Morning rituals: finding a sustainable practice that sustains you

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Sunrise

Let’s talk morning rituals. Over the past year, I’ve read tips on making the most of the initial hours in a day—from “eating the frog” to exercising to avoiding social media to praying or fasting. Although I’ve tried all of the above and more, my focus over the past year and a half has included three top priorities: prayer, purpose and performance. During the first hour of my day, I reconnect to my “source” through devotions and Bible readings. Then, I journal for 15-20 minutes before jumping into that day’s creative pursuits. Finally, I hop on my exercise bike, hit the yoga mat and power walk through my neighborhood or head for the mountain trails. And not only has this morning ritual sustained me during an unsettled 2020 and into the new year, but it also proves to be a sustainable practice that I can adjust as needed.

Visit my new home at chrismadayschmidt.com and let me know what type of practice, morning or otherwise, sustains you?

Happiness is… losing track of time

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In my post “…starting over in 2021,” I mention embarking on a Bucket List Journey by Annette as a way to embrace possibility for the new year. If you’ve yet to check it out, give it a whirl. Each day provides thought-provoking questions that force you—in a good way—to reflect on what inspires you, what challenges you to pinpoint areas in your life that need to change and what activities you desire to incorporate more of on a regular basis. Try this prompt on for size: Which activities cause me to lose track of time? For me, this includes hiking, writing, reading and playing games. The list can be as short or as long as you like—but consider those instances when an hour or more flies by unnoticed because you were consumed with whatever captured your attention. And then take it a step further: How can I add more of those moments into my daily life?

Which activities cause you to lose track of time?

You’re not going that way anyway

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Is there a go-to place you seek for inspiration or insight? The mountains fill that role for me. Before each hike, I ask: What do I need to know? followed by prayer for an open mind and heart to receive. Sometimes, I experience “ah-ha” moments; other times a surprise spotting of deer prompts me to look up and view the world in front of me. One fresh insight aligns with the latest writing adventure on which I embarked (see “My future self…”). Concerned that a few other trekkers chose a similar route as me during a recent outing, I feared disruption of much-needed solitude. Yet these hikers opted for a different trail, leaving me with unfounded worry—a reminder not to waste energy agonizing over choices that others make. This coincides with years of envying fellow writers, while seeking their “maps” to success. And realizing that each of us get to forge a path unique to our own journey.

How do you know you’re on the right path?

Pace yourself: how to ‘win the race’

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For several weeks now, I’ve posted a blog every Tuesday. Although I can prepare posts in advance to be deployed on any given day, last week I forgot. One year, I actually challenged myself to post a blog per day—equaling 365 posts at 168 words each for a total of 61,824 words. The size of an average-length novel. Kind of sobering and the segue into today’s post about pacing ourselves, which applies to most areas in our lives. It proved especially true the morning I embarked on a hike in the middle of a Phoenix, Arizona summer: If I wanted to “win the race,” this meant a slow and steady pace (plus frequent hydration breaks). That’s when I also realized my sporadic writing sprints—followed by limited to no activity—did nothing to advance my literary goals. However, if instead, I maintain a minimum 168-word-a-day pace, one day (like today), I’ll look back and view all the ground I’ve covered.

Where do you need to pace yourself?

Photo credit: B.A.S.

A time for everything: the key is in the knowing when

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I can obsess over life’s minutiae with the best of them. Pounce on an idea or thought, roll it around, pound it out, stretch it and kneed it, worry it and ruminate on it—until I become paralyzed—hashing and rehashing, attempting to establish if or when I took a wrong turn, misjudged or misunderstood. Oftentimes, I seek freedom from my thoughts through journaling, a safe place where I scrawl my uncensored soul across the pages of my college-ruled notebook. Mostly, though, I pray. Absolved of conventions about where or when or how, I unearth solace on the mountain trails. Just me and God and nature’s playground. It’s here where I often find the answers—and healing—I seek. I’ve mentioned it before, how there’s a time for everything according to the Good Book: A time to keep and a time to throw away… a time to be silent and a time to speak. The key is in the knowing when.

Do you struggle with the knowing when?

