One of my long-standing habits has been to check my iPhone as soon as I wake up. Living alone, the thing is like my stand-in boyfriend. “Good morning, lover!” It’s a shot of endorphins, a form of communication to the outside world, and there’s usually something in there that reminds or tells me what I need to take care of today.
That can all sound great at the offset, but here’s the rub. What usually happens is I wake up, looking at my notifications through crusty eyes. Choose one (did you know that instead of swiping the unlock, you can swipe an individual notification to dive right into that one?) and the cycle would begin. Depending on where I started, it would usually involve checking text messages, then email, then Twitter, then Facebook. Maybe Instagram, then Path, then back to email or Twitter. Sometimes I’d do this for 15 minutes, or sometimes an hour. Quite frankly there’s something to be said for how awesome it is that the iPhone is this mini computer in your hands, and I actually could get a lot of work done right from my cozy bed. Well, “a lot of work” really is just answering emails and maybe some “research” (reading articles) and sending or scheduling social media (marketing).
The thing is, I started getting the same creeping feeling I have reading trashy magazines, where they brainwash you into thinking it’s all about pleasing your man and dropping 20lbs… but worse. As an ambitious artist and creative, that horrible comparison feeling creeps up, where you start feeling like everyone else is doing something awesome with their lives, “They’re so creative! So on top of it! So successful!” What happens here, with this dangerous creeping comparison feeling, is I start to forget MY purpose.
When you think about it, when we’re just waking up we’re in a very vulnerable place mentally and spiritually. We’ve just barely left dreamland, and our subconscious is still swimming and waking up. And here we’re bombarding it with news and status updates and emails and expectations all from the outside world.
I tried to kick this habit last month, and quickly realized how hard it was for me. “But I like looking at my iPhone in bed first thing!,” I whined. It seemed like a luxury that I didn’t want to give up. So my first step was to ask WHY. Why did I like it? What was it helping me do? How was this habit serving me, or rather how did I think it was serving me, given that I had started to identify that most often it wasn’t actually helping me feel great about myself or the day ahead.
For the most part I don’t think I totally got the reasons why I felt like I needed it so much until I actually STOPPED. I had to see what was left in the space between. I’ll get to that in a second.
Leading up to changing this habit, I mentally prepared myself. I first had asked my community, and loved hearing the varied responses on how others behave around this habit.
Do any of you bounce right out of bed after the alarm (or no alarm)? Has anyone sworn off snooze and/or checking your phone in bed? #fb
— Willo O'Brien (@WilloLovesYou) October 25, 2012
A few of them jumped out at me, one being from my mindful friend, MD, who said her intention with waking was simply to place her feet gently on the floor. I liked that.
@WilloToons I did a tiny habit that said after the alarm rings or I wake up, I sit up and put my feet on the floor gently. Worked great!
— Mair Dundon (@quietaction) October 25, 2012
Mati & I had been talking about changing this habit, and one day I led us through a clarity session around it:
Identify What’s Not Working
Get clear how your current habit isn’t serving you, and why you want to change it.
What do I want my morning to look like? How do I want to feel? Paint the picture for your ideal morning:
What’s my intention for creating this new habit? How will it serve me?
Write a Purpose Statement
With your vision in mind, create a purpose statement for how you’d like your day to look. Include words that remind you of who you are, that inspire you, and that define how you want to feel.
If it helps, you can use this as a starting point, “Today I choose to show up and…”
We can talk about changing/creating a new habit until we’re blue in the face, but the real change happens when we make a commitment and take action.
For me, I find that it helps to not make some big arduous plan, but instead make the commitment to show up every day, and take it one day at a time. This helps keep me present and mindful. I also embark upon change with a keen sense of curiosity. As I said before, I want to see what shows up in the spaces in between.
November 1st I started.
For the first day I had my iPhone far away from the bed, so that made it easier. I had also written myself up a morning routine, inspired from the clarity session. Mine looks something like this:
Wake up, and gently be with the dreams I was just having
Feel my body. How was it all night? Cold? Hot? In one spot all night, or tossing and turning? Just a gentle hello to my body… which at that point may want to streeeeetch!
Almost like a meditation, I listen to any sounds that are around me. Either birds outside, or the mild hum of my refrigerator. Maybe there’s a mower or people talking as they walk by outside. Just listening.
