No human can say with certainty their every day starts with joy. Sometimes we wake up foggy-brained, tired, or anxious. On those mornings it’s hard to carry a connectedness to the planet, because simply making it through the morning seems challenging enough. On these mornings the need to get a second cup of coffee is often pressing beyond our ability to care about the takeaway cup that ends up on the landfill. It’s okay to have those mornings.
It’s on a morning like this I realised my morning ritual is paying off. I’ve been going to my sit spot with my coffee almost every morning for a month. Although I always love taking the time to connect to outside at the beginning of my day, not visiting my sit spot wouldn’t have made my day bad had I woken up happy and charged.
But on this particular morning my head felt dull, like my mind was roaming somewhere outside of my body, somewhere not here. While I came outside out of habit, I couldn’t care less for the birds, the plants, the fresh air and bugs I usually notice. I just sat there because I always do, my restless thoughts somehow muting the sounds of outside.
That was until I started noticing that I’ve started noticing the things around me once more. This was without any effort on my part. I could physically feel my focus returning, clearing up. I was here again, an ant scrambling over my toes, the reeds swaying in the wind. I like to think I somehow trained my mind to come to this place every single morning regardless of where it may be wandering.
Living lightly morning rituals
The idea of a morning ritual isn’t new. Forbes and Business Insider list things that will make you more productive and successful with ideas for intentions like ‘hit the gym’ and activities like ‘work on your side hustle’. Although these definitely have a place among morning habits, my idea for living lightly morning rituals is slightly different.
It’s really about connecting with nature and letting nature connect with you. Once you’ve interacted with some of the natural beauty around you you’re much less likely to act in a way that is destructive to the planet. It’s an idea somewhat related to Deep Ecology, a movement that was officially named in the 1970s by mountaineer and philosopher Arne Naess, but which really started in the 1960s with the writings of Rachel Carson, a scientist and writer. She said this:
“It seems reasonable to believe — and I do believe — that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.”
What it comes down to is simply admiring more of nature and letting that connection drive the decisions you make that will impact the planet.
You can read about environmental crises on the internet all you want, but physically spending time beyond the four walls of your home, office, your car or the train will make the distance between you and the melting polar ice caps much shorter. You don’t have to go on a four-hour hike before breakfast, either. Just take your coffee out the door, sit on a rock or a patch of grass and notice the nature around you.
Your spot doesn’t have to be at an amazing lake or up in the mountains. Here is a story about how you can find the wilderness even if your house is surrounded by buildings.
If you are comfortable meditating, do it. If you don’t, then all you have to do is sit quietly and notice the things you see, hear, feel, and smell. Take one sense at a time and just acknowledge the things around you. It’s okay if this includes pollution and skyscrapers.
You don’t have to journal if you are happy to sit quietly, but I find that journalling sometimes helps to focus my thoughts on what is around me. An easy way to start is just to note down nature’s quirks you notice every morning – how it might be different from the day before.
Another way to work journalling into your living lightly morning ritual is with Morning Pages. Julia Cameron first came up with this idea in her 1992 book, The Artist’s Way. This is what she says about it:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing,
done first thing in the morning. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritise and synchronise the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
You could also opt for walking if you’re not into writing and you struggle to quiet your mind. Sometimes when we allow our bodies to move, our minds find it easier to be quiet. Don’t listen to music or podcasts that will take your thoughts somewhere else. Try to just focus on the steps you take, how your footfall sounds and what you hear, see, and smell on your walk.
Your life won’t change that same day. Persistence is key. Notice how the soil smells when it rained the night before, how the sun creeps closer every day in spring, and how there’s a cool breeze around your ears on some mornings. For a week or so you’ll have to remind yourself to open that sliding door and step outside instead of scrolling through your social media feed, but soon it’ll become a habit. Just like your body gets into the habit of going outside, your mind will become used to noticing nature and being present in it.
Take it into your day
You don’t have to consciously recall the earthworm you saw this morning when you’re at the supermarket and the cashier is offering you a plastic bag, but try to keep this connection with the outdoors alive even if you spend your entire day inside. Do this by acknowledging every morning that each of those plants and insects you see have worth beyond their usefulness to humans. The persistence will strengthen the idea and it’ll help you to consider the planet with every decision you make.