Master Your Mornings Like a Monk
Mornings for most people feel rushed and disconnected. The secret to a perfectly productive and purposeful day includes two parts, and begins the night before.
PART ONE: "ABOUT LAST NIGHT"
Waking to create a to-do list for the day is old news - it will eventually lead to procrastination because you're spending valuable time planning instead of getting stuff done!
During the evening after you've eaten dinner, folded the laundry or tucked in the kiddos, think about your most important tasks or projects that need to be handled the following day.
Determine about how much time you'll need to complete these tasks and dedicate focused blocks of time (FBOTs) to work on them the following day. Prioritize them so you tackle the most urgent ones early on, while your brain is in full effect and in "create mode." Studies show our brains are most productive and creative during the first 3 hours of the workday.
Write them down. Once you've decided what will need to be done tomorrow, make a list (the night before) according to the steps above, and in the a.m., you'll have clear directives to run the day like a boss! Remember, either you will run the day or it will run you.
Developing this habit may seem simple or even silly, but you'd be surprised at how quickly this can change your day and your life!
PART TWO: "MAKE LIKE A MONK & DEVELOP A MORNING ROUTINE"
Every successful individual has a solid morning routine. You don't have to be a yogi to make this work for you, but you will need to practice patience, introspection and stillness. It's a busy world out there, and if you aren't careful, years will fly by without you having accomplished goals that are important to you (renovating the house, losing weight, etc.). It's imperative that we all learn to be still, not just to master our mornings, but also to be less stressed and healthier overall in the long run.
My morning routine is flexible, but there a few things I always do, which you'll read in just a second. The most important aspect of my morning routine is waking up before anyone else! This factor alone helps me feel relaxed and at peace, and is a WIN in my book any day! The below routine is almost my exact schedule, but may change depending on the time I wake up. Feel free to adjust it for your lifestyle. What matters is that you develop a routine so that you can eventually master it! Beneath the schedule I'll explain in a little more detail about the parts of my morning routine.
6am - wake up, use restroom, oil-pulling
6:15 - water with herbs, journaling, meditation, affirmations
6:30 -tea meditation
6:45 -review to-do list, stretch, shower
7:00 -prep breakfast and/or kids' lunches
7:30 -I'm usually getting the kiddos together
8:00 -finish up in the kitchen, start tackling my tasks
throughout the day - personal growth reading/listening
Oil pulling - this is an ancient technique and part of Ayurveda (ancient healing system), which that began thousands of years ago in India. It is believed that the swishing, or pulling of oil through the teeth and around the gums, removes bacteria and pathogens not only from the mouth, but from the entire body, which means oil pulling works at a systemic level. Aside from the cleanest teeth you'll ever have, I promise once you get used to this ritual, you'll know when you've missed it. There aren't many days I go without it. It can eliminate headaches, toothaches, pains, dental cavities, and more. You can oil pull any time of day, but is best done on an empty stomach. Read more about oil pulling at Joyful Belly or Banyan Botanicals, two trusted sources of Ayurvedic health & nutrition.
Journaling/gratitude/affirmations - this doesn't have to be complicated or stressful.... before I begin I have a tall glass of pure water with liquid herb drops, usually a blend of adaptogenic, liver and seaweed herbs. I'll also usually take an enzyme/probiotic blend purposely before my first meal (this way it does not have to compete with food in the stomach to work at its best). Each morning when I wake, I give thanks (for waking up!) and write down a few things I'm thankful for. It can be as simple as hot water or heat, and is written as if I already have the things I am thankful for (even if I don't have them in reality yet). I write this in list or letter form, depending on the way I feel. My journaling usually tends to be in letter form, but just this morning I chose to write a list of "I AM" statements. Writing a letter to the Universe/God for both the small and big things I'm thankful for makes me feel, well, thankful! It is the perfect way to start my day and remain both grateful and humble throughout the day. I also use this time to read my "Daily Affirmation Statement" aloud to myself, that I've written and revised over the past several months. Maybe I'll share that next! Basically, an affirmation statement should reflect what you want to be, do and have, written as if you already possess these things. It sounds similar to the letter of gratitude, but is more specific and may be attached to your desired career, possessions or relationships.
Meditation - if you think I sit and meditate for 30 min every morning, uh...you'd be wrong. Some days I do it for about 15 minutes, and other days it doesn't happen in the formal sense of the word. Meditation can take different shapes and can occur anywhere at any time. Sometimes, I'll journal a little longer and meditate on what I'm grateful for, really feeling and visualizing the emotions of being grateful. For some, meditation is more of a conventional prayer, for others it's listening to a guided meditation (how I started), and yet, for others, it may be another style of meditation (transcendental, Vedic, Kriya, etc.). I definitely recommending reading a little about the different types to find what resonates with you, but what matters is that you start somewhere. Guided meditations worked well for me in the beginning (and still do) because hearing another person's voice helped to quiet my mind in ways I wasn't able to do on my own in the beginning. It was also soothing hearing another voice that felt supportive and confident. My virtual mentor or guide, I guess you could say.
Tea Meditation - a fairly new habit I've adopted, this sometimes is my meditation for the day. I brew a cup of herbal tea (or a few cups) and consciously sip on it, feeling grateful for the present moment. Being an herbalist, the first time I did this, I felt such a deep appreciation for those who harvest herbs - something I don't really want to do. So it makes sense to be grateful that people are committed to identifying and harvesting herbs safely and responsibly. There are other people who clean and filter them, prepare them and package them. The herbs make their way into my mug with very little effort on my part, and for that, I am thankful. I even began to wonder, "Can people really make a good living harvesting herbs day in and day out?" Again, more "hearts" going up. Showing appreciation for what may seem small reminds us that it isn't about the size of the gift, but the presence of the gift itself. When I do my tea meditation, I also visualize the herbs healing and strengthening my body and mind, as they prepare me for the day ahead. See, you don't have to be an herbalist to enjoy tea meditation!
My non-negotiable - although I didn't list a specific time, throughout the day I listen to podcasts and audiobooks, from Jay-Z to Carolyn Myss, to develop myself personally and spiritually. If your schedule does not allow much personal time, use any down time (lunch, commute, etc.) to spend at least 15 minutes (30 min or longer is even better) to work on your personal development. This is a non-negotiable! It will positively trickle into every. other. aspect. of. your. life. You feel me? Don't skip this.
I highly recommend applying some of these same morning practices before bed. At the very least, although I don't recommend sleeping in the same room with your cell phone, I think most people can lie down, plug in earbuds and listen to a guided meditation on just about any subject just before bed. It will put you in a sacred space and fill your subconscious mind with joy.