Would You Eat Your Brain For Breakfast?
– How to Establish a Morning Ritual
For years, I didn’t eat breakfast. I thought much of the common wisdom about breakfast being the most important meal of the day was bunk. And something about waking up and putting a big meal in my stomach usually made me feel ill.
But all of that changed when I moved into the monastery. Every morning after meditation, we would sit down to a silent breakfast eaten in an ancient Japanese ritual called Oryoki.
I won’t go into a prolonged explanation of the process, but it’s slow and ornate style helped me appreciate the value of the morning meal. And though I loved breakfast at the monastery, it wasn’t until I left that I realized why the ritual was so important.
Every aspect of the morning ritual at the monastery helps the residents start their day with intention, clarity, nutrition, and energy. I began to see that Breakfast wasn’t just about what we put in our bodies, but what we put in our minds.
Most days when we wake up our brains are filled with the leftover worries, disappointments, fears, and stress from the day before. Then without pause we pour those stale thoughts into a bowl and begin to eat.
Being at the monastery taught me that having a morning ritual allows us to let go of what happened yesterday and start each day fresh. Ever since I left the monastery I’ve practiced with many morning rituals. And I’ve found that what I do first in the day has a huge impact on what I do the rest of the day.
How to Create a Morning Ritual
Here are some simple ways to create a morning ritual that will help your day flow more smoothly.
1. Intention – Write down your vows, intentions, or mission.
The question of what you want to do with your life begins with the question what do you want to do with today. If you already have a set of vows or a set of goals, you can support them by writing them down every morning.
If you don’t have any intentions or vows then you can make your first vow to create a set of 4-6 vows for your life. These vows can be broad like I vow to fight for civil rights, or they can be narrow, like I vow to learn how to juggle. They can be epic, like I vow to climb Mt. Everest, or they can be mundane, like I vow to brush my teeth everyday.
It doesn’t matter what your vows are so long as they speak to your heart and will encourage you to grow. Once you’ve settled on your vows include one more: I vow to write my vows everyday.
2. Clarity – Meditate for 5 mins
Having good intentions is essential for living a full life and a full day. But without clarity, it is hard to know if we are moving in alignment with those intentions or not. For this reason it’s vital that you engage in some practice of clarity everyday.
Meditation is perhaps the best one of these practices. Sitting and quieting the mind for even 5 mins can have a huge impact on our ability grow and adapt.
Being willing to stop and face ourselves even for a few moments offers us the chance to start each day fresh. It clears some of the old marks on the white board of our mind. And helps us notice what fears and hopes we are holding in our hearts.
3. Energy – Stretch or Exercise for 10 – 30 mins
The morning is the best time to exercise. When you start your day with exercise you get your metabolism moving, your blood pumping, and generate powerful momentum. I’ve found when I exercise in the morning I’m more consistent about sticking to my plan and I enjoy my day even more.
It doesn’t matter if you start with a 5 mile run or a 10 min yoga routine. What matters is that you get your body moving. The key is to pick something you like and that you will do consistently.
I always tell my clients the best exercise is the exercise you do. If you like running then run. If you prefer an aerobics routine then sweat to the oldies. What matters is that you do it regularly and enjoy it.
4. Nutrition – Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Recent studies have indicated that people who eat a healthy full breakfast lose weight even without changing anything else about their diet. Eating a good breakfast assures that we have enough fuel for everything we need to get done. It also establishes a pattern of healthy eating for the rest of your day.
The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to breakfast is they don’t eat enough protein. With favorites like pancakes, cereal, and bagels, breakfast can often be the most carb-laden meal of the day.
The reason protein is even more important at breakfast is that it helps us feel full longer and our bodies need this essential fuel all day long.
The second biggest mistake that people make is they don’t eat veggies at breakfast. Veggies not only provide us with essential vitamins and fiber. They also help fill our bellies without adding a ton of calories to our diets.
If you’re not sure what to have for a healthy breakfast you can use your hands as a simple guide. An ideal breakfast would include two fists of veggies, one to two palms of protein, and one to two cupped hands of carbs.
For me this often looks like lightly sautéed greens, 2 eggs, and half a bagel or a banana. Since I’ve started eating this way I’ve noticed that I feel full longer, I have more energy, and I eat less for lunch.
One final note:
If you aren’t doing any of these things just pick one of them to start and try it for a week. Then add one more every week and in a month you will have a robust morning ritual.
Also it doesn’t matter what order you do these in. (Though most people prefer to exercise on an empty stomach.) What’s important is to develop a morning ritual that fits your lifestyle.
Our lives don’t veer of course all of a sudden. Instead, most of us suffer from slow mission drift. Establishing a morning ritual can stop that drift and helps you move back towards greater balance.
Question: How do you like to start your day?
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