Many of us already know that meditation works, but lack the time to cultivate a regular practice.
Yet, maybe what we need instead of some extra time is just a steady routine of healthy habits, to experience the many benefits meditation can have in our life.
One of the keys to making it happen may be as simple as meditating first thing in the morning.
Even if it's just for a couple of minutes.
Morning meditation piles up the pros. It can set the tone for our day, and help us start the day with gratitude;
And of course, by sitting in the morning, you make it more likely that it will happen.
One of the main benefits of meditating first thing in the morning, is that it sets the tone for the day.
After a sit, we usually feel more centered and present, calmer and more energized. We feel more confident about tackling the day from a place of deep grounding.
All the more so if we couple it with a spiritual practice of gratitude and intentionality.
Getting up early in the morning is good for us, and meditating makes it even better.
Starting the Day With a Win
Morning meditation can also become what author and habit expert James Clear refers to as a “decisive moment” :
“Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. I refer to these little choices as “decisive moments”...these choices are a fork in the road".
Meditating is such a decisive moment. Starting the day with meditation creates a well-being and a positive momentum that becomes a solid foundation for further positive decisions in your day.
When we meditate first thing in the morning, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we did it. Life is is full of events and obligations, often unpredictable: drinks with colleagues, meetings that takes longer than planned, yoga class, traffic jams, family care…
No matter what life stage you’re in, your day can easily cascade from event to task, and before you know it, it is way too late at night to even think about meditation.
So if you sit before the movement of life starts taking over you, you’re sure to have had your meditation in for the day.
Not only is this good for the regularity of your practice, It also brings a sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment. And this will help make better decisions during the day.
The wisdom of Morning Jewish Meditation
In the Jewish spiritual tradition, contemplative practice often works together with prayer, and intention setting (kavanah).
While the word “prayer” may sometimes seem far removed from our twenty-first centuries daily lives, the working principles of various Jewish prayers- hodaya (gratitude), bakasha (request), hallel (praise), can be found in many contemporary positive psychology and mindfulness practices.
“Gratitude lists”, for example, require opening our eyes to wonder again at the familiar, appreciating being alive, daring to ask for help, or connecting to a higher power to receive the strength we need.
When I sit with students in the morning, we always start with the prayer “Modeh Ani”, ‘grateful I am”, a very short statement of gratitude.
In just a few words, as we say ‘modeh ani’, we acknowledge that we are alive this morning too. We recognizethat we don’t take being alivet for granted.
We connect to the compassion and trust that life has for us and in us. It feels so good to start the day by giving ourselves permission to just receive.
After the meditation, we close with words of intention for the day. When we walk into our usual routine filled with calm presence, gratitude, clarity and intentionality, the quality of our daily experience is on another level.
Building strong habits
Meditation practice flourishes on regularity.
It is important to repeat our practice every day, even if it is just for a few minutes. It is not about being perfect, it is about showing up!
I have found that meditating in the morning makes it easier to sit everyday.
One of the reasons for this is that we tend to have a stable morning routine (getting up, bathroom, brushing teeth, tea/coffee, etc.
Adding an element to a stable routine is likely to make it last, and to turn it into a habit before we know it.
Likewise, if you have a morning prayer practice, it is easier to add meditation to it.
This is because you already have a habit of pausing and doing something in the morning that is not geared just towards bodily care or needs or other practical organizational tasks.
Lastly, one of the recommendations you will often hear is that it is much better to sit regularly with a group under the guidance of a teacher.
Paradoxically, doing it in the morning is often easier, as our evenings tend to be packed with activities. Somehow, it is easier to find the time before 9 am than after 5 pm.
This is how we slowly integrate the Art of Presence, and train our systems to cultivate midot (character traits) of compassion, patience and generosity.
Joy and appreciation for life can come from something as simple as coming back to our meditation cushion every morning. This can make our lives, and the lives those around us so much better.
Try it, and see for yourself!