Why You Need A Morning Ritual

I’ve been waking up at 4 a.m. for a few months. But, it’s ok, I want to.

For a lot of folks, those two sentences are at odds with each other. While a 4 a.m. wake-up isn’t essential, it certainly makes for a better (read: longer) morning ritual. And regardless of when, everyone should consider having a morning ritual.

What My Mornings Used To Look Like

Previously, my mornings started with four alarms: “Wake up” “Seriously, you need to get up now.” “Are you in the shower?” “Ok, now you are late.” I’d snooze through the first two alarms. Easily. Thanks to sleep inertia, I’d start the morning groggy but I’d also be disappointed with myself for not getting up earlier. And I was stressed. What was I going to wear? What was I going to have for lunch? Run. Scurry. Panic.

Then we threw a kid in the mix.

The Inspiration

Thankfully, I recently heard an NPR article (or maybe it was a TED talk?). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to bookmark it. The reporter opened with how Maya Angelou, regardless of if she was traveling and staying in a hotel or at her home, would wake up every morning at four in the morning to write. He listed other creative thinkers and well-respected businesspeople who enjoyed getting an early start on the day.

And then he tried it. He woke up and found that it was a difficult task at first, but the stillness of the morning was invigorating and his creative juices were flowing.

I had to try it too.

Measuring Success Because My Type A Self Won’t Be Denied

The first couple of days I would spring out of bed. The anticipation of four in the morning made it difficult to sleep. It was a similar sensation to when I have a plane to catch. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short one-hour flight — the night prior is filled with tossing and turning because I’m so worried that I’ll oversleep.

Being the bullet journal junkie that I am, I actually have some data. I started in July and was successful 45% of the time. August: 54%. September: 40%. But there’s a catch with September. I’ve only woken up 12 times (so far this month since as of this writing it is September 29) at 4 a.m. but I have enjoyed my morning ritual 22 times this month. And so, if I change my metric of success to being that I got up and had a morning ritual, September isn’t too shabby at a 73% success rate. Woot woot!

So, dear Toto, allow me to pull back the curtains and share what makes up my new morning routine.

Morning Ritual Timeline:

4:00 – Alarm goes off. I open one eye to search for the phone. Think about skipping the whole deal. Snooze the alarm.
4:15 – The alarm goes again and I turn on a light. No more hopping out of bed for this gal. The motion can be described as a drag-my-feet-across-the-carpet-in-which-I-make-enough-static-electricity-I-could-taze-someone motion as I walk into the bathroom. Then it’s downstairs to do other essential things. Important things like coffee.
4:30 – Free write.
5:15 – Alarm goes off. This was my normal wake-up alarm. It now serves as a reminder to transition.
5:20 – Yoga for 10 minutes.
5:30 – Meditation for 10 minutes.
5:40 – Read for 5 minutes.

Morning ritual completed. Healthy habits established.

On the days that I don’t wake up at 4 a.m. I still make time to free write, do yoga, meditate, and read. However, the amount of time to write is greatly reduced. So it would behoove me to move my butt out of bed at that early hour.

The Elements Of Littlest Martha’s Morning Ritual

Free Write

silver fountain pen resting on a journal with cursive handwriting
Beautiful fountain pens are encouraged. Baby rabbit statue that your parents saved for you as a child to serve as your paperweight: bonus.

There was a time that I would be terrified to write on a blank sheet of paper. The fear of writing something “not good” prevented me from writing anything at all. Now I crave the weight of the fountain pen. I get excited when the ink bleeds all over the paper and onto my fingers. I especially love it when it gets lodged under my fingernails. It’s the tattoo of a writer.

Prior to my 4 a.m. morning ritual, my writing was very mean. To myself. I’d wait for some muse to come and would often find anger and disappointment at myself for not “being good enough.” (I’m noticing a theme here.)

However, I now flip through the pages of my free write journal and find poetry and prose on whatever is taking space in my mind that morning.

It’s a theory but I’m going with it: perhaps at this early hour the ego, my critical self, is still sleeping and not able to dish out the criticisms.

