Have you ever had a daily practice? I consider a morning practice to be the ultimate Trim Tab. If you are looking to drastically shift your life towards purpose and fulfillment then it is worth developing a daily practice. I suggest a bare minimum of starting your day with 20 minutes of purposeful daily practice. 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 first thing upon waking. 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. 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.
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. 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 – I might actually recommend these over meditation. I have written about breathing exercises before. If meditation seems daunting, consider learning some simple breathing exercises. Along with all of the other benefits they also end up being a stealth concentration practice. More on this in my next Insight.
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 the mood that I wake up in. It is far too easy to lay down and close my eyes still wrapped up in the days events 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 I am certain your days will be different. 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 putting aside time every day to focus on taking care of yourself, being present in the moment, and connecting deeply with an experience will reward you in ways you can’t know without having a daily practice.