I like to set my inner compass for the day before I lift off the covers and begin moving. I begin by thinking about what is scheduled for the day, who I will interact with, what I’ll do. First I note without judgment my thoughts, sensations, mood, and emotions, and breathe into them with acceptance. I gather myself—all parts. The multiple voices in my head and the variety of feelings, and I think and feel through how I would like to interact with the day.
This self cooperation with all our parts shouldn’t be underestimated or undervalued. I use it many times, not just during my first five minutes, to manage stress, anxiety, increase work output, and resolve conflicts at other times.
During my five-minute alignments, I consider how I want to see myself and the world.
I have found that the key to the practice of loving unconditionally is remembering that I am a spiritual being and others are spiritual individuals, too. When I see someone in the day, I often make a mental note while we’re talking, This person is more than what I see, s/he is a spiritual Self.
To get myself to make this mental note in real time with a person, I remind myself in my first five minutes. What can I say about reminding myself to remember? Our natural condition in the material world is to be forgetful. I want to remember, to be conscious, and present every day. I don’t find this comes automatically, but it can come easily through practice.
So, I’m lying in bed and I think about the activities scheduled for the day. If it’s likely to be a hectic day, I’ll lovingly explain to myself that I’ll breathe and move through the day without rushing. I may move quickly, but I don’t want to rush. Rushing causes me to be unconscious about what I’m doing and why.
While cutting vegetables, sweeping the floor or speaking with a doctor or an IRS agent I want to remember that I’m acting as service to others. I want to be in service to the people I love. We can always look for ways to extend the boundary of love beyond our family and friends, but first we must start with those we’re closest to.
Back to my meditation. Maybe tensions have been growing during the past few interactions with someone I’m going to see that day and I want to diffuse the situation. I visualize the person in my mind, see them as a spiritual being, check in with my own boundaries and needs and commit to honoring what is required for my health. I remember good qualities about this person. Then I ask to be of service.
Whether it’s a person or a relationship or an activity I focus on becoming conscious about, I bring as much clarity around my intent as possible, as if setting the stage for the players to act out the drama later. I can even visualize how I would like to see the exchange go. I don’t think events will unfold according to my vision of them, rather I’m clarifying and strengthening my intent.
Taking five minutes when I wake up, or five seconds before I begin an activity or interaction, to willfully set the course of my relationship with the day or event or person predisposes me to behavior I would like to model.
Without being conscious like this, I find myself less capable of navigating through a difficult exchange or pressing on with determination when I’m bored, scared, or simply lazy.
Unlike artificial energy from coffee, RedBull, or 5-Hour Energy, if I consciously align my intents and emotions with my integrity and desired behavior, I have inner strength to draw on throughout the day.
Artificial stimulants that can mask genuine needs of the body such as proper rest, nutrition, and relaxation and thus create imbalance and even illness, but inner strength guides me to not only recognize my genuine needs—all of them: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, this inner powerhouse supplies intelligence, energy, discretion, and intuition to help me maintain balance and spiritual direction.
Conscious days spill into my dreams at night.
Sometimes I clearly see myself working through emotional and mental challenges in my dreams; I become a witness of inner healing. Often, if I pay attention, I learn tips and tools for navigating “waking” life.
By taking five to set my compass, if I head south with an attitude or behavior (with myself or others), I’m likely remember my true destination and re-track my steps, or relocate my direction, toward what’s important.
The early moments of awakening help me tap the wisdom of the right brain and my heart.
It’s a time of synthesizing and looking at wholes and aesthetics and seeing concepts, events, people, and relationships in completely different perspectives. It’s a time, literally, of setting tones, like hitting a bell and letting the sound reverberate through my body and align my heart.
I like keeping my eyes closed when I wake, and stay in a meditative state, while I imagine through whatever character, quality, behavior, or perspective I want to work on. It’s often surprising—always edifying—where the randomness of thoughts and feelings lead and how powerfully they stay with me. Just by being with my day like this before it begins I often see ways to make the day more enjoyable or manageable.
Inner strength, acceptance, focus—developing what I want my inner landscape to look like—is fueled by an inner commitment to develop it. Just as the balance in my bank account will only grow when I make deposits of money in it, inner strength grows through deposits of attention and intention.
If I take this spiritual perspective in mind and heart, then living high aspirations even when everything and everyone seems to be going against my grain is manageable. It’s almost as if taking a few minutes to lay down some track is all I need to pick up speed and stay the course.
Come from your heart for your first five minutes and watch your life shift. To your first five and finding your heart compass,