Anxieties have a way of cropping up and getting in the way of life. I was struggling with a problem and a friend of mine was checking in on me. She dropped a text in the morning to see how I was doing. I told her, “I’m retreating into the day” by listening to theology lectures.
I’ve always tried to start my day with a prayer, a meditation, an exercise, an affirmation, a spiritual insight or writing – or, if I have time, a homily or lecture.
The day creeps up on us and if we don’t start the day on the right foot being grounded in the center of our being, it could change the dynamic of the day. We make a bad decision and that decision snowballs into something else and takes us off our game and out of the center.
So you may ask: “What can I do to start my day? What is one of these exercises?”
A friend taught me, you should never leave your bed without recognizing the presence of God in your heart. He taught me that “light exercises” fill the body with the nourishment it needs. By “light exercises”, he was not talking about doing sit-ups in bed. He was talking about visualizing light through a meditative practice.
Visualize a light coming into your room, entering your heart and filling your body with light. God’s light is your light. When I move with the light of Christ in my day, I find that I have more energy. I have found that place where I can access something that is right there within me. When I need a minute meditation throughout the day, I go to the light that filled me during the night and the light that started my day to remind myself that the presence of God is with me.
So often we wake up thinking about what we need to do physically or mentally, but we do not think about the center that needs to be developed. What are we doing for ourselves spiritually?
Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed”. This is a hard thing to do, but it’s a noble and important aspiration.
Sometimes we may be in a bad place physically. We may not feel physically well, but starting the day off with a positive mental attitude can help us find our way in dealing with the maladies of the body. It can change our consciousness in a way that opens us up to the fullness of spirit.
Julia Cameron Howe, the author of “The Artist’s Way” has an exercise for writing “morning pages”. Writing morning pages is a way for an artist to get his thoughts on to the paper. The writer puts down all thoughts, all feelings, all concerns onto the paper in a stream of consciousness manner. The writer is dumping all the anxiety and stress that he’s feeling into the pages, so he can find the center to create. It is like a “warm up” for the artist, so he can start fresh. It works.
When we identify with our feelings, own those feelings and are present to our feelings, we can work with them in a way that helps us see where we are.
Am I living from the center of my being? Am I living from the heart of Christ?
Another cool technique is to think about five good thoughts for the day before you go to sleep. Write those thoughts of gratitude down. When you wake up, take a look at the five thoughts you were grateful for from the day before. This brings continuity to the recognition of God’s goodness. When we think happy thoughts before we go to sleep, we, hopefully, awaken to good thoughts when we arise.
Start with a laugh! Look for something funny to help you on your way. I used to end my day with a laugh, but it’s just as good to start your day with one.
At one point I was going through a tough time. I never went to bed without a laugh. I watched the Marx Brothers. The Marx Brothers put it all into perspective for me. They reminded me that life could be a folly. Life is filled with a bunch of clowns wreaking havoc on the social order for a time, but it’s all going to be all right. It’s all going to work itself out.
Last but not least, another way is to start your day with a scripture reading. Scripture can inspire us to see the day in a new way through the work of the spirit.
Henri Nouwen talks about the work of the spirit. He says, “The work of the spirit is taking place where people gather to become a people of God”. He mentions the importance of liturgy or leitourgia. ‘“Ourgia” means “work”. “Leitos” comes from “leio” or “leos” which means “people”’. We need each other.
Scripture brings us together in unique ways. Nouwen notes, “Liturgy is where people come to meet in their “woundedness” and vulnerability… The weak and vulnerable belong to the heart of the Church”. Jesus was addressing the good news to the poor. Nouwen said, “A Church without poverty isn’t a church. The poor are the heart of the Church”.
Scripture reminds us that we are not alone in being broken. In liturgy we find community to start our day, a community that shares in that brokenness. We are present to the pains and sufferings of others. We are present to our own mindfulness of the center. It also reminds us that there is healing in the presence of community. There is no better place to retreat any time of day.
These are just exercises in remembering God. No matter where you are, the only reality we need is the recognition of God. God is ever-present with us. When we recognize the power of God’s wonder and the infinite blessings, something changes in us. When we awaken to the realization of God’s presence we invite God into our experience and are one with God. What a way to start a day!