Begin the Day on Your Own Terms

There is a moment, barely perceived, when you first wake up, before you open your eyes. A moment when you’re conscious, and yet have not arrived to the content of the waking world. And then— slam— you’re in it, you’re back, and the mind is on.

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What comes next, if you’re anything like me, will sometimes be a flash of vague anxiety or dread, a wondering what the day holds, and whether you will be enough to meet it. Sometimes what comes next is a compulsion to connect, to grab your phone and check in with what’s happening in your world— email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook— wherever you go to join in with the stream of news flowing from your chosen community, near and far.

Tim Ferriss has been known to say that our email inbox is “everyone else’s agenda for our time.” As soon as we click in, we see a list of information, questions, tasks, and junk that’s lined up and waiting. As soon as we engage, we are opting into a set of arbitrary priorities that we didn’t necessarily choose.

Social media feeds are the same way. We choose who we want to hear from by following and liking, and after that, our feed is a string of messages of what other people have chosen to broadcast to the world. As we read down the list, we may experience beauty, love, gratitude… intermixed with despair, envy, anxiety... taking on layer after layer of emotion.

There’s nothing written above that you don’t already know. And this writing is not meant to be a diatribe against technology or against our modern world. Email and social media have their purposes. This is a call to intention. This is an invitation to honor our own priorities, to be gentle with our waking minds.

The poet David Whyte wrote a piece called “Besieged,” in his book Consolations, which I return to again and again because of the perspective it gives on this feeling of being surrounded, crowded. He writes,

“Being besieged asks us to begin the day not with a to do list, but a not to do list, a moment outside of the time-bound world in which it can be reordered and reprioritized. In this space of undoing and silence we create a foundation from which to re-imagine our day and ourselves.”

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I read this and it’s as if I feel a breath of fresh air on my face. There is permission here to begin the day on our own terms, to set our own course, to check inward rather than “checking in.”

What would you do with your “moment outside of the time-bound world?” What would you do with your “space of undoing?”

Would you sip your cup of coffee slowly while looking out the window? Would you watch the workings of your heart and mind as you sit and observe your breath? Would you write in your journal reflections, intentions, bits of what is good in your life? Would you tend to your body with gentle movement?

How would you open a space of nourishment for yourself? And how would your days unfold differently with this new beginning?