How to Establish Your Own Daily Practice
Have you ever had a daily practice? I consider a morning practice to be the ultimate Trim Tab. If you are looking to shift your life towards purpose and fulfillment then the little things that you do every single day are as, or more important than the big, obviously life altering decisions about your work and relationships. I suggest a bare minimum of starting your day with 20 minutes of purposeful daily practice. You can change your career in a day, but shifting your consciousness requires consistently seeing the world from a different perspective. We all fall into routine in life. Much of the time we exist on autopilot. The decision to add a daily ritual of mindful activity can be just the thing you need to stir yourself out of a rut. Consider including the following:
Dream Journaling — I have always had a very hard time remembering my dreams. The exception to this is when I place a pen and paper next to my bed at night with the intention of writing down anything I can remember from my dreams the moment I wake up. The first day I might get nothing. Within a few days I get fragments, then scenes and then entire stories down on paper. A few times I have become lucid while dreaming. We spend a third of our life asleep. Why not make it playful? Remembering your dreams is the first step towards deeply rewarding practices such as lucid dreaming, dream yoga and dream analysis.
Meditation — Learning to meditate will change your life. Techniques and approaches to meditation are numerous, but the benefits that meditation can provide are even greater. Whether you begin to realize enlightenment, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase concentration, reduce tension or understand the nature of reality, meditation will offer you as much in return as you can invest. I could not possibly say enough about it here.
Exercise — Most of us live abnormally sedentary lives. We did not evolve sitting in office chairs using our brains far more than our bodies. Bringing all of our energy into our minds at the expense of our bodies leads to everything from hypertension to obesity to depression and erectile dysfunction. If I had to pick the two most transformational practices they would be strength training and meditation. Combined their benefits multiply. Even a daily minimum of 10 pushups every morning can have profound effects.
Prayer/Incantations — There is immense power in our minds. Our lives are shaped by the thoughts that we embody. When was the last time you attempted to reprogram your thinking? Have you ever attempted to consciously choose your beliefs? Do you think it is possible to choose the mood that you wake up in? Studies show that smiling in a mirror can be as effective as prozac to cure depression. Combine those smiles with words that feel sacred, uplifting or even a bit silly and your mood will shift even more. To combat depression I started waking up every morning, forcing myself to smile and say one or two sentences about each day being better than the last and growing wiser and happier each day. At first I felt ridiculous. This lightened me up a bit. Before long both the smiles and the positive thoughts started happening on their own. Our thoughts are programmed by every bit of information we ingest, why not be one of the authors of your thoughts?
Breathing Exercises — If meditation seems daunting, consider learning some simple breathing exercises. I might actually recommend these over meditation simply because the results are more immediate. Along with all of the other benefits they also end up being a stealth concentration practice. Your thoughts and your breathing are linked. Fortunately, your breath is easy to change. You can read more about breathing exercises here.
Journaling — At times I like to journal at night, almost last thing, before I go to sleep. I find that even something as brief as 5–10 minutes of putting the days thoughts and events down on paper can have an incredibly positive effect on both my sleep and my mood the next day. It is far too easy to lay down and close my eyes still wrapped up in the days activities not even realizing that I am still ruminating over events that ended hours ago. Journaling allows me to honor what has happened, process my feelings about it and then let go and drift off peacefully to sleep.
Sacred Reading — Whether you choose ancient texts or more modern books on faith and spirituality setting aside time daily to immerse yourself in others wisdom is an uplifting and expansive practice.
Yoga — David Deida once described yoga as ‘moving just beyond your range of comfort so that in the future you will have a greater range of comfort.’ (paraphrase). Most Americans are familiar with the physical positions or asanas that yoga includes. While this but scratches the surface of a true yoga practice, if you dedicate yourself to something as simple as 5 sun salutations daily you will likely find yourself feeling energized and less tense. Creating space in your body creates space in your mind. Yoga is designed to facilitate this process.
Singing/Chanting — More primal than talking, there is a reason that most religions include some form of singing or chanting. Whether you sing folk songs or repeat a sacred phrase the simple act of using your voice with focus and purpose can be a deeply transformative practice. This was both one of the hardest and most rewarding practices for me during my year on the mountain.
Whatever you choose, the simple act of committing to a daily habit of hitting pause on the work you do for others, taking care of yourself and being present in the moment will reward you in ways you can’t predict without trying. I challenge you to pick one thing, stick with it for 30 days and then tell me that your life hasn’t changed for the better.