True or not, now when I’m looking for material to turn into a short story or poem I flip through my blue moleskin journal and have several months of material to draw upon.

Yoga

Siberian husky on a blue yoga mat
This is what happens if you leave the yoga mat unattended. You get squatters.

I sit for 9 to 10 hours a day. And now we know that “sitting is the new smoking” so yoga is my smoke break. I have a series of poses that I have committed to memory and will cycle through those for 10 minutes.

Thanks to the Insight Timer app I have presets that I use every morning. Once the timer is on it activates a Do Not Disturb setting so no email alerts or texts can come through.

If you’re interested in starting your day with some yoga, check out these sun salutations.

Meditation

sunrise over the ocean with inspirational words

I am such a fangirl these days for meditation. However, it couldn’t have been more than a year go when I was introduced to meditation and I said: “Yeah, thanks but not for me. I lack the discipline.”

Again the Insight Timer app came in handy here. When I was brand new to meditation I would enjoy browsing through the guided meditation options. All so lovely. Morning affirmation meditations, Metta meditations (“Metta” is the pali word for lovingkindness), meditations to help you fall asleep, music and much more.

For my morning ritual, I will leverage the presets and meditate for 10 minutes. The thoughts would come rapid-fire like a tennis ball launcher on steroids (and they still do), but before my inclination was to try and chase them down. Exhausting.

As I’ve learned from Tara Brach, the mind excretes thoughts in the same way the body excretes enzymes. So, now I sit on the cushion and acknowledge the thoughts as they go whizzing by and return to the breath. It’s taking some practice but with each meditation, I find the experience is becoming more and more restorative and freeing.

Read

"Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" book on hardwood floor
One of the books I actually finished reading. And it was pretty darn good. Blog post fodder right here.

My younger self was always reading. Car ride? Reading. On the beach? Reading. On the soccer field (provided I wasn’t playing)? Reading. The appetite to read hasn’t left me but I am not walking around with a book anymore since there are adult things I have to do now.

Enter the Insight Timer app. The third preset in my morning ritual is to read for 5 minutes. Unlike the other presets (as you can customize all presets) this one has no music, only the gong to signal when done.

This portion of my morning ritual has shown the most tangible results. Reading for 5 minutes a day has been really helpful. When I find the material is slow I know I can just read it for a few moments, but when it’s good I find myself sneaking a few more pages … or chapters.

The ultimate goal here is to read a book a month. Younger self, you’d be happy to learn that I’m on my way to finishing my third book.

An Extra Bonus To An Early Wake Up

Bright sunrise over rooftops

By this time the sunrise is peeking through the windows. Experiencing a soft sunrise warm up the sky and light up the room you’ve been sitting in is nothing short of magical. And it’s the perfect opportunity to give thanks.

For me, I use that chance to give thanks for the people in my life, the blessings in each day, that I get to see another day, and for my morning ritual. It’s also at this time that I’ll recite my mantra or the day’s intention.

Your morning ritual doesn’t have to start at 4 in the morning, but I hope that you make enough time for yourself to do the things that bring you joy, peace, and inspire your creativity.

With gratitude,

Martita signature

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Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?

Children's poetry book

Guys! Gals! I am so excited to share my latest project!  My husband and I are currently promoting on Kickstarter a children’s poetry book called “Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?”

The Origins Of This Children’s Poetry Book

A little less than two years ago, while I was nursing my son in the middle of the night my husband, David, would stay up with us (most nights) and in an effort to keep himself awake, and me entertained, he started to write fun, rhyming poems.  It worked at keeping us from dozing off as we tried to come up with themes and rhymes.

But something happened to David. He just couldn’t stop himself. He would be in the shower, driving to work, or feeding our constantly-hungry child and new ideas for poems kept popping into his head. And they were getting better and funnier.

Six months ago we realized that he had quite a large collection of poems — over 200!

