In our Routines and Rituals column, we meet with incredible healers to learn how they find flow, structure their days and the practices they lean on — from food to therapies to spiritual lineages. In this feature, we chat with Morgan Lynn, a Zen student and certified Birth and Postpartum Doula trained in the Ayurvedic tradition. She is also the founder of Doula Practice, Cottage Inside, and an avid home cook. You may have recognized Morgan’s name in THE FULLEST recipe section as she is a regular contributor blending her food wisdom with many of our saffron kitchen staples like her most recent delight, Saffron Olive Oil Shortbread. Read on for Morgan’s comprehensive and inspiring Routines & Rituals — we promise you’ll learn a lot!
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself & Cottage Inside.
A: My life and work are quite multifaceted, but I’ve somehow managed to integrate my many passions into a cohesive practice that feels deeply authentic to offer to the world.
I am a birth and postpartum doula, a cook, a gardener and a student of Zen Buddhist meditation. Cottage Inside is my doula practice, based in Los Angeles. I support families through various phases of conception, pregnancy and postpartum transition, and I advocate for the babies. The families that come to me share my trust in the highly intelligent physiological process of birth. Together, we curate birth plans to be family-centered, lovingly supported and conducive to optimal bonding. Throughout this precious time, I encourage practices that support the mammalian mother-baby relationship’s physiological functions, which positively affect the physical, emotional, and spiritual transition into parenthood for mothers and fathers.
I cook delicious, carefully-sourced and seasonally-inspired whole foods for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and the family table. In addition, I oil mothers’ bodies after birth, support breastfeeding foundations and create a cozy and supportive container so that mother and baby can acclimate gradually over the first six weeks, as is a rite in many traditional societies the world over.
In my “other life” at home in my garden and kitchen studio, Laurel Greens, I do my best to honor my garden teachers, including my grandmother, who so gracefully taught me to grow pristine vegetables rooted in highly mineralized soil. In addition to cooking within my doula practice. I also write garden-inspired seasonal recipes, test recipes written by others, and cook for retreats and events near and far.
Q: Do you have a consistent daily AM and/or PM routine? Or do you mix it up?
A: For me, it’s actually a bit of both. The specific things I do will be regular for a period but will shift as needed — with the season, if I am traveling, and over the years as I shift and change.
What remains constant is the importance of allowing myself an intentional transition phase. In the morning, this looks like energizing from rest to activity, and in the evening, grounding down from activity to rest. Having anchor points in the day and night cycle where I not only care for myself but also recommit myself to my dedication to the happiness of all beings is a constant living prayer.
I’ve found that routine, or “form”, as I call it, helps keep my mind soft and flexible. I’m naturally a fast-paced, intensely passionate personality. So through the years, I’ve adopted the form of life that we follow at temple in my life at home. This helps cue me to slow down and consistently take little moments to revisit my intentions, which are rooted in gratitude and love for myself and others.
Q: How does the natural world support your modern life?
A: “This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden — so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.”
I love this quote from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. There are answers to this question on many different planes. Physiologically, nature cues when we should be waking in the morning (sunrise) and when we should be settling in for sleep at night (sunset). When we eat seasonally and locally, the vegetables have adapted to the atmospheric conditions and hold nutrients we need in lower light (vitamin D in spinach), for example, or colder temperatures (natural sugar in cold-sweetening root crops). Juicy, lycopene-rich tomatoes in summer help fortify us from sun exposure and cucumbers cool and hydrate us on hot summer days.
Spending time in the garden on hands and knees in contact with the earth is deeply grounding for the soft body (emotional body) and the nervous system, plus wonderful therapy for both grief and the celebration of love.
I grew up in Kentucky, and my Mamaw stands in her garden and says, “Now I don’t know how anyone can look into the center of a perfect rose and not believe in God.” I joke that I’m a “recovering Southern Baptist”, and while I don’t believe that God is a white male judge up in the sky, I do believe in miracles, and for me, the garden is full of miracles and lessons on unconditional love and impermanence. Compost alone has inspired many poets. I never tire of witnessing the dynamic alchemical process of decomposition giving rise to fertility which then sustains vibrant new life. The natural world is a miracle of spontaneous perfection. I feel guided and inspired by it, and I also feel the heartbreak of being separated from it when I spend long stretches in the city. But nature is everywhere; no matter how much concrete is poured, it always finds a way to assert itself, as a mother does.
Q: Do you practice any rituals daily, weekly, or monthly?
