Early To Rise

I have been getting up at 5:30 AM for the past couple of months. That’s new for me. I hadn’t set an alarm clock except for when I was going to be travelling, for years. I would go to bed at 11 o’clock or so and wake up anywhere between 6:30 and 7:30, depending upon my dogs and the neighbourhood roosters. But honestly, I was finding the evenings long and it seemed to take me more time in the morning to pull myself together to face the day.

Five thirty seems early but here, close the equator, that’s when the sun rises slowly over the mountain behind my home. I find I really do enjoy sitting on my terrace sipping hot water with lemon and sort of meditating, sort of thinking, slowly waking up and greeting the day. By 8:00 AM I have written a 500 words or so in my journal, done ten minutes of Tai-Chi, fed and walked the dogs, and cooked myself a nutritious breakfast. Before, by that time, I had barely finished my first coffee. Now, I have accomplished a whole lot.

As I get older, I find that I like routine more. Contrary to what I thought before, I actually find it gives me more freedom. I don’t have to think about what I am going to do upon awakening. I know before I go to bed how I am going to spend the first couple of hours of the day and prepare for it. It is still a very relaxed routine. However, I feel like I have accomplished a great deal very early in the day. There aren’t the distractions of later on in the morning, it’s quiet and meditative.

Of course, getting up early means going to bed earlier. By 9:30 PM it is lights out. Before then I have usually been reading something for a half an hour, slowing down my pace of the day. Sometimes I finish the chapter but sometimes the Kindle slips out of my hand onto the bed and I know it’s time to turn out the light.

I find that I need a solid morning routine as well. I like having that sense of accomplishment very early in the day. I have done things that are important to me without seeing them as a chore or work. I want to have conscious contact with my Higher Power. It’s important for me to write. My body is enjoying the benefits of some morning stretching. In essence, this routine helps me to awaken my mind, body and spirit. I have accomplished a great deal and feel like I am ahead.

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Perhaps you don’t think you need a morning routine. Perhaps you think you’re not a morning person. But give it a try. Getting up even 15 or 20 minutes earlier and spending that time in some sort of silence, meditation or inspirational reading will give a you a jump start on your day, boost your sense of self worth, self confidence and accomplishment. Try it for a week and see how it changes your day, how you relate to others and to yourself. I know it works because I am seeing the benefits in myself. You will too.

Limiting Distractions

As I was going over some of my writing from last week when I was away, I saw in the space at the top of one page I had written: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction. I can choose what’s important for me.” To be honest, I don’t remember writing it. It’s in the middle of five pages of script. I’ve been reading a lot of material lately with respect to self improvement, so it probably stems from there. And it has caught my attention over and over again in the past couple of days: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction.”

I was reminded of the 80-20 rule which basically says that 80 percent of the time I am involved in things that aren’t important to me and it’s only the things I do during about 20 percent of my time that help me move forward. The idea with eliminating distractions is to change the percentages more toward more of what is giving me results. Over the past couple of months I’ve been learning what my distractions are and changing my habits.

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Probably the biggest distraction and time waster for me is my cell phone. How many times a day do I pick that up to check on something? Sure it’s handy, but it is also a tool and not a master that must be attended to every time it beeps and chimes. I eliminated a bunch of apps that are a distraction. And in the morning I leave my cell on the night stand until I have finished my morning meditation, journal writing and walking the dogs. There is just so little that has to be dealt with right as soon as I get up.

Another distraction I have been whittling down: Facebook. I can waste hours going through stroking egos by giving likes to notifications and videos, and making comments. Again, Facebook or other social media isn’t the culprit, it’s the time and attention that I lavish on what is mostly a distraction. Netflix is another distraction for me, especially a series. No longer do I have to ‘tune in next week on the same channel’ to find out what happens next. I don’t even have to click; automatically it opens the next episode. Before I know it, I’m investing another 42 minutes into it. I’ve limited the amount of news I read daily. I choose the videos I watch on Youtube, I stay away from Instagram and Twitter. So what has happened as a result of my limiting my ‘screen time’?

I have written more in the last two months than I have ever written before. Little of it is publishable, nor would I want it to be. But, if I want to call myself a writer, then I have to write. I am reading some of the classics of literature that somehow I failed to read in the past. I am organizing my home to be more conducive to writing and my other goals, including moving my desk to a more pleasant place. I’ve joined the gym again and work out regularly. And I am organizing my priorities. I am working on increasing the 20 percent: focusing on the areas where I wish to grow. I’m creating large windows of time in my day by eliminating distractions and focusing on what is most important for me.

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Returning to the River

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, let alone sat down to write this blog. I’d like to say it’s because I was on vacation, too busy with a variety of projects or any other number of reasons other than the truth: I lost heart.

I lost heart because I allowed my ego to stand in my way, an ego that told me that what I do wasn’t making a difference.  It said that what I was doing in life was’t important and I didn’t matter. It said that I really don’t matter. My ego speaks to me in many different ways but usually it does so subtly, undermining my self esteem bit by bit and bringing me down lower with each nip. Slowly I start to believe that I am worth less than I was before until I start to see myself as unworthy and then, worthless.

We usually think of ego as bravado and pride and over rating ourselves: an ego trip is where we build ourselves up way above where we are. But the opposite is also true. An ego trip can also bring us down low and into depression and despair. In both cases I am thinking only about me; I’m better than everyone else–I’m worse than everyone else. Either way, I am deep within ‘self’. And in my case, when I get into ‘self’, that’s when my disease of addiction starts to make inroads to take over.

I am grateful that I am in a recovery program that helps me to recognize when I’ve pulled the plug on the sink and am heading down and circling the drain. I know I need to stop the stream of negativity and move forward. I can start thinking about myself as I am: neither perfection nor damnation. I can remind myself that I am on a journey and that it’s up to me to take the next step and move forward or wallow in the mire. I can make the allow myself to believe that I’m stuck in the mud at the edge of the river and that this is my destination and I don’t deserve any more. But I don’t have to stay here and wallow in the muck of my own making, believing that’s all there is to life.

And so, bit by bit, I am taking back what I allowed my ego to take from me. I don’t have to do it all in one day. All I need to do is stand up and look around at where I am; I don’t want to be here so I can step up out of the muck where the land meets the river and back onto the river. I don’t have to be success and perfection: I want to head toward a destination where I am true to myself, my heart. And it all begins with a decision and an action: returning to the river.