To my surprise in the beginning, this process usually led me to naturally feeling like, “well, there’s nothing else to do here, so I guess it’s time to get up!” whereas usually I would have had plenty to “do” checking all of my emails, etc., therein giving me no reason to get out of bed. I also realized how much I was relying on my iPhone to “help” me wake up. Interesting to remind myself what it felt like to wake up without it. It feels amazing!
Also, a quick note on having the phone by the bed. As I said, the first day I had it away from me, but as I write this I’ve been keeping it next to my bed, to serve as an alarm if I need it. In the morning I will allow myself a quick scan of the notifications on the home screen, just to make sure there are no emergency calls or texts, but that’s it. I won’t even unlock it or read one if there’s not. It all can wait.
Placing my feet gently on the floor (thank you, MD), I then start the morning routine *I* want to have:
- Snuggle my kitty
- Put slippers on
- Go pee
- Put the kettle on for tea
- Maybe do any dishes in the sink while the water is boiling. I’ve actually found this surprisingly meditative right in the morning. The warm water. Being present with each dish and fork, and hearing the slow rise of the kettle as it heats up.
- Light a candle & sit down to write*
It can be so easy for us to dive into our days, tackling the tasks at hand, putting out fires, etc. As a small business owner I call this letting your business drive you (or run you over in some cases). As a creative – or anyone who wants to actually PRODUCE something into the world – it’s KEY you make space for creative output, and there is no better time than to do that at the beginning of the day, before all the outside world seeps in.
*You may choose to meditate, stretch, do yoga or go out for a walk. One of my intentions lately has been to write, write, write, so that’s been my choice for this initial time.
Regardless if your intention is to write, I’m a big believer in the Morning Pages (or Wild Writing, as Laurie Wagner calls it) for just getting it out and clearing all the stuff out that’s right on the forefront and potentially blocking the juicy creative bits underneath. As you start this practice, you become more aware of what wants to get down on the page. From the moment we wake we’re having thoughts, and I find there are usually patterns in the morning that I hear speaking to me as I walk to the bathroom, then walk into the kitchen, put on the tea and do a few dishes. I listen, knowing that I will be sitting down to let it all come out and be heard.
Both Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages and Laurie Wagner’s Wild Writing are usually done long hand. However at home, and with the projects I have as my focus lately, I’ve been enjoying doing mine on the computer. Thing is, sitting down to your computer first thing, where your email wants to get read, etc., can be challenging, so I have created a routine to set this as a sacred space for myself:
- I have my tea.
- I light a candle.
- I put my headphones in and I open Ommwriter. This provides an immersive, peaceful screen.
Ommwriter has really lovely music and sweet sounds that happen when you type, hence the headphones. Also, while you can save your Ommwriter files, I actually end up copying all the text I’ve written and pasting it over to Evernote to save them when I’m done. Ommwriter is simply where I write. I can then take that text and save it in my Journal Notebook in Evernote, create a blog post (as I’ll do with this), or add it to a larger book project. Bottom line is don’t do your editing in Ommwriter. Let it be a sacred space where you just write, write, write, unedited.If you have time constraits on your day, simply set the timer for 15 minutes, and give yourself that. This time isn’t about editing, it’s just about getting it out. As Laurie instructs us in Wild Writing, write horribly. Write really bad. Or as Ann Lamott calls it, “shitty first draft.” It’s just about getting it on the page.
At this point – gently waking up, making tea, and sitting down to write – I have given myself the first 30-40 minutes of my day. What a gift!
You may need to start getting ready to go to work, or you may want to get out and take a walk. Give yourself a break here to stretch and transition, even if it’s small. If you are working on a project that needs more creative time, now is a great time to dive in. You’re in the flow, you’ve cleared out the muck on top, and you’re ready to go deeper. If you’re an artist, get yourself to the canvas. If you have a book you’re working on, dive in & start.
Stay present with what comes up as you make these shifts. Where are you resisting? Resistance is a funny thing, because so often we resist the resisting. Like we’re in a battle with ourselves! And that’s exactly what it is. Work on being in relationship with yourself. Gently sit next to this resistance and ask what it’s afraid of? Listen, or better yet, write it out. Then – very important! – remind yourself who you are and what you want by revisiting the purpose statement that you created for yourself. Then, START.
This is Day 5 of 5 in my week of posting about forming new habits as a commitment to Creative Sustainability & self-care. It took me a little while to finally get this last one published… but next I’ll post an update on how they’re all going. Stay ‘Tooned!