The day breaks and early light falls upon my husband, pets, and me. And before anyone stirs or speaks, here is the beginning.
What thoughts and feelings stir from the vapors of sleep? How will they color my rising? How might they guide my words and my actions? Am I aware of them, or merely being led by them?
I’m trying to become more aware of myself at dawn. I don’t want to control or change my thoughts and feelings as much as acknowledge them. And in doing so acknowledge and honor myself. This is a discipline that doesn’t come naturally for me, but one that I’m cultivating because I want an artful life.
An artful life holds genuine preference, made by an open heart and mind, choosing words and actions with care and consideration. I want to pay attention, to watch for flagging or rising energy that tells me to either step back or engage.
To live an artful life means turning off the autopilot that gets us through work and responsibilities but without much appreciation for the smaller and slower parts of a day. Autopilot can work for productivity, but not for creativity, appreciation, and care.
I remember making dinner when my children were young, and one of them looked up at me wide eyed, asking, “Are you listening to me?” In early motherhood, I wasn’t always. Not with the kind of attention children sometimes require. Given the around-the-clock nature of parenting, I can understand and forgive myself this. But attention compels a mother to kneel, look in her child’s eyes, and listen. These are the choices that build relationships and the life we truly want.
And this kind of attention requires a practice of showing up first for myself. I do this through two daily (sometimes I miss!) practices—meditation and reflection.
I practice a form of meditation called centering prayer. In centering prayer, the objective is to sit silently with the divine or God. And when the mind drifts, which it does, I bring myself back with a chosen word. This practice grounds me in a love larger than myself. I am filled up again.
Reflection, an act of understanding myself, takes the form of journaling. Sometimes the act of writing reveals more than one can possibly know by one’s thoughts alone. Author Joan Didion says, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” Moving one’s hand across the page can do this, as if the body knows more than the mind can grasp.
These practices are ancient and not tied to one religion or worldview.
There is a third element I believe is essential to maintaining the practices, and that’s a freshness of seeing. Sometimes we literally need to shake up routine thinking with movement, new ideas, and sensory experiences—dancing, walking, visiting a new location, feeling the cold on our skin, cooking with different spices.
In my course, Figuring Out What’s Next, I introduce these practices in more depth for the purpose of micro change, one small step toward a life of your choosing. It might be a step toward a healthier lifestyle or new profession. It also could be a step toward a better or new relationship.
If you’re interested in living a more artful life, these practices will open an aperture to possibilities that are hard to see otherwise.
What is the time commitment? As little as 20 minutes per day. The daily lessons are less than five minutes each and run for three weeks—but you can take the course at whatever pace works best with your schedule.
If this sparks a curiosity in you, this is your invitation. I’ve created this course for you! Learn more here.
Lisa Groen is an author, mother of two college-age children, instructor, and deep listener for people in transition. She lives mostly in Salt Lake City with her husband, cat, and dog, but escapes frequently to the Uintas to live as a part-time mountain monk.