A: I wake before sunrise each morning, brush my teeth and wash my face, and then offer incense and sit zazen following the traditional practice in Soto Zen of two periods of seated silent meditation with a shorter walking meditation in between. I end zazen with the robe chant:
Great robe of liberation /
Field far beyond form and emptiness/
Wearing the Tathagata’s teachings /
Saving all beings
I do 20 minutes of cleaning, rotating through a housekeeping checklist before going to the kitchen to put the kettle on. I boil all my drinking water for the day the night before and let it cool overnight. In the morning, I warm a cup of boiled water to sipping temperature, and this is the first thing I have, sometimes with a small wedge of Meyer lemon.
Next I offer incense at my kitchen altar, which is mounted above the stove and arranged with cut flowers from the garden and Santa Rosa church candles from Mexico City, which have crystallized amber infused into the beeswax. Finally, I bow to myself and all beings and dedicate my day’s work:
Now as I enter my day of activity/
Fully engaged in helping others/
May I remember the one who is not busy/
And be free from self-clinging
My bow-in ends my morning silence, so I’ll switch on a podcast or music while I prepare breakfast. I have breakfast around 7:30 am. All my meals are around the same time each day; this is so important for the body and one of the simplest and most beneficial changes to make for a healthier lifestyle. I use the same form for all my meals: complete protein, grain, veggies, and healthy fat with warming digestive spices. All my meals at home are fully cooked, served warm, and I never combine proteins. I make sure to eat a variety of dark leafy greens, green vegetables, and rainbow color vegetables daily. Today’s breakfast was leftover brothy butter beans with a scoop of warmed couscous, topped with sautéed mustard greens from my garden with extra olive oil, avocado and a spoonful of almond arugula pesto.
After breakfast, I put on jeans, a sweatshirt and my muck shoes and walk a couple of blocks to the garden, where I water by hand and check if anything needs thinning or harvesting before heading home to begin my work day for the doula practice.
In the evenings, I have dinner around 6pm and tidy the kitchen. Once the sun goes down, I limit screen time and put my phone away to charge. In the summer, when the days are long, I limit artificial light after dark and go by candlelight for the last half hour before bed. It’s harder to do this in winter when the dark stretches are longer, but I keep the electric light as soft and low as possible.
Around 7:00 pm I’ll run either a magnesium or mustard bath, give myself an Ayurvedic abhyanga with warm herbal oil and then soak by candlelight for 20 minutes. After my bath, I turn down my bed and spritz a bit of Osea’s Vagus Nerve Pillow Mist over the linen sheets.
I end the night with a hot milky tonic of ashwagandha, nutmeg, vanilla powder, saffron, fresh cultured ghee, and black Okinawan mineral sugar (gifted to me by my sweet friend Sonya from her time spent with family in Japan). Warm raw spiced milk is incredibly nourishing for the body and contains high levels of biopeptides, which improve sleep quality and ground the nervous system. Sometimes I make it with fresh almond milk if I have some on hand. Finally, I pour my hot tonic into a tea bowl and climb into bed. While I have my hot milk, I do a bit of sewing on my rakusu, a piece I’m working on for my upcoming jukai, the lay ordination ceremony in the Zen tradition. Or I’ll do a bit of reading or writing on the precepts or have a practice talk with my friend and teacher, Emila Heller.
To end the night, I clean my teeth, massage Osea’s vagus nerve oil into the sides of my neck, and then do a vagus nerve reset practice. Ashley Neese recently posted a beautifully-led version of this reset that is just perfect to follow if you’d like to try it.
Because I wake early in the morning, bedtime is also early, around 9:00 pm. Before falling asleep, I switch on my sound machine, air purifier, and cool mist humidifier. I go to sleep in complete darkness. If I’m traveling I pack an organic cotton sleep mask from Coyuchi in case the room isn’t dark enough.
Weekly, my Sunday morning farmers market trip is a real event. I go for inspiration and to see my farm friends and socialize. I arrive just before the market officially opens and always park in the same spot.
There are so many treasures to be found at the farmer’s market. Some favorites include Sonoko’s yuzu kosho, prepared with fresh yuzu from her property, Cuyama Orchard’s French-pressed apple cider vinegar, rare varieties of Japanese persimmons from Murray Farms, hen of the woods mushrooms, the freshest beans (especially butter beans, Christmas limas and dragon tongues), dark and wrinkled dry black olives for Moroccan soup, lilacs in the spring and marigolds in the fall.
When I first arrive, I buy a Meyer lemon and then have the Brewers shuck exactly three sapphire oysters for me. I love them with a squeeze of sweet Meyer lemon on an empty stomach for breakfast and can feel my body react to the trace minerals and salinity of the sea; it’s a glorious sensation. I will also pick up more oysters to shuck at home or a couple of pounds of littleneck or Venus clams.
