Monthly Archives: December 2018

My Morning Routine

Since I returned ‘home’ from my latest cycling adventure (Vietnam to UK, sort of – book coming soon…), I’ve invested a bunch of time in to personal development. I read books, internet articles and speak with like minded friends about the important stuff in our lives.

One of the most impactful improvements (‘life hacks’ is what the kids are calling it), is a structured morning routine. A disciplined morning routine leads in to effective activity with a feeling of accomplishment lasting throughout the day – it’s a very satisfying cycle to create.

  1. Make your bed. Sounds simple but this is the first task of the day and you just nailed…
  2. Meditate. I sit an hour of Vipassana straight after I’ve made my bed.
  3. Enjoy a hot drink. I take a cup of boiled water or herbal tea. The point is to just sit and be in the moment as you visualise a successful day ahead.

For me these three are locked down, everyday habits. No excuses, no skipping, no shortcuts. Also important is taking enough sleep – that means 7 / 8 hours for me. Experiment with your own sleep but make certain that you’re getting enough – it’s essential. I’m lucky enough to have the freedom to plan my daily schedule around my own requirements, if I go out til late, I’ll sleep in. But usually, I’m sound asleep by 11pm latest.

After my hot drink I’ll hit the laptop for a four hour stint of essential work related tasks. This is my main work activity for the day. This does not include email, phone calls or meetings or browsing the internet and social media or consuming content. These activities are for after lunch.

At 11am I break my fast and take a fruit breakfast.

Around 1pm I’ll reply to emails, make phone calls and take any meetings (usually via Skype). Once these tasks are complete I’ll catch up on any ‘work’ related reading. After that, I’ll kick back with a book, go to the forest with the bike (when I’m in the UK), or like now (I’m in Goa for the winter), I’ll go to the beach, do some yoga, sun gazing and socialising.

What’s  your morning look like?

Nonviolent Communication

Over the last few years, as my Vipassana practice has deepened, I’ve become interested in the way that we humans communicate. Language is one of the many things that make humans the most sophisticated beings on the planet. How we use language essentially determines the quality of our lives.

In meditation one begins to realise that our thoughts, words and deeds are all manifestations of our volition. The challenge is that while our intentions may be ‘good’, what we think, say or do may be rooted in our past conditioning, habits and biases. Every single person on Earth has a totally unique set of ‘conditionings’, which leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding.

Language is one of the primary ways in which we can have our needs met. Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a technique pioneered by the late Marshall Rosenberg and asks us to remap the way that we communicate with one another by removing the violence inherent in much of our ‘conditioned’ speech.

The purpose of Nonviolent Communication is to inspire a compassionate, heartfelt connection so that all needs may be valued; to connect to the life in ourselves and others; to be inspired and to inspire others to give from the heart.

“In every moment, each of us is trying to meet our needs in the best way we know how.” ~ Marshall Rosenberg

Like meditation, Nonviolent communication is simple but not easy. In any situation there are two ways to enhance connection and understanding; 1) express our feelings and needs vulnerably, 2) listen to the feelings and needs of others with empathy. These are radically different choices than our conditioning is accustomed to.

If we move away from praise, blame, judgment and conflict towards a heightened state of awareness, we can cultivate an attitude of acceptance, empathy and understanding. From this new perspective we can begin the journey of deep meaningful connection within ourselves and communicate more fully in harmony with others. Improving the way that we relate to and communicate with others will enhance the quality of our lives in beautiful, wonderful and unexpected ways.

Empathy vs Sympathy 

Empathy says ‘I feel you, we’re the same’.
Sympathy says ‘I understand what you’re feeling but that’s separate from me’.
Sympathy invites pity.
Sympathy leads to imbalance; an attitude of superior position that says, ‘I’m OK, you’re not OK. You have a problem, I don’t’.
Empathy invites acceptance.
Empathy means equality; empathy says, ‘I get it. We’re the same. Let’s share that problem and work through it’.
Empathy shows up, hugs and spends time.
Sympathy sends a card.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar; Guru Nanak Gurpurab Festival

We sat mesmerised by the golden lights reflecting in the holy waters of Sri Harmandir Sahib as the hypnotic rhythm of the Sikh mantra joined us with the infinite potential of the universe. Our journey had brought us to the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the most revered site in the Sikh religion; a place of pilgrimage, worship and splendour.

As luck would have it, we arrived on the day the Guru Nanak Gurpurab festival, our day and night at the temple were spent celebrating the founder of Sikhism with thousands of locals and pilgrims from across India. The Golden Temple in Amritsar really has to be seen to be believed; one thousand tonnes of gold cover the copper clad structure to create a most striking impression; the suns light reflected brightly off the golden walls in to the calmly rippling water.

Approaching the Golden Temple in Amritsar from the Langar Hall

Approaching the Golden Temple in Amritsar from the Langar Hall

The temple complex is a large stone building painted white with a clock towers on three sides and a maze of other buildings at the west side arranged in deference to the grand gateway that leads to the inner sanctum of the Golden Temple. The queue to visit this place is long; the waiting time is north of three hours; holidays and weekends naturally being the most popular times to visit.

During our walk around the complex we made a friend, Ranjit Singh, a handsome young Sikh lad of 18 years, gave us firm handshakes and sound advice. We asked about the possibility staying the night at the temple and happily he showed us through to the Sri Nagar REF on the east wing where the accommodation is found. The tall, turbaned, one armed guard gave us the OK and we made a plan to return later with our bags.

View of the Golden Temple in Amritsar from the steps of the Langar Hall

View of the Golden Temple in Amritsar from the steps of the Langar Hall

It is customary for pilgrims to take a dip in the holy water. A quick splash of the face or a full submersion. I stripped to my shorts and stepped in, dunking three times in the style of the locals young and old. The water was at once refreshing and cleansing, a ritual that can be enjoyed by anyone in the heat of a three o’clock Indian sun.

Dry and dressed, we then stepped in to the Langar Hall for a spot of lunch. In gurdawara temples tasty vegetarian food is given freely to those attending whether of faith or not. This act of charity on the scale here at the Golden Temple is a thing of great selflessness.

Close up of the Golden Temple in Amritsar

Close up of the Golden Temple in Amritsar

Hundreds of men, women and teenage children work tirelessly to peel vegetables, boil rice, prepare curries, hand out steel platters, bowls and cutlery, serve cooked food from steel buckets, hand out chapatti, pour water, mop floors, collect and clean platters, bowls and cutlery.

This is done on a 20 minute rotation, 12 hours a day. Experienced here at the Golden Temple it was an efficient, practical and satisfying process to behold. Thousands of people are fed daily – as many as 120,000 according to local volunteers. The net effect of this benevolence is felt throughout the community; peace and harmony proliferate in every soul. It is a kindness of full and lasting benefit.

A traveller poses for a photograph at the Golden Temple in Amritsar

A traveller poses for a photograph at the Golden Temple in Amritsar

That night, with the full moon high above, I sat to mediate in the ‘foreigners only’ dormitory, and I felt connected to the divine source in a very powerful way. The sensations were intense, resonating deeply with the strong vibrations of this very holy place.