Make It A Gökotta Morning: A Q&A With Swedish Author Linnea DunneSeptember 16, 2019
No two mornings start the same way. For some, mornings are controlled – dictated by devices and alarms, jarring you out of a REM sleep into the realities of the real world. For others, mornings may be a little more organic – guided by the natural light or the sounds that find their way into your sleeping space through an open window or door.
For author Linnea Dunne, her latest book, “Good Mornings: Morning Rituals for Wellness, Peace and Purpose,” sets out to help readers set intentions and begin and live their days in a connected, mindful way.
We picked up a copy of “Good Mornings” and reached out to Dunne to learn more about her book and creating a mindful morning to set yourself up for the day. We also discovered a new Swedish tradition called gökotta.
If you haven’t already, read our Q&A with Dunne from last year, then dive into the one below.
We were so excited to pick up “Good Mornings!” What’s the inspiration behind the new book?
So, my husband is a daily morning meditator, for a start. But I started noticing a while ago that he’s not alone, and that morning rituals are becoming a bit of a thing. A lot of the people I met who have some sort of dedicated morning routine like this spoke about it with such enthusiasm, insisting that they’d never go back – so I wanted to know more. As someone who’s sometimes struggled to rise early [not to mention going to bed at a decent time] but who’s benefited massively from a daily yoga routine, I just felt really curious about it – and it felt like quite a timely trend: like staying in is the new going out, and rising early is the new staying up late…
The book’s introduction starts with the Swedish tradition of “gökotta.” What does it mean, and why do you think it’s not as common today as it once was?
Gökotta is an old, Swedish tradition of gathering in localities at dawn and listening to the day’s first birdsong together – usually the cuckoo [“gök” in Swedish – “otta” means early morning]. In many ways, it’s a tradition quite reflective of a time where the local village had a hugely significant meaning for people, where the collective was an important unit. Many of these gökotta gatherings were also linked to the local parishes, so there’s an element of its popularity being linked to the importance of religion and religious communities as well. But I think life as we know it is very different; we’re always on a schedule, often running late for something or playing catch-up, so to meet in nature and listen to birdsong… I mean, it sounds incredible, doesn’t it? But a lot of people would laugh at the idea of it because it seems so unrealistic. Add to that the fact that we don’t live in close-knit communities like that anymore, and I think that’ll go some way towards explaining why gökotta is often seen as a thing of the past.
Saying that, there’s definitely a yearning among a lot of people for simpler times; nature, small communities and slow, peaceful gatherings can all seem quite romantic, and there’s been an upswing in gökotta-themed groups and gatherings recently.
You mention tools throughout the book, but what are some of the things you use in your mornings to help you set intentions and strive for overall wellness and peace?
I was new to this when I started my journey of exploration, so I’ve been changing it up and trying different things at different times, but the yoga mat often features – either for slow yoga stretches, which I love in the morning when it’s still quiet and peaceful, or simply for a breathing exercise, to wake up in a more conscious way. I’ve had a breathing exercise schedule from a physiotherapist for a good few months now, and doing those on the yoga mat in the morning has worked really well.
For me, as a mother of two young kids, the morning “me time” is divided in two: the early-morning stretches, and the planning ahead that I do once the kids are off to school. Then I go through my notes and goals and make sure that I know where I’m at, what I need to achieve today and what I’d like to achieve today. Some days, that can be quite simple and straight-forward: like an old-school to-do list. Other days, depending on what mood I’m in and what I need in order to get into a good headspace for the day ahead, it can involve quite a lot of inward reflection. But it always sets me up well for the day. Pen and paper – old-school but always powerful!
A lot of the behaviors, rituals and routines you mention have one thing in common: time. For the parents out there, when your clock runs a little differently, how can you still slow down and make time when you’re chasing a toddler or waking up with a newborn?
I honestly think that, whether you have kids or not, finding the time and space for a dedicated morning ritual is more about the commitment and desire to do so than it is about your real-life situation. Yes, it can seem impossible when you have small kids – but then perhaps you need to set the bar a little lower. It really depends on what you need, too. For many people, a gratitude practice can work wonders, and that requires very little time; it can almost be done while you’re brushing your teeth or sticking on the coffee. If you have a newborn, that can almost be a blessing, because you need to stop anyway, and a morning ritual can help you accept that. Take the time during the morning nursing session, for example, and focus on your breath, or bring out the yoga mat when your baby has tummy time. A morning ritual doesn’t need to be very time-consuming at all; it just needs to be right for you.
The book is divided into action-centered chapters, but within those chapters, each spread is its own contained piece of knowledge. What’s the best way for a reader to traverse the pages of “Good Morning?”
I think a good way to get started is to read the introduction in order to start thinking about what you need from a morning ritual and why you picked up this book in the first place. Then follow your gut and pick the themed chapter that speaks to you the most. If you know that you’re never ever going to want to work up a sweat in the morning, skip the workout chapter. Perhaps you like the idea of writing, or a cleansing ritual speaks to you – then start there and see where you land. Some of the pictures are quite evocative too, so if you flick through the book and see one that speaks to you, explore that! There’s no right or wrong, and I’m genuinely not a believer in forcing it. If you don’t feel that it’s right for you, you’re not going to keep it up – so listen to your gut, and then go easy on yourself. You might try a few different things before you find what works. There are quick-fix tips too, so perhaps start with a few of those?
Any plans coming up for more books?
I’ve been very, I mean extremely, busy for a very long time now – having and raising children, moving countries, writing books and running political campaigns, buying and renovating a house, all while working full-time as a magazine editor – and I’ve promised myself to go easy for a while, to give myself the time and space to just enjoy life in the present moment. But once a writer, always a writer – you can’t stop creativity when it strikes! So, I’m working on something at the moment, but very tentatively – something quite different, and something that might never see the light of day beyond my notes. More than anything, I’m just enjoying the process and the fact that I get to write. It’s such a luxury.