I can remember when I was seven, I used to wake up and my first instinct was to get out of bed, always. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be up, making noise and bothering people before 7 o’ clock, so I used to wait in bed reading my Beano comic collection (one per quarter of an hour) until it was time.
Now it’s different, and I’ve picked up a few morning practices that ease the transition between sleep and the day ahead.
The first thing I do after I’m out of bed is exercise.
I’m really not one for exercise, apart from when it’s in the beauty of nature or when I’m cycling into town, so this part of the routine came recently. I walk and cycle a lot, so my legs are pretty well-worked, but, as a writer and student, the rest of me gets a little left out.
I would avoid the method where you fix your feet in place, this isn’t good for your back.
You might not be able to do a proper press-up or crunch if it’s your first time. Don’t worry about it, go as far as you can, keep at it, and you’ll get there.
I can’t touch the floor yet, so make a little pile of books that mark a decent press-up and make sure that I reach them, making sure that I don’t get lazy as I go. I’ll keep removing books as I go, until the Navy Seal guy will be proud of me.
I know that there’s a lot of mystic/religious crap that surrounds this sort of thing, we’re not interested in that, rather how a bit of yoga is great for the muscles, joints and mind.
My brother-in-law taught me the ‘Sun Salutation’. I do one each morning; this also works well for if I’ve been sitting awkwardly and a body-part aches.
The Wikipedia article on it has a detailed breakdown of all the steps, with pictures.
Because I do all this first thing, before I’m even dressed, when I’ve finished fooling around on the floor I can get straight into the shower.
3: ‘James Bond’ Shower
You may have read about this already, or sighed if one of your friends shared it as a ‘lifehack’ (cringe). I start the shower hot, do all the ablutions, then gradually turn down the temperature until I’m showering under mains cold water.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the benefits of a cold shower, people are already in everyone’s faces about it. Nonetheless, even if I was half asleep when I was mucking around with yoga, I’m awake by the time the cold water is running down my back.
Furthermore, this part of the morning isn’t pleasant: a simple hot shower would be far nicer. As such, it acts as practice on a small-scale for the challenges of the day.
At this stage, I get dressed and head downstairs for some breakfast. I say that a person should never go a day without getting dressed properly before they eat their first meal, and should always dress smartly unless they have a dirty job (of which I’ve had a few).
Once you’re downstairs, set up your breakfast and set your coffee machine to make a pot – instant coffee isn’t coffee and, if you don’t have a coffee machine, get one, mine cost me £5 from a charity shop.
When my coffee is brewing, I go to the living room and meditate for a few minutes. A lot of bullshit surrounds meditation, too. But don’t let that phase you, you can mediate without the bullshit and the practice itself, has innumerable benefits.
Sam Harris (whom I commend to everyone) thinks of meditation as the art of controlling your consciousness such that you don’t find yourself ‘lost in thought’, a skill that benefits you while you’re meditating and for the rest of the day.
Here’s Sam Harris taking you through ‘mindfulness mediation’, one of many sorts and a form that doesn’t require any religious or mystical beliefs. If you listen to this clip as you meditate, Harris will take you through what you need to do.
If you don’t want to listen to a recording as you meditate, you’ll find a lot of complicated instruction sets, I’ve read one which is ten steps long. Here’s my version.
Meditation in two Steps
Step one: Sit comfortably.
Step two: Focus on your breathing (the sound/action/motion etc.), try to have this as the only thing in your mind, if you think of something else, identify this as ‘thinking’, and guide your mind back to your breath.
Don’t mistake this for an idealisation of mindlessness or lack of thought. Rather, think of it as a brief holiday from your stress and problems, and as practice in controlling your thoughts.
Just like you build muscle, press-up by press-up, you strengthen your ability to guide your thoughts each time you think about something then guide your attention back to your breath.
It gets harder the longer you go without thinking, just like how the Navy Seal instructor reminds that it is actually harder to do a really slow press-up.
I usually set a timer, just five minutes will be useful. When I’m done, I pour myself a coffee, enjoy my breakfast, then get on with my day like a normal person.
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