choose gratitude thoughts. My gratitude these days is so primal it’s divine. I’m glad to be alive today. That’s where I start.
Depending on the day, I will do The Heart Centering Practice, deep prayer, read A Course in Miracles, write out stressors, encouragements, desires, intentions.
5 minutes of yoga is better than no minutes of yoga. Consistency.
I light a prayer candle in the kitchen—a simple request for a friend in need or a cause that requires some more love that day.
I’ll say the Metta Bhavana Prayer while I’m pulling breakfast together—the prayer is on our fridge, sometimes my boy recites it with me. This is typically done with very loud rap or funk music cranked through the house.
Sunday mornings are extra-sacred.
Sundays, in terms of the esoteric, have an extra cosmic shimmer. The Sun and the higher soul energies come through stronger on Sunday.
Sundays are for tending to your altars. Dust, refresh, and replenish—keep your altars alive. For me, an altar is a symbol of my gratitude, my guardianship, and my desires.
Sundays are also the day I give extra gratitude. I write a stream-of-consciousness list, just one word at a time, of things that I’m grateful for… for the oceans, soil, water that comes out of the tap. For streams, bees, honey. For land preservation. I’m thankful for consciousness itself. I’m thankful for home, for friendship. For every healthy emotion. And the list goes on and on…
I give myself 30-40 minutes to cover everything I want to protect and adore and grow. I highly recommend it. Your expression of gratitude in such an intentional way is raising the vibration for all of us.
The podcast guide and reflection exercise are for building spirit muscle. Every time you choose the more compassionate thought and action, you’re retraining your mind to draw on the boundless power of your heart.
Integrate what you heard. Download the free reflection cards for this episode.
I’ve done enough therapy in my life to know that I can reprogram my mind. Whether it’s trauma or a mildly negative impression in my brain, I can dissolve those sensations and replace them with thought-forms that point me towards joy and strength. Our morning thoughts significantly contribute to how our day unfolds. So with that wisdom here’s the starting point: declare mornings as sacred.
Now, rewind to examine your relationship with mornings—the positive and the trying aspects. How it formed, how it’s going currently, and what an ideal morning would look like for you.
Morning mindfulness is how you activate your superpowers.
1. Growing up, my mornings were…
They felt/smelled/sounded like…
They made me feel…
I woke up to…
The people around me greeted the day with/like…
2. Some of the best mornings I’ve had—far or recent past…
3. Currently, my mornings feel…
What’s similar to mornings when I grew up…
What’s different from mornings when I grew up…
4. When I wake up, the assumptions I make about my day…
About myself, about the people around me, and about life…
5. I look forward to…
6. When I wake up, I feel most grateful for…
7. Do you ever think about how you’re going to lead the day? (You’re always leading.) What’s your experience of “leading the day”?
8. Do you think about how you’re going to be led (by Life-God, by others)? What’s your experience of letting yourself be led for the day?
9. I’ve created a less than ideal morning approach for myself by/because…
10. I’ve created a beautiful morning approach for myself by/because…
11. My ideal work day or weekday morning looks like…
12. My ideal day off or weekend morning looks like…
13. My Stop Doing List for mornings…
14. Morning rituals I intend to create (rituals are blessings, sacred intention-setting)…
15. Morning habits I intend to create (habits are behaviors that support our wellness)…