Do you have any morning rituals? Are there little things you do each morning to start your day? For example, do you hop into the shower right away? Or do you grab your cup of coffee or tea first? Do you check your email or do you sit quietly for a few moments? Do you talk to God or pray?
In his book, Earth Works, Scott Russell Sanders describes one of his morning rituals. In the chapter entitled, “A Private History of Awe,” he says he always begins his day with some form of meditation. He writes: “When I rise from meditation each morning, I gaze through an uncurtained window at the waking world, and I bow. The gesture is plain enough—hands drawn to my chest, palms pressed together, a slight bend at the waist—but its meaning is elusive. If you asked me to explain my little ritual, to say whom or what I honor with my bow, I would be hard put to answer.”
Since moving into this apartment in Notre Dame Village (which is attached to our provincial center) I have incorporated a new ritual into my morning. While still in my jammies, and before getting my coffee, I step out onto my second floor balcony each morning. (I prefer to call it my porch). I do this every morning no matter what the weather is doing outside. It’s usually about 5:00 AM (or even earlier) when I perform this ritual. I have yet to see any other human being outside when I do this—except a couple of times I have seen an ambulance below transporting someone to the nearby hospital. But most of the time as I stand there, I sense my utter aloneness.
If you were to ask me, why I do this ritual every morning, I could give you a couple of answers. First, I’m inquisitive. I want to know what kind of a day I am awakening to. What’s the temperature? Any precipitation, wind, clouds? But my reasons go beyond mere meteorological curiosity. I just love to be outdoors. And since I now live in an apartment complex and my main ministry of writing is done indoors, I have to make a conscious effort to get outside. This little ritual assures me that I will get outside every single day.
But perhaps the main reason I stand on my balcony every morning is because I feel so close to God when I do this. I find myself reveling in God’s handy work: the setting moon, the twinkling stars, the swaying trees, the fresh air, the silence. I often talk to these natural entities as if they were my old friends. I compliment the moon, I praise the stars, I breathe in the fresh air. The other day the moon was so big, so white, so bright, I wanted to shout to my sleeping neighbors, “Hey, Everybody! Wake up! Get out here! You gotta see this moon!” But, of course, I didn’t. But before I step back inside, I always say a big thank you to God for the gift of this new day. Then I go inside, grab my coffee, plop into my living room chair, and I’m ready to begin my “formal” prayer—and my new day.
Toward the end of Sanders’ chapter, he explains more clearly why he bows to his uncurtained window every morning. He describes how the natural world fills him with wonder and awe. Then he says, “I am not saying that nature is God, for at this time in my life, with my children grown and my beard turning white, I have given up all opinions about God. I am saying that what we call nature, this all-embracing power and pattern, fills me with joy and inspires me with profound respect for all that lives. I am saying that mountains and mosquitoes, rivers and rhododendrons, you and I are utterances of this power. I am saying that this persuasive, unnamable, shaping energy, glimpsed in the whorl of skin on a thumb or the spiral of stars in a distant nebula, is what compels me to bow at a brightening window each morning.”
And I would say that my few minutes outside on my porch each morning centers me. It connects me to nature and the greater pulsating world of which I am a small speck. It fills we with gratitude no matter what is going on in my personal life or in the larger world. It underscores for me the preciousness of every single day we are privileged to walk upon this beautiful earth. It leads me to say with deep joy, “Thank you, my dear, sweet God—for everything!”
Do you have any morning rituals? If so, what are they? Why do you do them?
In which situations or circumstances do you sense your connectedness with all things?
Does gratitude for the gift of existence ever well up in your heart? When?
P.S. I will be in Fort Smith, Arkansas from May 20-28 leading a retreat for the Benedictine Sisters and their associates at St. Scholastica Monastery. I ask your prayers that the Holy Spirit may shower many blessings upon us with during this time. Thank you very much!
I chose an old favorite, “Morning Has Broken” for our song today. This Christian hymn was first published by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931. British singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens, recorded his version of the hymn in 1971. Stevens, raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, converted to Islam in 1977, taking the name Yusuf. At age 74, he is still touring in Great Britain today.
I invite you to write a comment below on this reflection. You’ll make my day if you do!