Back at home on Sunday afternoons, I have friends over for oysters or steam clams in sake with ginger, and I make my fresh cultured ghee and a big pot of bone broth, infusing both with prayers and chants while stirring clockwise. I focus on fresh food in my kitchen and try to limit leftovers, so these two preparations are some of my only batch-style projects and have become a ritualized kitchen tradition that sets the tone for the week ahead.
Throughout the year, I’m a bit obsessive about holiday traditions. I love the themed, heightened sense of presence that comes with ceremony and celebration, and I love the magic of repeated traditions from year to year as they become infused with layers of charged energy and love.
Q: Are there any particular foods or botanicals that align with your beauty routine or self-care practice?
A: I need a fair amount of sea minerals and probiotics in my diet. I eat a ton of seaweed in broths, stocks and soups and make dashi throughout the week in addition to my weekly mollusk ritual. I ferment foods as needed (they last a long time)! In the winter, I love to preserve meyer lemons or pickle beets for warm salads with goat cheese. In spring I’ll do a cherry blossom pickle with hinona kabu turnips, and in summer, I make cucumber pickles with juniper berries. I eat liver once a week, I love the European practice of pate for supper on sesame sourdough toast. I’ll make beef bone broth with saffron and liver dumplings, or my dad will send the most divine boudin from his trips to Texas or Louisiana which I make into a quick bowl with sautéed greens and a bit of kosho.
The vegetables from my garden are such a blessing to my health. I amend the soil with the richest hot compost, bone and blood meal, and oyster shell powder, and I practice crop rotation which matches the nutrients of one plant to the needs of the plant that is grown in the same spot in the next planting. My greens especially have the most divine flavor from the high vitamin+mineral content of the soil.
After dinner, each night, I have a small glass of magnesium and chlorophyll. I get magnesium IV drips from my functional medicine doctor whenever I test low on my yearly panels and occasional ozone therapy. I take probiotic supplements and also apply probiotics topically. I also will add trace minerals to my water throughout the day.
I know this is a broken record, but I am prone to dehydration and always slipping back into the habit of not drinking enough water. I am constantly bringing myself back to the effort of properly hydrating my body, and the shift in my energy and skin glow always astounds me.
I drink herbal teas and infusions, but I prefer fresh herbs to dry so I grow what I like in the garden and make tea bouquets for the teapot. My go-to’s are lemon verbena, anise hyssop, black English peppermint, spearmint, chamomile and lemon balm. When nettles are fresh and in season, I drink loads of fresh nettle tea and bathe in it. I’ll fill a pillowcase with nettles and tie it off with twine to make a giant tea bag to brew in the bathtub for a hot mineral soak. While I soak, I’ll spritz my hair with a bit of apple cider vinegar and then rinse in the shower afterwards. The combination gives such an incredible shine to my hair.
I don’t drink much caffeine or alcohol anymore unless I’m traveling or celebrating something, but I do occasionally whisk a bit of matcha after studying tea ceremony at the zen center. Although matcha does have a fair amount of caffeine, it’s lovely for the skin as long as the body is properly rested and hydrated and it’s not consumed on an empty stomach. I use matcha powder also as a mask when I do at-home facials, blending it into a paste with a bit of strong chamomile tea. It’s a dream for brightening.
Q: How does THE FULLEST align with you and fit into your life?
A: I’m in the fertility and pre-conception phase right now, so I use a lot of saffron throughout the week. Saffron is a powerful opener as it increases circulation, allowing oxygen to flood the body. Because of this, it is contraindicated for most of the pregnancy, although we begin taking saffron tea with dates at the end of pregnancy when we are fully ready for labor to begin, and then continue through the postpartum time and back into the fertility phase.
Saffron is a delicate but potent kitchen treasure. And alongside vanilla powder is one of the most magical ingredients for me. I infuse Strands of Sunshine™ saffron threads in hot spring water overnight and sip them throughout the day. I love to cure farm eggs in a brine of rice vinegar and saffron with white peppercorn and laurel leaf to keep in the fridge for a quick anytime protein. I infuse bone broths and stocks with saffron, and I make fresh saffron pasta or risotto on special occasions. It’s incredibly elegant, and the scent is intoxicating. Cooking with saffron is a ceremony in and of itself.
Cottage Inside is a Doula Practice in Los Angeles. It is the dream and prayer of Morgan Lynn, a Zen student and certified Birth and Postpartum Doula trained in the Ayurvedic tradition. An avid home cook, Morgan grows much of the food for her kitchen in her Runyon Canyon garden, following the principles of the Biodynamic French Intensive Method.