I used to think it would be terribly status quo to do the same thing day in and day out – some present day torture resulting in a robotic, sad life void of meaning and vigor. But now, with aging eyes and dharmic direction, I see great freedom and joy in creating a daily rhythm, ordinary and relatively unchanging. Of course, our motivation must be well applied and properly set (otherwise a routine can become dry and numbing).
I’ve been thinking about my own simple daily routines lately and how they offer me nourishment and support throughout the day. My alarm is set to wake me up at 5:03am (yep, not 5:00, 5:03) Monday through Saturday (Sundays are my days to sleep in). Oftentimes, however, I wake up before my alarm goes off. After I get up I make some tea and drink slowly as I read by book light in the living room for 20-30 minutes (currently I am reading a book called Meeting Faith, Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun). I then set a timer, sing the morning chant (you can give a listen to my recording here http://openway.org/content/morning-chant), and practice sitting meditation for 20 minutes in the quiet stillness of the darkened early morning. I finish my sitting meditation with three prostrations to the earth, in which I offer a different gratitude with each one, followed by one final standing bow in which I say to myself:
“In gratitude for this one more opportunity to live today, may I be useful, may I be kind.”
This early morning routine sets an extremely important foundation in which to build the rest of my day upon. It’s a rather new concept for me to have this kind of diligent morning process and I’ve been finding it quite lovely. My mornings are now a cherished time, whereas they used to be heavy and sluggish.
Now that spring is emerging here in the mountains and the sun is slowly edging up on the horizon earlier each day, minute by minute, I’ve been delighting in the first sweet fluttering songs of the birds towards the end of my sitting meditation each morning. When I draw open the curtains the sky is developing into pale blues and tonal hues of fuchsia and lavender and I am filled with a sense of reverence and awe for the beauty that unfolds here, and extends everywhere across the planet, each day.
I then turn on my computer, make some breakfast, and ease into my day ready to connect and engage with myself and the world with mindfulness, care, and compassion. As I drive to work I practice looking up at the sky and the mountains, helping to get in touch with a bigger life pulse. I practice smiling to and with myself. And I listen to cranked up music and sing along, which fills me with great joy. On my way from my car to the front door of the school I work at I practice to connect with the earth beneath my feet and absorb the deliciously fragrant blossoming trees nearby. When my hand reaches out to pull open the door I smile and breathe in and out with ease, ready to be present with the middle schoolers I spend my time with.