Creativity. Well-being. Happiness. Spiritual wholeness. Peace. We all strive to attain these, but how do we go about achieving them?
Aiming for these states of mind gives focus, depth, and texture to my days when I’m at home. It’s part of my daily practice; it’s part of what drives me, balances me, and tethers me. While I was in Italy recently, however, the need to find these levels of contentment and inspiration faded in necessity and urgency. Every morning started with a spark: Cappuccinos at corner cafes, lively conversations, daily agendas planned, revised, and perfected. My afternoons brimmed with excitement amid crowds of people, the traffic endlessly whizzing by, the noise around me constant and invigorating. My evenings were spent out with friends and family, the food and wine and passionate discussions seemingly endless. I felt vibrant and alive. At times I felt on fire.
I was also frazzled. An undercurrent of frantic energy kept me from fully engaging in everything around me. Inside, I felt something amiss. The sheer busyness of my days kept me from remembering how crucial it is to shut off the switch, turn down the noise, and look within. Moving forward without pausing left me unfocused and adrift just enough that I felt unsteady on my feet. I missed that part of myself that teases out details, searches for meaning, and expresses gratitude. I missed, of course, my daily commitment to focusing on and realizing the qualities that ultimately ground me.
I’m home now, nestled into my space in the redwoods of Northern California. Time moves at a different pace here—it’s slower and richer, and invites contemplation. And all of it reminds me that it is the space around us that shapes us. It determines how we feel, how we think, and how we function. It also reminds me that wherever we find ourselves, it’s crucial to incorporate a centering practice into our daily lives to maintain well-being.
The notable spiritual guru and writer Marianne Williamson stresses the importance of finding your center the moment you wake up. To immediately turn to coffee or read the newspaper or engage in incessant chattering, she says, is to “guarantee depression by noon.” I couldn’t agree more. To step into chaos right away on any given day—whether it’s reading about conflicts in other countries that we have no control over, or falling into the drama of the people we live with—breeds imbalance, incompetence, and unhappiness. Our days pass by in an elevated state of uncertainty and disquiet. By nighttime, we’re nasty and upset, and we take it out on our loved ones—including the dog.
Whether we’re on vacation in an exotic location, in a new city for work, or in the comforts of our homes, it’s imperative that we take care of our minds, bodies, and spirits as soon as we rise. Developing and following a daily morning ritual to nurture these aspects will in turn give us the calm and harmony we need to approach the day with a clear head and an open heart. Here is a tried and true routine that I’ve depended on over the years:
—Cleanse and release as soon as you wake up. A glass of warm water with lemon juice—which gently wakes up the digestive system—followed by ten minutes of basic yoga will revive the body and encourage healthful practices all day long.
—Meditate for fifteen minutes. This can be accomplished in silence, or with the assistance of meditation music. Meditation requires practice and willpower—when I first close my eyes during meditation, I’m inundated with worries about everything I need to do that day, as well as all that I need to accomplish on a larger scale, but with every breath, I step closer and closer to serenity. In quieting your mind, you’ll be able to internalize, revitalize, and find peace, thereby securing your ability to tackle what lies ahead.
—Focus on your breath. There are several techniques to breathing mindfully, many of which are practiced in yoga, but I’ve found that alternating breathing through different nostrils for several minutes stills my nerves, gives me energy, and clears my mind.
—Take a moment to appreciate nature. A brisk walk outside in the sunshine—whether it’s in a nearby park, on the beach, or in your backyard—provides sensory pleasures that put the mind at ease. Simply sitting amid the chatter of birds or watering the plants in your garden will take you away from your concerns, connect you with the beauty of the world, and recharge your spirit.
—Offer thanks. Close your eyes, and think of five people for whom you’re grateful. Count your blessings. Express gratitude for life itself and all that it has to offer. Spending just a short time internally expressing your appreciation will inform how you move through the day—happily, hopefully, gratefully, and gracefully.