We know the feeling. Wake up and the impulse hits: “I need to check my phone.” Soon enough we are checking Facebook, Instagram, text messages, emails, and missed calls before setting any sort of intention for the day. Heck, we haven’t even stopped to say, “I’m thankful that I’m breathing” or “I’m at least fairly grateful for another day to be living on this messed up but eternally beautiful ball of Earth floating through the cosmos.” OK, fine, that may be a bit much, but I digress.
With the rise in technology (yes, I know, a frequent target and talking point) and increase of availability of information, we have lost touch with the present moment. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view it), we are now required to implement discipline if we care to not only exist in, but also be acutely aware of the present moment and all the wisdom that lies within it.
As we move deeper into our day without a taste of such discipline, the present moment will drift further and further out of reach. We may attempt to will ourselves out of ruminating in the past or projecting into the future, perhaps with some fleeting moments of success, only to be sucked back into the vortex of existing physically in the present moment, yet in a different space mentally.
So, the question is: “How do we cultivate and maintain the sense of discipline necessary to soak up the present moment, thus alleviating existential anxieties and propelling forward in our spiritual growth?”
The answer is short in length but complex in nature: “INTENTION.”
Intention in this sense refers to the harnessing and implementation of conscious control regardless of fleeting thoughts, desires, and impulses. It asks that we stop to observe such thoughts and decide if acting on them would be in line with our value system.
So, how may this look in the morning?
Let’s say you wake up, get out of bed, and see your phone sitting right on the table next to you. You know that beginning your morning with a few minutes of a writing tends to lead to a peaceful and productive day, but would checking the amount of Instagram likes on the picture you posted last night really hurt? You choose the phone over the journal and see that your picture got four likes. Eh, not bad, but you’d like to see more. You then scroll through your feed, catching up on all the social happenings that you missed while you were asleep. Soon enough, you feel your phone buzz - it’s an email reminding you about the dentist appointment you have later today. You start freaking out a bit - you hate the dentist and panic at the thought of sitting still. To quell the anxiety of visiting the dentist’s office, you then call your best friend to vent, and your friend ends up asking if you want to go to a concert tonight. You’ve never heard of the band, so you go to Spotify to listen to the band’s most recent record, which is a half hour long. After listening to the record, you look up at the clock and you realize that you have to be at work in an hour, and you haven’t gotten dressed, brushed your teeth, eaten breakfast, packed lunch or gotten your bag together for the day. “Ehh, my yoga practice can wait until tomorrow,” you say reluctantly to yourself, not quite aware of the negative self-talk that your mind has embarked on as a result of you missing out on the activity that seems to bring such peace and productivity to your day.
If this story sounds like something that you have experienced, you are not alone. Technology and other distractions can be a slippery slope - one decision to go off track can set us back leaps and bounds. This is why developing an ability to make conscious choices that are in line with our value system is so crucial. Intention in the face of impulse will bring a new light to your life that will permeate your headspace and transform your actions in the world.
Think of the moment you wake up as an opportunity to declare to the Universe that you are grateful to live another day and to live it fully. It is your opportunity to use the activity of your choice to look inward and prepare for the day. Perhaps this takes the form of a yoga practice, a stretching routine, an outdoor walk or run, reading some chapters of a book, writing in a journal, a meditation practice, a breathing exercise, or a combination of any of the above. Regardless, finding a morning routine (which can differ from day to day) will wire your brain and strengthen your mental muscles in a way that allows you to have more conscious control of turning your thoughts into action. And you may notice a greater spiritual connection as well, as awareness of the present moment often provides a sense of awe and gratitude that propels you through the veil that lies between the mind and spirit.
Start experimenting with different morning rituals and routines that allow you to cultivate discipline and intention to start your day. Remember that patience is key - you may have been living a certain way without intention in the morning for quite some time. The process of setting intention takes time, but I promise you that daily commitment to this mission will bring profound results, and even within the times of struggle will lie opportunity for growth.