{Little Rituals} How to Wake Up

In case you’d rather listen:

I  am not one to meditate upon waking. Let’s just be honest, meditating first thing in the morning, I should just call it “continued sleeping.”

I do, however, need a ritual to tell my mind/body/spirit that it’s time.
Time to transition from dream to waking.
Time to stir.
Time to move.
Time to awake.

When I was younger I was taught this ritual should involve prayer, or “devotions.” These had the same fate as my present-day attempt at morning meditation–a brief moment of lucidity and good intention, followed by snoring. In my adulthood I’ve tried any number of waking rites–morning pages, first-thing yoga, ten breaths, body scans. Nothing stuck.

Then, my daughter, my wee Cate, came up with the solution.

As a preschooler Cate sat at the table in her pink Pooh Bear nightgown and said, “Mommy, I am not a morning birwd.” Truer words were never spoken. Cate is not a morning bird. Not at all. And so, this wise little soul just naturally came up with her own solution – the ritual that would set her day off right – the Morning Cuddle. Here’s how it goes:

Every morning my alarm goes off ten minutes before I need to wake Cate. I stumble around the room , opening curtains and finding my glasses. Then I walk into Cate’s room and say, “Good morning Cate. It’s Monday morning. Time to get up for school.” I open her curtains, and then go back to my room and wait for her to crawl into what she calls “the fluffy bed.” 

The bed is our sacred space.
Opening the curtains is our rite.
The morning catchphrase, our litany.
(Much of life is church you see, in the best sense, when you notice it.)

Cate joins me under the duvet and we continue our ritual.

First, the weather app – temparture, chance of rain, and how windy is it going to be? Then, we read a poem. Right now we’re working through Courage: Poems for Gutsy Girls, but we also like Poetry 180  and  The Writer’s Almanac. After out poem, she’s starting to come to life, so I ask her if she’s had any dreams, and I in turn share mine. Then we crack open a tiny board book from her toddlerhood and read a rhyming prayer. Five prayers for the weekdays, over and over again for years and years. Finally I snap the book shut with its satisfying board-book slap. The dog leaps up at the sound of it and scampers to the edge of the bed, eager to be helped down. (It’s his ritual too and he knows that sound means breakfast!) I proceed downstairs to make Cate her tea and toast, and our day has begun.

Now, what is the importance of this ritual? Where is the meaning it in? Why does it work?

The ritual is right fit. Cate is slow to rise. She needs a gentle entry. Unlike the blare of an alarm clock and a rush to be ready, this pattern of waking is not prescriptive. It doesn’t demand that she shape herself into some kind of mandatesd behavior–“up and at ‘em!” Rather, it is descriptive – the right set of practices for her distinct personhood. It is what Cate’s mind/body/spirit needs. It’s not something forced upon her. It’s intuitively hers – born out of self-respect, truth telling, and compassion.

The ritual meets a felt physical need. The slowness of the process let’s Cate’s brain wake up at its own pace. The landing on the fluffy bed tells her body it’s safe to re-enter the waking world. The weather app answers her question; “How shall I dress today so I’m not too hot or too cold?” Cate’s morning ritual doesn’t create another layer of something to tick off her to-do list. It works because it’s pragmatic — it actually meets her body’s needs.

The ritual meets a felt spiritual need. Cate is an artist. She draws, she writes, she makes things out of nothing but tape, and toilet paper tubes, and discarded boxes. That kind of creative output requires creative input. Our daily poem is as important to her spirit as breakfast is to her belly. (It doesn’t hurt mom none either!)

The ritual makes a transition. The book slams shut, the dog scampers, mom goes downstairs to make tea. Each of these sounds, motions, and actions tell Cate what’s coming next. It shuts down resistance (I don’t want to get up!) by communicating a consistent truth – the clock is moving, the sun is brightening, the tea is brewing. It’s time.

What about you my magpie friend?
What do you need in the morning?
How does your body work when waking?
What are your physical needs? What are your spiritual ones?
Do you have a ritual that serves you well? What’s your version of the morning cuddle? 

Click over to the facebook page and let us know. Because it’s like I always say, “There’s no place to go, but together.”

With Much Warmth (and bedhead!),

Rachelle Mee-Chapman
*your magpie girl



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