The big picture: sacrificing on the front end

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Last Sunday morning, I woke up and declared aloud: “I’m not hiking today”—which was a pretty big deal, since anyone who knows me also knows a trek in the mountains provides me an opportunity to decompress, to recharge and to reconnect with my Maker on a deeper level. However, if past experience taught me anything, it required I consider the plans I hoped to accomplish before lights out that evening. In this particular case, it meant sacrifice on the front end to set myself up for success on the tail end. I spent roughly three hours (factoring in typical commute and trail choice) playing catch up: paperwork, goal setting and household chores. Plus, I prepared a hearty split pea soup for dinner. The pièce de résistance? A strong plan sketched out for the week, month and year ahead. And the bonus: enough time for a wild and crazy Trivial Pursuit game night.

What sacrifice have you made on the front end to realize a successful tail end?

Quit forcing the issue: a study in contrasts

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During a solo hike on the Sonoran trails last month, I sought—as a matter of course—divine guidance pertaining to my vocation, my relationships and my spiritual, physical and emotional health. Oftentimes, it requires miles of silence, a veritable test in patience, for me to gain any type of clarity. That afternoon proved no different and, while I navigated the ins and outs of a new-to-me trail system, I sensed clear instruction: Quit forcing the issue. Although not quite the message I’d expected or hoped for, I understood the directive. For a planner like me, however, to sit back and go with the flow also illustrates a study in contrasts—not unlike the vibrant desert blooms fixed against a backdrop of rugged terrain. Yet, the moment I quit forcing the issue created space: to either freak out, or to growth within. To wallow in the challenges, or to celebrate the victories. Most important, it allowed the magic to unfurl.

What issue do you need to quit forcing?

Make it work: just do it

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In my post, “How to discern the answer you’re looking for,” I talk about a trek into the desert that brings clarity to a dilemma and, although not a make-or-break-me situation, it’s a debate I engage in with myself on the daily (isn’t that a fun, hip phrase?). To write, or not to write—that is and has been the question for decades. However, during said hike, I discover, with certainty, that the desires knit into my heart prior to conception are not without a purpose (although TBD). So why don’t I jump for joy and shout with exultation?! Because life. And its plethora of more pressing goals and commitments; the battle between self-care and self-indulgence; the act of self-sacrifice to put others’ needs ahead of our own. But wait! To make it work does not mean all or nothing, nor does it require a choice of one dream at the expense of others. To make it work means: just do it.

How do you make it work?

Photo source: https://www.pinterest.com.

Your breaking point: recognize the signs

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This past year seems like it’s elapsed in a whirlwind, with my goal to pursue the power of P (peace, patience, purpose and a more passionate prayer life) being usurped by the practice of mindfulness. Which makes sense, because it’s a concept that involves each of these pursuits. This past weekend, the chance to practice mindfulness showed up in a big way: As is often the case, my plans on paper did not translate well into real time, and I quickly recognized the signs that signal my “breaking” point. Close to panic mode when the little piles and pressures in front of me become overwhelming, I turn inward and disengage. Oftentimes, this means a solitary trek into the mountains as a means of avoidance. This weekend, however, I opted to dodge all outside commitments to allow my soul to catch up to my body right where I was at. To let the day unfold with no agenda. And with no regrets.

What does your breaking point look like?

Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

When you run out of margin: create more

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In November, my second three-year term as secretary on my neighborhood community’s HOA board of directors concludes. I’m beyond excited to allocate my extra time toward other pursuits in an already jam-packed schedule. Case in point: a goof up this past Sunday in regard to said schedule reiterates that my margin runs shallow. While I spent two hours in the mountains hiking and writing, my church peeps waited for relief at the information desk. Although written in my planner, I overlooked my commitment when organizing my morning trek. With one minute to spare, I showed up for service, located a seat and later learned I had missed my volunteer stint. Yes, I’m human, but the oversight forced me to admit I either need to a) slow down or b) color code my task list. Regardless, good riddance to crabby neighbors and hello to more time for things that thrill me. It’s about creating margin (and taking a nap or two).

What happens when you run out of margin?

Photo courtesy of nunawwoofy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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