One question I get asked quite often is, “How do you do it all?” Presumably the “all” is what many of us (especially women) do. We juggle demanding careers, a busy family with partners and children, cook, clean and maintain homes, coordinate work, school and social calendars, and pursue soul-nourishing activities outside of work. While passion and curiosity are key ingredients for “doing it all,” the single most effective habit worth cultivating is to wake up early. This habit sets the tone for a routine that facilitates Radical Beauty.
Waking up early is one of life’s “hidden-in-plain-view” delights. There is something mystical and magical about the quiet of dawn. It is saturated with sacred energy. In Sanskrit, this time of the day is called Brahma-muhurta, the pre-dawn hours that lead to the ambrosia of immortality. The mind is particularly receptive to meditative practices at this time of day named after Brahma, the lord of creation. During this period, our potential to be born anew is at its greatest.
On a practical note, it is the only time I tend to have to myself. Here’s what my morning routine typically looks like:
- Wake up between 4 and 5 AM.
- Drink water.
- Get breakfast going (typically, oatmeal or other hot cereal) in the cooker.
- Meditate for 30-60 minutes (depending on how much time I have. In times of stress or pressing deadlines, I meditate for longer).
- Make coffee.
- Read or write for 20 minutes.
- Pack lunches and put finishing touches on breakfast.
- Wake up the kids with cuddling and cajoling (one of my favorite things to do every day).
- Sit quietly with them as they meditate.
- Exercise (typically yoga for 30-45 minutes or longer, depending on how much time I have).
- Get ready for work.
The earlier I wake up, the more time there is to do all the things that nourish me deeply and set the tone for the day. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate solitude so much that I’ve rearranged my life to accommodate this routine:
- Waking up early necessitates retiring early. My bedtime is 10 PM.
- I put the kids to bed at 9 PM and meditate in their room as they fall asleep.
- In order to meditate at this time, I eat early (and light) to allow for a relatively empty stomach.
- This in turn dictates that lunch must be the heaviest meal of the day.
- Since lunch occurs in the middle of a busy day, it needs to be simple, light and healthy without causing lethargy.
- To avoid busy work like cleaning the kitchen late at night, I’ve learned to become single-pointed and efficient while cooking and serving meals.
- My children are expected to help with clean-up immediately after meals.
- After dinner, the kitchen is used for beverages and fruit only.
- Tying up loose ends at work ensures that I’m not doing busy work late at night (except during grant and manuscript deadlines). Thus, this requires me to be efficient and single-pointed at work as well.
Such a routine is facilitated by reorganizing our lives and routines with a conscious focus on peace. With every task, we are given the choice: peace or chaos? Chaos occurs with constant rushing around from the moment we wake up with no time for reflection, silence or solitude. It spills over to our partners, children and coworkers. It takes over our minds and fills us with aggression, anxiety or inertia. We resort to excessive talking and other influences that create noise, worry and further chaos.
When we consistently choose peace, we begin to see how every aspect of our lives is connected to every other aspect. If I want solitude in the midst of a busy life, I have to create it. A life centered around the ecstatic bliss of Radical Beauty calls for several adjustments. My diet has to be light, nutritious and conducive to peace and joy. My activities have to be in line with the lifestyle. Late-night parties, television or gatherings are rare occurrences. I prefer to keep my mind uncluttered, and so avoid excessive talking, TV or internet browsing. As much as possible, I try not to put off things because that clutters my mind and disrupts my peace-centered lifestyle.
Paradoxically, slowing down is the secret to getting more done. From the way we view ourselves and the world, work, interact with others, keep house, raise children and contribute to society, how we do everything is a reflection of our state of mind. Chaos begets chaos. Peace begets peace. It always starts here.
Radical Beauty Ritual:
- If you’re not an early riser, start now.
- Do it gradually.
- Go to bed an hour earlier than usual, no later than 10:30 PM.
- Set the alarm for 20 minutes earlier than your current wake-up time. Put the alarm on the other side of the room.
- Reflect on your desire for peace before bed. Look forward to doing one task you have been wanting to do for your own joy (like art, music, writing and so on).
- When the alarm goes off, scramble out of bed, turn off the alarm and walk out of the bedroom.
- Wash your mouth and drink water.
- Meditate for a few minutes.
- Do the thing you’ve been looking forward to. Paint, write, play music or just enjoy a cup of coffee in the quiet of dawn. Soak in Brahma’s magical presence!
*Many people I meet classify themselves as “night owls.” When I recommend a routine change, some that try it stick to it and find that they sleep better, feel better and have more time to do the things that they have been meaning to (like meditate and exercise).
Why limit your possibilities by boxing yourself into a “day” or “night” person? You might be surprised to see that your body and mind actually respond better to having no limiting labels. Give it a fair try (a fair try for anything is 3-6 weeks).
Photo credit: flagstaffotos.com.au