Oh, February. Lovers around the country are reserving prix fixe dinners at romantic restaurants, selecting their most sentimental Hallmark cards, and sending beautiful bouquets of overpriced red roses. Don’t get me wrong, I admittedly love a good (cheesy) Valentine's Day, and as long as we are celebrating the season of love, let’s talk about the kind of love that often gets overlooked: self-love. For me, this has been a tumultuous, life-long relationship, and although it hasn’t always been a fairytale romance, I understand that unless I am in an intimate relationship with myself—one of respect, trust, honor, and self-care—there is no chance of sharing those qualities in my relationships with others. Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh said: "When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness." In hopes of assisting your own nourishment of happiness, here's a morning ritual I’ve developed to honor the utmost important relationship in my life, the relationship with Self.
The early morning hours present the most sacred, still, and intuitive hours of the day for me. I like to set the course of the day by taking some time to get quiet, check in, and notice all that is going on in the vast internal landscape of the body and mind. I often start my day (and many yoga classes I teach) with the below awareness practice.
- Find a comfortable seated or supine posture. (I like to sit because otherwise I have a tendency of falling back asleep.)
- Gently close your eyes and begin to notice all of the external distractions—the fidgeting of the body, the sounds in the room, the feel of the room, the smells in the spaces around you. As you notice them, can you allow them to exist without trying to change anything?
- After a few moments of noticing the distractions, start to notice your physical body and any sensations you may be feeling. Are there any particular areas of tension, tightness, or discomfort? Do any parts of your body feel relaxed, light, and open? Can you allow whatever is occurring in the physical body to exist without trying to modify or manipulate anything?
- Start to feel your body being supported by the earth beneath you. Take note of the parts of the body that are making contact with the earth.
- Notice the breath. Recognize the rhythm of the breath that is already occurring without judgement—Is it deep or shallow? Rigid or smooth?
- Consciously start to deepen your breath. Take a full deep breath in through the nose and sigh it out the mouth. Repeat three times.
- Allow yourself to come back to the normal rhythm of breathing—tracking and noticing your long, deep inhales and long, deep exhales. Notice yourself noticing the breath. Can you be the conscious observer of the breath?
- Repeat this mantra: Inhale: I am, Exhale: Love. Inhale: I am, Exhale: Love. Inhale: I am, Exhale: Love.
Lots of love and let me know how it goes!