How to Construct a Morning Ritual

morning-ritualEvery morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again

— Mary Oliver, “On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Medi­tate”

A morning ritual sets the tone for the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. If you don’t have a morning ritual, this may help you construct one, or if you have one already, this may help you refine yours.

Wake Up Just a Little Bit Earlier

This step may be the hardest, but it is also the most essential. If you don’t give yourself the time to do a ritual, then you won’t do it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Five to fifteen minutes is enough. Five to fifteen minutes of extra sleep will not have an appreciable effect on your grogginess, but a five to fifteen mi­nute ritual can transform your day.

Awaken With a Prayer on Your Lips

Do something immediately after you wake. You can do it while you’re still in bed or maybe after you sit up. You’ll still be groggy. That’s okay. Do it anyway. It can be something simple, like a gesture or a phrase. Try this simple breathing exercise: Breathe in and breathe out while saying to yourself, “I breathe in … I breathe out.” And then, continuing to breathe in and out, “The world breathes out …” [while inhaling] “… the world breathes in” [while exhaling]. You can substitute the words “Goddess” or just “You” in place of “the world.” This can help you feel connected to the world around you. You may fall back asleep while doing this. That’s okay. The point is to do it, not to do it perfectly.

Spend a Few Moments at Your Home Altar or Meditation Space

Many Pagans have altars or special places in their homes where they meditate. If you don’t have one, you can create one. The morning is an ideal time to stand or kneel in front of your altar or sit in your meditation space and get centered. This is a good time to pray or make an offering, if prayer or offerings are part of your spirituality. Or just light a candle.

Try this practice. Bring a bowl of water to your altar. Each morning fill it, and each even­ing empty it. In the morning, recite this prayer based on Teilhard de Chardin’s “Hymn to the World”:

Goddess, I had thought to do without you because the power of thought had been kindled in me.
I was like to have died of thirst.
I need water for my cells, blood for my veins, oil for my limbs, a world for my intellect.
I will bathe myself in the sea of matter, plunge into it where it is deepest and most violent, struggle against its currents and drink of its waters.
For it cradled me long ago, and to it I shall always return.

In the evening, try reciting this stanza from Swinburne’s poem “The Gar­den of Proserpine” as you pour the water out:

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
I thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That the dead rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Move Your Body

Movement is critical for ritual. The body and mind are con­nected. Moving one moves the other. It can be exercise, like run­ning or stretching, or physical meditations, like yoga or Tai Chi. Or it can be simple gestures with personal meaning. Try doing the Sun Salutation or just a single yoga pose. You might try the Child’s Pose as a sign of surrender to what the day brings or the Mountain Pose to signal your readiness to take the day on. Or like me, you can just raise your arms in greeting to the morning Sun. You can do this while reciting an invocation to the Sun. You can choose any text that is special to you, so long as it isn’t too wordy. (Remember, the point is to stay in your body.)

Savor Nature

Just go outside for a few minutes in the morning. The time run­ning between your front porch and the car door or standing on the train platform doesn’t count. Take an extra few moments to just be outside. Even if it’s cold or raining. Bundle up or put on your rain coat and get out there. Before heading to your car, just pause and take a few moments, bend down, and touch the earth. Push your fingers onto the dirt. Sometimes you may have to push through cold snow or sodden grass. Try reciting this adaptation of a poem by Mary Oliver to remind you to be present in the here and now:

The god of dirt
came up to me many times
and said “now” and “now” and “now” …
and never once mentioned forever.

Updated 2019