I used to be the type of person who was offended at any notion that I should rise before 10:00 a.m. From ages 11 to 25, I stayed in bed most days until about 11:00 a.m., then stumbled around in my pajamas until I decided it was finally time to do something with the day. Often, by the time I finally made it out the door, I found that the day had long since passed.
This woman who used to shuffle through life has long since been transformed. When I traded my late nights for day jobs, I found something quite fascinating: I actually enjoyed the mornings. When I began setting my alarm to make it to 6:00 a.m. yoga asana classes, I knew that something had shifted in me that would never go back.
Good thing, because when I had a baby, I learned how important it was to make friends with early mornings. Having a baby means I wake up very, very early. But I don’t wake up because she’s crying. I actually set my alarm to wake up several hours before her, and it is my secret to finding my grounding as a mother.
Waking early to get the most out of the day
I am reluctant to tell people how early I wake up, because it almost always brings about a strong reaction, the type I might have had many years ago when someone told me that getting up at 4:45 a.m. is the best part of their day.
For me, getting up this early is actually the second best part of my day. The best part is when my daughter comes running out of the bedroom around 7:30. I am usually putting the finishing touches on breakfast or packing up her lunch. I greet her with a hug, a kiss and a cup of warm water to sip. Then we have a few cuddles on the couch before we sit down to eat breakfast as a family.
I’m don’t think that I would be as delighted to see her if I didn’t give myself these three hours before she wakes up. A few years before she was born, I began to carve out time in the early mornings to bathe, then practice pranayama, meditation, yoga asana and do a little journaling. Since doing so, I have grown to have a lot more patience for life. I’ve become much better at handling the kinds of disturbances that young children are so very good at creating. That is not to say that I have transcended my emotional responses to traffic or a teething toddler. It just means I am learning how to breathe through them.
Morning time is mama time
When I became a mother, I gave up sole ownership over my direction in life. The decisions I make are now a negotiation between myself, my husband and this little guru we created. My days before giving birth used to be marked with some work, some household duties, and a relatively great deal of leisure. I read books, I took classes, I explored mountain hikes. Now I spend my downtime amidst a pile of board books, reading three to four pages of each until my daughter declares it is time for the next. Leisure is no longer on my terms.
I spent many years attempting to engineer every aspect of my life, only to find that life cannot be managed that way. Motherhood taught me this — our days need structure, but my mind needs flexibility. While some days I find myself wishing I could join a friend for a last-minute invitation to a hula class or take a spontaneous camping trip without wondering where I would plug in my rice cooker, mostly I love the simplicity of our days. I’ve grown to embrace the routines of cooking, eating, cleaning, working and playing in a way I never thought was possible. It is a service to myself and my daughter.
Honoring myself through dinacharya
I made this oath to become a karma yogi in the path of motherhood, but I held on to this one tiny little piece of my day. I cherish my early mornings like the precious gem they are. The time from 4:45 to 7:30 is all mine (actually, it belongs to my higher self). In the darkness of the new day, I bathe, sip a little tea and sit in my meditation room to discover who I am beyond all the roles I play. After I am done, I prepare breakfast and lunch for my little one. Then I do a little asana. My phone stays on airplane mode and I am mostly silent during this time, except for the smiles and bits of connection I share with my husband, who is right beside me, hoping his way through surya namaskar and measuring grain for our morning porridge. We become a family this way, meeting our higher selves so that we can show our daughter who she is.
This morning routine is an heirloom seed, passed on to me by many great teachers of yoga and Ayurveda. I hope that my daughter will accept this gift from me, to see it shine in the first rays of morning hit the sky. If I can give her just one thing in this life we are sharing together, my hope is that it is this: We offer the best service to the world when we give to our higher selves first.