What is your morning routine?
I try not to have rigid routines in my life, but there is a pattern to my mornings. I wake up at 4:15am and sit out under the stars for an hour or two. A glass of water, or a cup of tea comes next. Sometimes both.
I put on my samue, the Japanese monk’s clothing, a simple black cotton outfit. Then I sit. Zazen. I meditate for an hour, sometimes in complete darkness, sometimes in light. Most days, I practice yoga for 15-30 minutes, to warm up my body, especially to open the hips, and warm the knees and back, before sitting Zazen.
Then I might read a Dharma book, usually something Zen, from Hakuin, Bankei, Dogen, Loori or Hanh. Sometimes, I might read that before I sit Zazen, contemplating the text. Sometimes I might chant the Heart Sutra before I begin.
Each day, until 11:00am, my partner and I keep silence. This is a powerful aspect of my morning routine, it helps all my practices to take root in fertile ground.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I have woken early since 2007, when I finally recovered from seven years of illness.
I figure I rested and slept enough in those seven years. I have meditated since the 1990s, daily since 2000. I first began to read and study Zen, and to meditate, back in 1982. This practice goes back a long way with me.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
This year, I trained formally as a Zen meditation and mindfulness teacher, I took Jukai (Precepts) as a lay ordained Rinzai Zen Buddhist, and I became a trainee Zen teacher.
This upped my game significantly, strengthening my daily practice in so many ways. I have sat one day
What time do you go to sleep?
Typically between 9 and 10:00pm. Sometimes far later. But I will get up at the same time, even if I go to bed late. Some days I need little sleep, and will get up at 3:00am or sooner.
I always read a Dharma text before I sleep.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
Sometimes, yes, and sometimes, yes.
When I have to be somewhere by a particular time, I set an alarm as a fall-back plan. 90% of the time however, I wake naturally, earlier than the alarm. Every now and then, I wake with the alarm, in which case, I usually need the snooze bonus ten minutes.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I usually have a small fresh juice, a smoothie, cracker, a biscuit, or a little granola on a couple of spoons of soya yoghurt after, or before, I meditate. This keeps the rumbles at bay, and helps to wake me up a little, if I need it. My breakfast may be much later, around 9, or as late as 11:00am. It depends if I am practising yoga.
I try and go for variety with my breakfast, and as an eternal nomad, I tend not to have fixed foods in my diet, instead going for local seasonal produce; but I have some favourites. Top of the list is brown rice or millet (I’m mad for superfoods) and brown or green lentils, cooked together; sometimes, sprouted lentils or sprouted sunflower seeds with brown rice, and sometimes scrambled tofu (with turmeric) with brown rice.
Occasionally, I toast local bread, or freshly made sourdough bread, made with a combo of strong white and mixed seed flour. Usually served with avocado, olive oil, and olives. Occasionally, when I feel I need it, fresh fruit (kiwi, mango, melon) with a little soya yoghurt.
Once in a blue moon, I might treat myself to a vegan sausage in home made bread sandwich, or chillied red peppers and tomatoes (a great kickstart, with a bit of orange zest in it, no onions or garlic, I don’t eat them).
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Yoga. Sometimes prostrations too. When I’m in a warmer climate, by the ocean, I open water swim up to two kilometres daily. Sometimes a bike ride. Sometimes a mountain hike and a picnic breakfast at altitude. It all depends on where I am in the world, which shifts a lot.
Do you see to email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I’ve tried many options for this, there is no golden answer. It depends on the clients I’m working with at the time. Some clients are going to send you triggering email overnight or early, if so, I’ll leave email off until late morning.
As a travelling house sitter (for over six years now), email for that account is checked several times a day, as early as 6:00am, as it is important to jump in with a response, or the sit goes to someone else. It’s an unusually competitive world, housesitting.
In an ideal world, I would do email once a day, just after lunch. But the world is in constant change, and so am I. Some clients are in Costa Rica, some in Japan, some in New Zealand, some in Europe, so it depends who I need to contact, and how soon I need a response. I work with a World Clock, rather than my local clock.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I’m not into the phone at all. I don’t make or take phone calls or messages, except in exceptional cases.
I use my iPhone as a pocket computer. I check social media in the morning, usually before breakfast. It depends what I’m up to. Facebook and Twitter. Occasionally Google+, but it’s very quiet there. I’m currently considering (again) dropping social media. But I get work via social media, so it’s hard to rail against something that works. Facebook is mostly with friends I know in person. Twitter is mostly online contacts and friends.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Meditation. Dharma study. Yoga. Eating well (home made, no processed food, local produce, living food, superfood). Writing poetry. I write poetry most days. Sometimes copiously. I have over 1608 unpublished poems as I write this. I’m working on changing that.
I work best in the mornings, at most tasks.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I try to keep a similar routine, but some environments, such as when I am visiting family, require a little more flexibility. Instead of seeing this as a challenge, I enjoy it. I relax into it. Change is the nature of life, of the universe.
What do you do if you fail to follow your routine and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I don’t fail, because I don’t set rigid rules and structures for myself. I have a feel for what I want to do each day, and that shifts, but it always contains the key elements I’ve detailed here.
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