“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
– St. Augustine
Growing up, I met the same scene each morning as I groggily stumbled out of my room: my mom at the dining room table, with a cup of tea and her Magnificat (a Catholic daily prayer subscription, based on the Liturgy of the Hours.) Some days my mom would read me part of the reflection, or tell me what struck her, and then she would get up and energetically start her day.
I sensed that this was my mom’s secret weapon. Her quiet morning meditation gave her the unwavering strength to face whatever the day might bring. It’s only my fault, then, that I took so long to adopt my own morning meditation.
Several months ago, a friend told me what a holy man had told her: to have a real spiritual life, you have to meditate every day. And you have to start with 30 minutes.
Starting with 30 minutes seemed insanely daunting, but the confidence that this man placed in daily meditation made me realize I had no excuses. It wasn’t just nice to meditate every day, it was necessary if I wanted to grow in my spiritual life to a level beyond just letting God know what my problems are.
Why Daily Meditation
Aside from just wanting to be like mom, and aside from just considering the advice of someone whose advice ought to be considered, I found I really wanted time for daily meditation. This was exactly what I had been unconsciously looking for.
First things first, setting aside daily time for God helps me align my priorities. My relationship with God is my #1 most precious thing in my life, but until recently I wasn’t committing to spending a certain amount of time with Him on a daily basis. It was as if I did all these tasks for my husband, and asked him to do things for me, but only spent one hour with him one day a week. And to be honest, during that one hour I spend at Mass with God I am distracted by everything I already spend the rest of my week thinking about. I am out of practice at spending time with God.
Giving God 30 minutes every day only makes sense when I think about all this. And, as the holy man said, these 30 minutes should be spent in meditation. So I’m not just going to spend 30 minutes telling God my problems and asking Him for really nice stuff. (I don’t need to set aside time for that, because it’s almost a constant stream at this point.) By focusing on meditation instead of petition, I learn to be in God’s presence and listen.
The ol’ daily grind can really get to me and get me down. (The melancholic struggle is real. haha.) Sometimes even my go-to cheer-me-up activities, like baking or working outside, aren’t quite enough. I think this is God’s way of telling me helloooo I’m the one who can make you happy. This is one of those things that seems like a lightbulb realization every time, although I’ve had it countless times before.
Spending time each day with the source of love, peace and joy can only be a good thing. If morning meditation was my mom’s secret weapon, why shouldn’t it work for me?
My Morning Meditation Routine
Of course realizing I wanted to meditate every day and making it happen were two different things. But with the conviction that I really needed to do this, I set up a routine to help me.
1. Set my alarm 30 minutes early.
I chose the morning for my meditation, for a few reasons. It’s good way to start the day, and making it one of the first things in my day helps me mentally give it priority. There have been days when I got distracted and so I made time for it later, but this took a lotttt of discipline. Also, having that extra time in the morning is so much nicer than the lets-see-how-late-I-can-set-my-alarm-and-still-make-it-to-work game.
2. Wake up first.
There was a time in college when I tried to meditate for 10 minutes each morning as soon as my alarm went off. It was kind of like feel-good snoozing, and I don’t think it gave my spiritual life much growth. Now, shower and/or make myself breakfast first, so I’m up and with it. I often eat my breakfast while I meditate, and I don’t think it’s cheating. I usually finish eating within 5 minutes or so, and it seems better than just letting my mind wander while I eat.
3. Start with the morning offering.
I know that my meditation is not going to be perfect, but I want to offer it all to God anyways. So I start with a morning offering prayer. Here is the one I use:
4. Ask the Holy Spirit to help me.
I’m a space cadet. Let’s just get that out there. So I need some major help if I ever hope to focus on Scripture for 30 minutes at a time. So I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts before I begin meditating.
5. Use the daily readings as a guide.
This has really helped me stay on track with my morning meditation. I read the daily reading, then the Psalm and Gospel. I read each slowly, and try to imagine the scene in my mind. It can help to put myself in the place of a bystander, watching David slay Goliath or Jesus heal the crippled. With the Psalms, I try to draw a picture in my head of the imagery the Psalmist uses. Sometimes I find that phrases I have long “got the gist of” are much more beautiful and deep than I ever realized.
Sometimes the readings are short and it’s a challenge to stay with them for the full 30 minutes, but I find that I just have to keep trying and it’s always possible. The other day I guess I had a weird look on my face and my husband kept asking me, “what’s wrong? you look worried,” and I finally had to tell him I was just thinking about whether the Queen of Sheba brought Solomon whole spices or ground spices and please I’m trying to meditate over here!
While I much prefer reading out of a book, I don’t currently have a book or subscription of the daily readings. So for now, I get the daily readings emailed to me and read them off my phone. Far from ideal, I know, but I’m not letting it stop me.
6. Keep track of time.
At first I thought that this would ruin the experience, to be interrupting my meditation by checking how much longer I have to go. But I’m always surprised at how long 30 minutes takes, so I know if I just guessed at it then I would not be giving God the full 30 minutes I want to. So when I find my mind wandering, I take advantage of that interruption to take a quick look at the time and then get back to it.
I give myself 10 minutes each for the reading, the Psalm, and the Gospel. This helps me stay with each for long enough and not rush through.
I would be lying if I told you that I do my morning meditation every day. During my work week, it’s become part of the routine, but I struggle to make it happen on the weekends. And even on those days when I do meditate, some days are better than others. Some days I have beautiful insights, and other days I find myself spacing out for most of the time. But I have faith that God is guiding me through this, and I know that time spent with Him is worth it because of Him, not me.
How do you spend time in God’s presence? Do you have any tips for meditation? Let me know in the comments!