NEW YORK -- He may be on the verge of seeking the world's most demanding job, but former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) prefers to begin his days with his mind about as far away as possible from the campaign trail.
"In the morning, I generally take time to pray and sometimes that's at Mass; other times it's just at home," O'Malley, who is Catholic, told The Huffington Post on Thursday. "At home, I try to take 20 minutes -- half hour, if I can -- to read what I call 'good stuff.'"
Potential candidates are prone to tick off a list of politically safe books they've been consuming -- usually vociferously -- as a means of emphasizing just how serious and intellectually ambitious they are. But O'Malley's interests seem almost too eclectic to be considered electorally calculated.
Among the Christian poets, theologians and authors whom O'Malley said he favors in his morning reading ritual are John O'Donohue, Ignatius of Loyola, Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Karl Rahner and C.S. Lewis. O'Malley also said he went on "a big kick" in which he was reading everything he could find by Jewish theologian and philosopher Abraham Heschel.
Over the last year, O'Malley has been positioning himself for a likely 2016 Democratic presidential bid and has been carrying on a hectic travel schedule around the country that will only become more rigorous if he jumps into the race officially this spring. But the man who served two terms as governor and previously was mayor of Baltimore said that his jam-packed days always turn out better when he takes time for himself in the mornings.
"I learned really just in the last several years how very, very important that is," O'Malley said. "When you're mayor, there are very few problems that can't be helped by working harder to tackle them. In the governor's office, I learned that you have to take time for that reflection and that solitude, out of which creativity is born. And so I developed a practice in the morning of becoming quiet and very centered at the beginning of the morning."
Others in politics have begun making similar commitments to greater work-life balance. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is a big believer in meditation and has started a Quiet Time Caucus on the Hill.
O'Malley, likewise, seems to see some policy implications for these types of matters. He said that his 24-year-old daughter -- a Teach For America teacher in Baltimore--has been including yoga as part of her instruction to first-graders.
"I don't think there's any curriculum for that city-wide," he said. "But it has helped her kids learn, and it makes them feel better, and allows them to focus on what they need to focus on with the mindfulness of their own selves and the alignment that's required."
O'Malley singled out an address he had heard William Deresiewicz deliver to cadets at West Point, in which the author and essayist spoke about the importance of solitude in leadership.
"My sense is that we're on the verge of a new awareness of just how important the whole person is," O'Malley said. "I don't know that it's necessarily religious in the institutional sense, but it certainly has a spiritual dimension, without which life loses meaning."