Photo Sep 23, 11 18 39 AM

In the Peace Corps I would wake up and encounter the grandmother of my host family asking me the same question each day:

¿cómo amaneció?”

It took me several weeks to understand her… but finally I caught on. This was a Nicaguan version of good morning! Literally it translates to “how did you dawn?”

I love the poetry of this phrase. I’ve always been a morning person. Not an extreme morning person like my Granny who got up with the light and put in a couple of hours gardening before I rolled out of bed on summer vacation. (She was probably onto something.)

But I like mornings none the less.

This week I got up extra early one day to drive to teach at a retreat center. And I surprised myself by pausing to make my bed even in the predawn darkness. I couldn’t not do it. To leave the bed unmade felt like a rumpled start to my day. As I observed this process I realized: “Wow. I guess this is now part of my morning routine!”

It certainly hasn’t always been. For years I went for the shabby chic look (at least that was what I told myself it was) of simple, monotone covers tousled in a relaxed way.  And who knows, when my kids are older I may just want the freedom to flop down on the bed anytime I desire without pulling back the cover. But for now as my decluttering and de-owning streak continues I can’t get enough of smooth surfaces.

Zen countertops

Spiritual teachers agree that a morning routine is vital. In fact, how we start the day is intimately connected with how we will end it.

Read on for a couple of tips to make your routine more powerful:

  1. Design your routine around practices that genuinely appeal to you. This seems obvious but sometimes people choose practices because someone else recommended them or they think they should. I run into this all the time with meditation students who say: I should be meditating… or doing a gratitude journal or whatever. Scrap all that– just listen for one thing which genuinely feels yummy. The body compass is a great guide on this.
  2. Give your routine room to breathe. Like all spiritual practices, our morning routine is organic and changes over time. The important thing is to be attentive: to notice when something wants to be incorporated and to let it in. Likewise let go of practices when the time is right to make space for the new. Last spring I was wrestling with my morning meditation because it wanted to grow to include time for yoga before I sat. You know what my inner overachiever thinks about this use of time, right? She has work to get to! Finally I realized it wasn’t worth ignoring the inner nudge anymore. My body wants to move before it can easily meditate, write, or hold space for a coaching client. So I let it. And tell my inner overachiever to simmer on down. Some days she even listens.

Here is a tour of my morning routine. I hope it helps you design one which is just right for you!

lets have tea.

The big breakthrough for me was to think of my routine in two parts.

There is what I do before I take kids to school:

Make bed.

Make tea. (Because it is the details which make a tour fun I’ll tell you I am currently on a jag of organic white tea in the morning — in an effort to drink less caffeine. Perennial favorites are yerba mate — a smoky green tea — coupled with tulsi or holy basil. You can find both of them at a health food/natural grocery store. )

And things I do when I get back from dropping the kids off:

With the breakfast dishes done (my husband tackles those while I drive the youngins) I can breeze by the kitchen and head for the studio for yoga and meditation. When I first started meditating daily I was fierce. Fierce I say! About my 20 minute sit each morning. But I think I had a lot of stress to detox. Now in a pinch I actually go for the yoga over the sit, just because I know my body has to move first before I can sit comfortably anyway. So if I can only do one, I make my yoga a kind of meditation and allow my mind to be gentle and relaxed and move through the poses slowly. Nothing replaces the “clean slate” feeling in my mind after a 20 minute breath meditation though, so I still do one of those most days.

I have breakfast with the kids or after meditation in the front yard. It is best not to do yoga/meditate on a full stomach, so I’m still working that bit out.

And lastly when I sit down to the desk I write 3 things on a sticky note that must be done today. These are my MIT’s or most important tasks. It is important to do this after meditation and before I power up the computer or God-forbid start emailing. I keep a bigger work flow list– but the sticky notes are nice because I can crumple them up and recycle when I’m done which is strangely satisfying. Plus they help me laser in.

And you my beloved? What morning routine livens your days?

Remember, yours may look totally different. I got an email this week from someone who has crafted a routine around her morning commute:

“I have to write you to say thank you for encouraging me to sign up for the UPLEVEL course and listen in on the summer meditation! Although UPLEVEL is a recording – I listen faithfully on my way to work to consider connection and stillness over a mindset of fear and never being enough or doing enough.

I love that! Yes to stillness + connection over fear. And I’d love to hear about your routine too. Leave a comment below . 

And happy beginning of Autumn!


PS. Need some help crafting your routine? I love coaching around real-world challenges like this! Lets jump in there and figure out how to help you start your day with more ease and space. You can read more about my coaching packages here and schedule a complementary half-hour coaching session today! xo Courtney

Photo Nov 12, 6 14 05 PMCourtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a popular blog on soulful living. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and MindBody practices as well as supporting other “soulpreneurs,” aka women who want to lead with heart in their work + lives. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three children and remember to water their garden boxes. You can read more about her coaching options here or Courtney can be reached directly at

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