Recipe for a calm morning

I’ve been working on establishing a meditation practice but I think it’s a little too soon to declare this endeavor a success or failure. Further practice is definitely needed. Despite floundering with meditation, I have cobbled together a morning routine that kicks my day off in a way that feels both calming and healthy. No matter what the day brings, this routine assures that I’ve had a a least a few hours that soothe my whirring brain.

Coffee first. The promise of a good hit of caffeine takes the sting out of that 4:30 am alarm.

Cold-brewed, black, and iced. Yum.

After 10 minutes of stretching (especially good for my still-healing shoulder), I fill up a couple of pages in my journal.

Then it’s time for a 2.5 mile walk which takes about 45 minutes. Right now I’m walking in the dark. It’s interesting to notice how much more attuned I am to sounds (a train whistle, the rustle of squirrels in the leaves) and smells (the strong scent of pine from a towering tree felled in a recent wind storm) than I am when I’m walking in daylight.

After a long, hot shower (that’s where I do my best thinking), it’s time for breakfast. I completely fell for the packaging of this hot cereal. A peaceful morning for a mere $6.99? That’s an offer I couldn’t refuse. Topped with a little oat milk and coconut sugar, it’s delicious, even if the peaceful morning it promises doesn’t always pan out.

Lately I’ve been working to break myself of the unhealthy habit of doom-scrolling through the news while I eat my breakfast and have turned to solving cryptoquip puzzles instead. Each puzzle provides you with a letter-substitution clue, then it’s your job to decipher the rest.

These decoding puzzles give my active mind something to chew on rather than worrying about what the day may bring, or mindlessly absorbing a host of negative headlines that wear me out before I’ve even finished my breakfast.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a handful of lessons from these simple puzzles—lessons as applicable to life as they are to solving a word puzzle.

Take a guess! Dive right in!

Look for patterns. Use your past experience.

Don’t be afraid to start over.

Resist the urge to cheat.

Finding the right answer is very satisfying.

When you’re grinding on a problem, walk away. The solution may very well appear after you come back to it with fresh eyes. (This happens soooo often.)

Something as basic as pencil on paper both activates and calms my mind so that I head out the door feeling ready for the day, not prematurely dragged down by it.

I used to stay in bed until the last minute, drink coffee loaded with cream and sugar, devour the news and Lucky Charms for breakfast, but none of that served my mind or body well.

I look forward to this well-honed morning routine as much as I look forward to crawling into a warm bed with a good book every night.

Simple practices. Simple food.

That’s my recipe for a calm morning. What’s yours?

20 thoughts on “Recipe for a calm morning

  1. Great post, Mary! I so admire your routine. And I, too, love the cereal packaging . But most importantly, Where do you get those puzzles -? I need to get some!!

    • These particular puzzles come from a little publication that our local newspaper distributes quarterly. I don’t get the paper but my mom always passes along her copy. If you look for cryptogram puzzles, there are books available. I picked one up at Barnes & Noble. They’re not as plentiful as crossword, words search, or sodoku, but they’re out there. I used to find them IMPOSSIBLE but now I love them.

  2. What a lovely routine. Mine goes – get up when the alarm goes off, make a pot of tea (real tea, not herbal, with semi-skimmed cow’s milk), sit on the settee and plan my day if I didn’t do it the previous evening then write in my journal, usually about what I did the previous day. After that I allow myself to take a quick look at the headlines, then ten minutes of yoga stretches followed by breakfast. At the moment I’m eating home-made yogurt and some rhubarb compote, but I’ve got a lot of muesli to get through so I’ll be back to that in the next few days.

  3. I shared this post with a group of women who are struggling together to survive this shitshow. We meet on Zoom every other week and have named ourselves Archeologists of the Spirit and are all seeking a morning and evening routine that works for us. Thank you for a great post at just the right time.

    • You’re very welcome! This is only tangentially stationery-related but something made me feel like sharing. Your group sounds like the perfect thing for these odd times.

  4. Oh, that morning routine sounds relaxing and comforting, indeed! Mine is very similar, but in a slightly different sequence (and starting a bit later, thank goodness! 4:30 a.m. — you poor thing!). The only additional thing I do is draw my hand every day (as I have done since the pandemic began… today was day 217). It’s very grounding to make at least one sketch a day without having to think about WHAT to sketch. What I have NOT done is broken the doomscrolling habit, and I must. I’m not sure puzzles are my thing, but I definitely need something like that. Thank you for the idea!

    • I love and admire your hand drawing practice! I’ve found that reading Mary Oliver’s poetry is a very therapeutic things to do over breakfast.

  5. Are you eating your porridge with added oat milk or are you cooking with it warm?? Loved this post. Jealous of your local publication! Would love a simple and thin cryptograph magazine like that. Cheers!

    • I just drizzle some oat milk on my cooked cereal. Actually, I cook a small batch a few evenings a week, then portion it out so I can just microwave it in the morning. Super easy.

  6. This is a lovely routine, Mary! I like how you notice sounds and smells on your walk. I’ve fallen away from meditation lately, so thanks for the reminder to get back to it.

  7. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – October 25, 2020 | Fountain Pen Quest

  8. This is a lovely post. I also have a routine: I crawl out of bed(no alarm), make tea or coffee and take it back to bed. Then I open my lap top to see if I have any messages that need attention. after my tea I get up again and go for my walk (5 miles), come home and clean. up any dishes. Then I’ll either write in my journal or write a few letters with one of my lovely fountain pens. In the afternoon I do stretches, yoga and weights. In the evenings I go into my cocoon of a bed and read for an hour or two before lights out. I have quit watching any news since the pandemic started as it was getting too stressful. I am a happily retired dental hygienist of 40 years and have been self isolating since March 13th. I miss my friends.

  9. Oh and I could so do these puzzles and I’d use my Conway Stewart Turing-Welchman fountain pen that commemorates the breaking of the enigma code. Seems a perfect pairing.

  10. That sounds like a morning to aspire to. I used to go walking at 6 a.m. — get that hurdle over with for the day. Last winter a cougar was spotted in the area so my habit had to change — or maybe didn’t have to, but did — it was an excuse to be lazy in the mornings and do what I really wanted to do — drink coffee, read, and write. I need to get back to the fresh air and exercise and be more like you! -Kate

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