Could we turn these poems into a book? Wouldn’t that be something, we thought. What a gift to be able to give to our little boy for his first birthday, his second birthday for an upcoming holiday. But a children’s poetry book needs artwork.

I could do it!  I thought. Out came the sketching pencils, chalk, watercolor and my sudden realization that I lack the skills to illustrate the whimsical things he was writing poems about.

Watercolor and chalk drawing of "Grass" for a children's poetry book "Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?"
Drawing grass isn’t too bad. Maybe I could do this. But gorillas wearing mittens and a peg-legged, hook-handed ninja …? Hnmm. Maybe. But, maybe not.

So, we found ourselves an illustrator and we’re much closer to making “Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?” a reality.  I am immensely proud but I can’t celebrate just yet.

"Grass" illustration for "Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?"
Behold! The actual artwork for “Grass” — one of the many poems in “Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?” And, a really good example of why you work with professionals.

Help “Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?” Come To Life

The poetry book is within our grasp. Kind of like this …

Just GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

So, close little buddy. So, dang close.

But Kickstarter is All-Or-Nothing. Meaning that if we make our fundraising goal then we can make a beautiful and fun children’s poetry book. If we are shy of our goal then, well…

Nothing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why is Kickstarter so extreme, you ask?

Great question! As taken from their website:

All-or-nothing funding is a core part of Kickstarter and it has a number of advantages:
It’s less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it’s tough having $1,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.
It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they’re going to spread the word.
It works. Of the projects that have reached 20% of their funding goal, 81% were successfully funded. Of the projects that have reached 60% of their funding goal, 98% were successfully funded. Projects either make their goal or find little support. There’s little in-between.

Well, boy howdy, we are motivated! And so far the response has been positive but we can’t let our foot off the gas.

Please Support Us

Raising a large amount of money for a project you believe in can be scary. So does asking friends, family and folks who you hope won’t unsubscribe from your blog, but then there are moments (to me this is one of them), where I can’t not ask.  However, the neat thing about Kickstarter is that folks can back a project at whatever price point they are comfortable with.

So, please, consider backing our labor of love and in return (if we get fully funded), you will get a lovely children’s poetry book that you can keep for yourself or read with a little in your life.

And, since I’m already asking, please also help spread the word. If more people are aware of this project and know that that time is running out to act, we may increase our chances of bringing “Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?” to life.

Watch Our Video To Learn More

Video Transcript:

Hello Kickstater. My name is David and I’m very excited to share with you my new project. It’s a children’s poetry book called “Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?”

Let me tell you a little bit about this project. One of my son’s favorite things is to grab one of his books and hop into my lap and ask my wife and me to read to him.

I wanted to create something from my own imagination that I could share with my family. This started as a small scale, personal project. It started as a handful of handwritten poems that I was hoping to one day be able to read to my son at bedtime. But just like my son, this project has grown. It’s now a collection of over 220 poems. It’s my dream to bring these poems together in one hardbound collection just perfect for small hands.

I’ve partnered with a wildly talented artist whose illustrations bring these poems to life. Her illustrations are whimsical, fun and really captures the spirit of what it is to be young. We have poems that appeal to everyone. There’s one about a vegetarian lion, there’s one about a time machine. My wife’s personal favorite is one about a pirate and a ninja who decide to switch jobs for a little while. My personal favorite is about two people on opposite sides of the world who don’t realize that they are planning a game of tug-of-war on the same piece of grass.

We’ve put together a few samples that we’re ready to share. I wanted to make something for my son that would last him the rest of his life. Maybe even something he could share with his own children some day. And I want to share that experience with you and your family.

“Have You Seen My Pet Dragon?” is almost ready to hit a child’s bookshelf near you, but we need your support. How many poems we can afford to print and illustrate really depends on the success of this campaign. What we need is the seed money to help get over the initial hurdle of the first round of production.

Please check out our donation tiers as we’re offering copies of the book as well as hand-printed bookmarks and even postcards that are beautiful enough to send or frame. Please help us spread the word on social media so we can bring some awareness to this campaign.

 

With gratitude,

Martita signature