I was recently invited to subscribe to a newsletter by a guy called Tim Ferriss through a marketing ploy of his. As part of the enticement, he was offering a set of 3 free pdf’s, the first of which was “5 Morning Rituals” and it really struck a chord with me. I have been annoyed lately with how my mornings, and subsequently, my days seem to just drift away with little to show for it at the end of the day. So because of this, I decided to subscribe just to get the pdf’s. His morning rituals article appealed to me, if not in entirety, at least for the structure and the rationale of it and I felt I could change it around to suit me a little better. I hasten to point out that these are not chores but rather a daily process you do for your own benefit and enjoyment. Yes I love doing each of these little rituals, these are the ultimate “me” time.
So here is what I have started on and have been using for a little while now and I am feeling so much more focused and “getting stuff done” better.
This is really re-establishing a routine which I have had since my youthful service in the RNZAF in having a shower when I first get out of bed in the morning. This continued into my civilian life and I would always shower as soon as I got up and head off to work. But since I started working from home, and more particularly since moving to part-time work, the routine has started to slip. No, it has fallen away completely and I would be taking my shower at any time in the day other than first thing in the morning. In fact, and I am a little embarrassed to admit this, I have on occasions gone a few days without having a shower at all. Part of the reason for this change is that I have been a very rigid creature of habits and I have consciously tried to live a little freer in recent years and break out of living to serve old habits. My wife used to call me “anal” at times, I’m not sure what that means exactly but I know it has something to do with the rigidity of my habits. Well, it is time to bring this habit back if only to get it done and out of the way so that I can take on whatever the day holds for me knowing that cleanliness has been served. This is one bit of “anal” I am happy to live with.
This has been a fairly regular part of my morning routine for some years and which I have written about here before, see Walking Again and Just An Old Cap. I love getting out early in the morning when the world around me is just starting to stir. It is obviously a good thing for my health but almost just as important is the benefit to our wuppies, Daisy and Rosie, both physically and mentally. Yes mentally, particularly little Daisy whose spirits lift after a walk and taking in all the smells. If for any reason we don’t go for a walk Daisy seems to mope around for the day.
My wife Molly quite often joins me on the walk which means that Daisy can be on the running lead which suits her best to allow a wider range of sniffing investigations than the shorter double lead I use when I have to take them on my own.
We usually walk about 15 minutes with the dogs and if I need a long walk I will go out again for another walk on my own.
Qigong (pronounced chee goong) is an ancient Chinese method of exercise that is often referred to as “Chinese yoga”. It is gentle stretching of muscles in stylized poses, usually standing, and which is all about circulating and balancing that mysterious energy referred to as “qi” throughout our body. It has been said that most forms of qigong will address 80% of the muscles in our body in the one session. I certified as a “community leader” of the 9 Phase method taught by Roger Jahnke back in 2008 when I attended a week-long Integral Qigong Practice Leader course. There I was, an old Aussie fella, at a Jewish Summer Camp outside Wimberley, Texas, learning a centuries-old Chinese practice from a US-Czech guy. It was a little different but the teaching method was excellent, such that, even if I have prolonged breaks from the practice I can still stand and do the poses without any difficulty remembering how which is incredible given that I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday sometimes.
I also find that qigong is an excellent pre-cursor to meditation as was the intention of yoga originally. The recent application of a morning ritual means I have got back into a regular practice of qigong and I certainly feel a whole lot better for having done so. It only takes about 15 minutes to go through the nine phases.
I have been meditating fairly regularly since 2004 when I attended The Turning Point course in Sydney. As I have written a few posts about this earlier, (see “meditation” in the tags in the sidebar) I won’t go into a lot of detail about the practice here other than to add a couple of new insights I have found to the practice.
Alan Watts said
Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone
I find that resonates with me as a metaphor for the practice of meditation. Think of a glass of muddy water, stir it up and wait for the mud to all settle on the bottom. Meditation is like that where we just let all the thoughts circling around in our mind settle down into a restful silence.
I have also printed off Shunryu Suzuki‘s quote
Leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.
I have this in my meditation space as a reminder whenever I start meditation. It has solved for me a long-standing query about meditation in that many imply we shouldn’t think any thoughts but that is nearly impossible to do. Here Suzuki in his frequently humorous way advises to let your thoughts come and go, just don’t sit with them and entertain them. Put another way, notice your thoughts come and just let them go, don’t let them take over your attention, just go back to your breathing.
I love writing and have ambitions to be a writer as a full-time career still so I need to do journalling as a form of “exercising my writer muscle” as it were. I simply need to sit down, put a timer on for 20 minutes, and just write non-stop until the timer goes off. It doesn’t matter what I write, what is important is the “non-stop” part of it. Don’t stop and edit, don’t stop and think about what to say next, just write. A lot of it is gibberish really but I do get a lot of stuff out of my system and on to the page. Importantly, with no self-editing. As some of it might be useful in later writing I do keep all my daily journals in a notebook in Evernote so if I feel I need to refer back to them I can.
It is quite amazing sometimes the ideas that come out, the memories that come back, the reviews of actions and thoughts I might have had. The important thing for me is that I am now pushing myself to do it regularly and not making it as optional as I have in the past.
There it is, my new morning process. I try to stick with doing all five as often as I can but you have to allow for life getting in the way. So if I have to I will skip one or more and either do them later in the day or just let them go. But I do strive to stick to the routine and I am a pretty good “routine sticker”, see previous comments about anal 😉
So these are my five-morning rituals that collectively make up a process that sets me up to accomplish more of what I need and want to do for the rest of the day. And thanks to Tim Ferriss for inspiring me to formalise my own. Of course, these won’t suit everyone but please take from them whatever suits you and build your own morning process, I would love to hear what your rituals are.