Do you look forward to a brand-new day and start singing along with the birds in the trees, or do you press the snooze button for thirty minutes, stagger out of bed, and rush through a morning ritual involving a hurried shower and two (or three) cups of coffee?
For those of us who struggle with our health and well-being, getting going in the morning can be the most difficult task of the day. But allowing mornings to be bogged down with lethargy and addictive stimulants sets a tone for the rest of the day: rather than an opportunity to find our purpose, each day is something to survive.
When you give yourself just a few minutes each morning to take care of yourself, you will start to see the value of your time during the rest of the day and feel more content with each moment. Soon your days will no longer be something to be merely survived, but rather a time to be relished.
A key component of a new morning routine will be an exercise I call the Presence Practice.
Each of us has different obstacles to overcome and different behaviors we’d like to change, so it would be presumptuous of me to think that all people will benefit from doing exactly the same thing.
Anytime we are presented with the task of shifting a behavior, be it refraining from biting our nails or quitting smoking, we must do three things:
1.Recognize that there’s an issue to be resolved (“I bite my nails even though I shouldn’t”).
2.Decide that we will work on the issue (“I will no longer bite my nails”).
3.Act on the issue (“I’m nervous and am going to bite my nails— oh wait, I’m not doing that anymore”).
The dentist once told me that I was causing mouth sores and gum problems for myself because I was chewing on the inside of my cheek. Though it was an effort, I learned to keep myself from continuing in that habit because I recognized that I had started it by mimicking my mother, decided to change it, and acted on that decision. This is what I call the Presence Practice. It is a process that requires us to be present to a certain behavior for a set period of time and to continually remind ourselves to shift that behavior. To change my cheek-chewing habit, I made this habit the absolute top priority in my day-to-day life for a set amount of time until the habit was gone.
Each morning after you wake up but before you start work, school, or what- ever else you will be doing to fill your day, you are to find a quiet corner of your getting started with the one plan home, sit for five minutes in silence, and remind yourself to shift a behavior. When you need to engage in a process of self-inquiry, your task is to follow these steps:
1.Take the list of questions with you to your chosen sitting place. For the time you’re sitting, you can either use a chair or sit on a cushion on the floor, but be sure to keep an upright spine. You may keep your eyes open or closed, but closing them will help shut out any activity going on around you.
2.Choose a question from the list that you think might be relevant, and ask yourself this question.
3.See what thoughts, memories, or perspectives come up in response to this question over the course of five minutes.
4.When you identify yourself as exhibiting a behavior (“I don’t like spending time with that friend”), your task is to address that behavior by the end of the week.
5.If, by the end of the week, you haven’t encountered a situation in which to address that behavior (“I will let her know that I’d prefer to spend some time apart right now”), create that opportunity before moving on to the next week (“I will give her a call”).
6.If you finish reversing one behavior before the end of the week, go on to another question from the list.
7.Repeat this process in any subsequent weeks devoted to the same practice.
For each simple behavior you are to reverse, such as stifling yawns, simply sit for five minutes while reminding yourself to no longer behave in that way. Throughout the week, you are to remind yourself whenever the behavior comes up. When the week is up, continue maintaining an honest separation from the former friend, allowing yourself to yawn, or whatever else you have worked on.
The Presence Practice will help remind you that these behavioral shifts are valuable in the bigger picture of your life. Some days, you might have no success in being truthful about something, but other days it might seem like everything on this new path is aligning perfectly for you. But no matter what happens, by spending just five minutes a day focusing on the behaviors you seek to change and then creating the change in a tangible way by the end of the week, you’ll be spending more time than you probably ever have on improving. And this is a start.
Adapted from The One Plan: A Week by Week Guide to Restoring Your Natural Health and Happiness by Yogi Cameron Alborzian reprinted with permission of Harper Collins ©2013.