Not sure what I was searching for on YouTube when I came across a new to me take on the morning routine – the Buddhist Monk’s routine as demonstrated by the Venerable Nick Keomahavong.
I found it interesting because morning routines are usually focused on productivity; squeezing as much into the day as you can.
But the Monk’s purpose is to train the mind and cultivate wisdom. Which for me at any rate, is a more attractive option.
Get Centred and Reflect on Death
While they generally wake around 4.30 am, rather than getting up and going, they take advantage of the stillness of sleep, keep their eyes shut, and just breathe. They’re not thinking about yesterday or today, they’re just being in the moment.
As they absorb the now, they remind themselves that this day is not guaranteed. And this is true for all of us – anything could happen, and this could well be your last day. So with that in mind, they’re grateful to be alive, and dedicate themselves to doing good.
So often we just get up and start running, without thinking about dying – especially when we take stupid risks like running red lights or across train station barricades when trains are coming toward us.
And it is even rarer that we take a moment to set an intention for the day. Let alone an intangible one like leaving the world a better place than it was that morning.
Make Your Bed
A lot of morning routines suggest this as well, but in this routine, it’s more about mindfulness and showing the appropriate respect for your belongings. By getting out of bed and tidying your room before you leave it, you mark the transition from sleeping, to the rest of your day.
It’s also a gateway to more significant instances of minfulness and control.
Chanting and Meditation
Taking advantage of the stillness they still carry with them, before they start interacting with the ouside world, Monks move into a kind of devotional phase – chanting and medation.
As they chant, the rhythm slows the brain and they can settle into meditation. Which grounds and centres, provides clarity and prepares you for whatever might come at you during the day.
For you, this might equate to prayer and reading your book of faith to ground you in your core beliefs for the day.
Do an Act of Generosity
I like the expression of this – an act of generosity. There’s no morality attached to it, and it’s not charity for the less fortunate (though that can also be a good thing). It’s just sharing what you have with others, according to what you can offer.
For the Buddhist Monks, this means going out daily to allow the community the opportunity to give alms. By preparing and giving food to support the Monks, the community has the opportunity to share what they have and let greed go. In return, the Monks support the community spititually.
Laid out like this, it sounds weird to most Westerners, but we have a similar system of tithing to the Church on Sundays. However, the monks are a daily trigger and opportunity to give.
We can also be generous with our time, money and wisdom each day; donating to causes, making breakfast for our families, or helping our neighbours. But trying to do something every single day, while the day is still young and bright.
The point is to stay in the moment, and to focus on doing the task at hand as well as we can. Doing requires a different headspace than thinking; focusing on doing, helps cultivate stillness and mindfulness through the day.
Limit Evening Meals
Not strictly speaking a morning thing, but definitely a preparation for morning. When you eat less at dinner, you sleep better and feel lighter and more energetic in the morning.
Which makes sense, because when you eat a lot at night, you’re filling up with energy that needs to be digested and used up. Many weight loss regimes recommend you eat less and earlier in the day as well.
I can tell you from my experience that it works.