What Time is Church?

Every morning before heading off to work, my father went to 6am mass in Orange, NJ. He was the sole provider for our family of 5 and I know he worried a lot. When I reflect upon the steadfastness of his routine, what I cherish most is the way in which this simple act set the tone for his day. He felt more relaxed and at peace. Although he had a lot on his mind, his morning ceremony helped him to put his trust in something larger than himself. While I’m sure his prayers helped us a lot, I know it probably helped him more.

Although I am not in the pew at my parish each day, I do commit to church most days in the form of an hours’ walk, run or cycle through the park. This simple prescription gives me time to open up to the many blessings of my life. It grants me a little “me time” before the demands of the day set in, and it helps me set a clear intention for the kind of day I wish to have.

Living in New York, I find that private sacred ritual is essential for maintaining perspective amid the chaos. I often recommend that my coaching clients engage in the power of a personal habit in some form, whether it’s morning yoga class, preparing a special meal, meditation, exercise or journaling. When we begin any promised routine, creativity often surges forth. It takes courage to begin any new practice, but the very act of committing to them makes us braver, and helps us to connect with our essential selves.

If we target a problem area, the routine of morning pages are often quick to suggest solutions. In a similar way, if we’re feeling stuck, exercise can remind us that we are not trapped and we notice that our limbs work beautifully in concert with our bodies. What some people wouldn’t give just to be able to walk across the room. Meditation teaches us that we always have choices, even when we think we don’t. Some of my best ideas have come to me on long walks where my mind could wander and I could look at a situation in a new light. Joseph Campbell captures it best:

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today: you must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually wonderful will happen.”

Whether it is in morning or at night, find your “church” and go there every day for as long as you can, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If you commit to this routine for one month, I guarantee the effect will be transformational. It will change the tenor of the day, and dramatically improve your relationship with yourself.