Bernard Williams once wrote, “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope”, and I am inclined to agree. The morning has long been a time beloved by creatives. That soft early morning light, warm and gold, is so often the spark that sets alight our imagination. When we see the brushstrokes of dawn or a sunrise that takes our breath away, we all become an artist. The morning has, for centuries, been a time of sacred creativity. As the sky paints itself in streaks of copper, peach and fiery red, the beauty of the natural world wraps around us, inspiring our poet’s heart.
Julia Cameron, bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, has long written about a practice called ‘Morning Pages’. With this creative technique, before our day or creative pursuits have begun, we are invited to write page after page of free-flowing prose without censoring or editing a single word of what we write. In so doing, we allow our conscious and unconscious selves to merge, letting our words spill out on to the page, shedding anything that we need to shed, and releasing anything that may be holding us back or creatively blocking us.
The act of self-permission to write and to give voice to our deepest self – as well as all the minutiae and humdrum of the everyday, like washing dishes, doing laundry, or making packed lunches – uncorks our creative power. The idea behind ‘morning pages’ is a very powerful one. When we write out the contents of our heart, mind, body, and soul, letting it pour out from us onto the page, we engage in the act of energetic release that sets us up for the rest of the day, enabling us to get out of our way and do the things we were born to do.
In Hal Elrod’s bestselling book, The Miracle Morning, Elrod shares six morning habits with the reader that promise to transform our lives: silence, affirmations, visualisation, exercise, reading, and scribing. How we begin our day matters far more than we know. The act of consciously choosing how we start it – rather than falling out of bed and rushing headlong into it – is key to not only a more miraculous morning, but to a more miraculous day, where those tiny, often-unnoticed moments can begin to astonish, astound, and amaze us.
But how often do we start our days in such a state of grace and wonder? Perhaps somewhat less than we might wish. Often when we go to bed at night, we lie awake and worry about all the things we have to do the following day – but I have found that it is always darkest before the dawn and that contained within this fertile darkness lie the seeds of our dreams. Sunrise and hope are powerful things, and each morning we have access to them, though so often we don’t seek out a sunrise or hold on to hope. We forget that beginnings matter.
If we choose to let go of the hope contained in each new dawn, we let go of the silken, sunlit thread that ties us to the power we have to create our day, our way. When we get out of bed in the morning, how do we greet the day? Do we roll over, stretch languorously, and feel grateful for this new morning? Or do we, instead, keep reaching for the snooze button on our alarm clock? Do we leap out of bed, full of the joys of spring, or do we snuggle back under the covers, eager for a little more shut-eye? So often, for most of us, it is the latter. The overwhelm and busyness of our day-to-day lives and the hustle and bustle of work and balancing ever-spinning plates can leave us dreading the dawn, rather than feeling gratitude for simply being here, now, alive.
You are here, and you matter, and the way that you start your day matters. It matters because it is the moment we set our intentions and the tone and mood for the rest of our day. When we get out of bed, if we stub our toe, we may react angrily rather than responding with laughter or neutrality. We may say, with some feeling, the day’s already started badly. It’s going to be one of those days. But we are in charge of our script, and we can change the lines that we say. In every good story, the beginning matters, for it is in the opening few sentences that the scene is set, and the reader gains a glimpse of what type of story this might be – and so it is, too, with mornings.
In truth, each new day is a fresh start, a chance to begin again, an opportunity to create anew. The narrative we have in our mind about the sort of day that we might have ahead of us is just that: a story. When we wake from our slumbers and the dreamworld we have occupied for eight hours, we dive straight into another type of dream – a waking dream where our often-unconscious beliefs underpin the narrative of our days. If we are not conscious of them, our inherited, involuntary convictions may run the show, limiting the limitless potential of each new day – and, as Philip Larkin asks, “Where can we live but days?”. It is in days that we build the gossamer webs of our lives – and, as every good storyteller knows, beginnings matter. So how will you choose to begin?
There can be no doubt that morning is a sacred time, particularly the hour and a half just before sunrise. This is known as Brahma Muhurta, Sanskrit for ‘The Creator’s Hour’. Have you ever felt that peaceful spaciousness and stillness that seems to be draped over the world in the very early hours? Or perhaps you have experienced, at daybreak, the mystical sense that at this moment, there is only you and the slowly rising sun awake? This time is said to be when our circadian rhythms are in sync with the waking world and where – if we choose to rise now – our mind will be steeped in purity and filled with profoundly peaceful and creative energy. If we rise with the sun, perhaps the light from our nearest star will sink deep into our bones, enlivening us with the purest form of energy.
Even if we don’t choose to rise at such an early hour, the morning can still feel sacred with just the subtlest shift of consciousness. Focus on how you want to feel rather than on what you want to do. Intention is about being and embodying, not about doing, striving, and achieving. Setting goals has its place – but underpinning them should always be soulful intention. If today you want to write a chapter of your book, for example, beneath that lies your secret why. Excavate this, and you will find treasure: the essence, the heart, and the nub of your goal. Perhaps the intention of a writer, then, is to be creative, or maybe it is to share a gift of beauty or a message of wisdom and healing with your readers. Seek out your intention and plant it in your heart like a seed. Trust that the hope of the newly dawning day will awaken it and activate it, setting in motion a quickening. Have faith in yourself, too, to bring your intentions to life, and watch as they blossom.
As the birds sing outside our window and dawn breaks over our corner of this wild world, there is a call to re-energise. The first thing we often do is head to the kitchen. So often, we skip breakfast and are fuelled all morning by the caffeine from a ‘grab and go’ black coffee. We then feel the lack of energy mid-morning when we reach for biscuits and elevenses to get us through ‘til lunchtime. But with only a little effort, we can turn breakfast into something sacred. Breakfast time invites us to be still, to nourish ourselves, to take a moment to tune into our body’s inner wisdom first thing. The word itself invites us to break the fast, for we have been fasting for many hours overnight – and when we do this, we can use breakfast as a moment of mindfulness, asking ourselves, “What do I want and need?” We can tune into our needs and use the first meal of the day as a moment of micro-mindfulness.
We can also use breakfast as a time to tune into the secret superpowers of gratitude, being thankful for the gift of fresh running water, food to eat, a table to sit at, and the blessing of a new day. If this all sounds a little Pollyanna, it isn’t meant to. Instead, it is a reminder to not starve ourselves of sacred moments, self-care, and setting empowered intentions. We must take these moments when we can because sometimes life can take them from us with its relentless bustle and busyness if we do not actively stop – and stopping, pressing pause, and slowing down, is not lazy, a waste of time, or passive. Slowing down needs to become a conscious and active choice, and morning can become a time where we sit down to break bread with our sacred soul in the morning light, welcoming our soul to lead us.
It does not matter if the morning light is bright and golden, or dank and dreary. It is our inner light and how we approach the day that matters – and days begin anew each morning. The morning can become a sacred pause. Every day is a chance to begin again within the tableau of a freshly unfolding dawn. Each morning is an opportunity to take a moment of stillness before tumbling into the day, to take a moment to think, to ponder, to dream, and to set intentions.
As the sun rises, we say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new; the rise and fall of all those moments of light and shade that come to us each day, in that divine time between sunrise and sunset.
Words by Rebecca Robinson