by Avery Thatcher
I’m sitting on a concert stage holding my clarinet after my junior high band performed their two pieces for the Kiwanis Music Festival. This is a festival where local musicians and schools compete and play their selections in front of some adjudicators for feedback. It’s a great way to get kids used to performing I suppose.
Anyway, I’m sitting there on stage with the rest of my classmates waiting for the adjudicators to give us their feedback. I see one of them walking up the stairs and across the stage towards us. He pulled something out of his pocket and said “Alright, before we can go any further I want to tune all of you.”
And then he proceeded to tune our little junior high orchestra with the tuner he pulled out of his pocket, making sure that everyone was all on pitch.
He then said “okay, I want to hear that first song again please.” and had us play it one more time. And it sounded much better!
Let’s be real here, it didn’t sound good – we were a junior high orchestra with some of us only having played these instruments for 7 months. But it sounded much better because we were in tune.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to see a professional symphony orchestra play and before the conductor even walks on the stage, the first violin stands up and tunes everyone. The short period of time that it takes to tune the orchestra sets up the rest of the evening to be a success!
So, tell me my friend, how do you tune your orchestra?
Of course I know you don’t have 50 musicians living in your house (or I’m assuming you don’t, haha), but when I say “how do you tune your orchestra?” what I mean is, what do you do at the start of your day to set yourself up for success?
As far as morning routines go, there are a gazillion books, articles, opinions, methods you name it on what you should do, what you have to do, and what time you need to get up in order to do that.
I am not a morning person, and the idea of getting up at 5 am for my “miracle morning” sounds awful. That would not set me up for success for the rest of the day. It would not tune my orchestra.
I’ve also tried the rigid routine where you have a list of things that all need to be done and have a certain amount of time that they need to be done for in order for them to be “effective” according someone…who? I don’t know. But someone decided that this activity for this amount of time is what is needed to “optimize” your performance.
Again, as I’ve talked about before and what I talk about a lot on my other podcast The Truth About Burnout, we can’t solve a problem from the same mindset that created it. We have to think differently.
And all of these huge morning routine lists of “must-do’s” comes from a culture that perpetuates chronic stress and burnout.
So instead, I choose to look back to a time where chronic stress and burnout wasn’t as prevalent and pull on wisdom from that era – which leads me to the Vedic concept of Dinacharyas.
Dinacharya is a Sanskrit word with ‘dina’ meaning day, and ‘charya’ meaning behavior, action, and response. Translated Dinacharya means daily routine.
Coming back to our orchestra metaphor, we can think about how we can best tune our body, mind and emotions in the morning to help us feel at our best throughout the rest of our day. There’s a key word in there that I want to draw your attention to: “feel” – we’re going to come back to this, so stick with me.
In the Recover Program within the Flow State App we talk about Dinacharyas, specifically morning Dinacharyas and although there will be a list of activities that you do every day like brush your teeth, have something to drink, get dressed etcetera – I don’t recommend you set a long list of things to do each morning.
I don’t recommend this for two reasons:
First, life is a bit wild sometimes, which means that best laid plans don’t always happen. As a high achiever, when something doesn’t get crossed off your to-do list, you die a little inside and feel a smidgen like you failed. So when those curve-ball days happen and you don’t get to the 12 things on your morning routine list – it really can negatively affect the rest of your day.
Second, a list of activities is often based on what other people say you should do in the morning. But just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Your morning really needs to be about you – you’re not tuning someone else’s orchestra. You’re tuning your own. So make sure that you’ve customized it.
The Key to an Effective Morning Routine or Dinacharya
The key concept I’ve found in designing my own morning dinacharya and helping others design their unique morning dinacharya is to focus on how you want to feel when you’re done.
I don’t believe that a dinacharya should be a rigid set of tasks that must be done daily in order for you to feel at your best. I believe that we should have options and then decide what to do in the morning to tune our orchestra based on how we feel that day.
When I asked my partner this question many years ago, he said “I need a quiet, slow morning.”
No wonder he was struggling to stick to his morning workout, eh? If his body, mind, emotions and energy need a quiet, slow morning to get going – jumping in for a three kilometer run first thing goes against what he needs!
So when you think about your morning, what do you want it to be? What would make you feel best?
Answering those questions can help point you in the right direction for how to figure out your best morning routine.
I know that it’s hard to even get started sometimes, though, if you don’t have any ideas. I know I’ve said I don’t recommend having a rigid set of tasks that you need to do every morning – but there are a few that Ayurveda recommends. Maybe they’re not for you – but they might give you a place to start.
Ayurvedic Morning Routine
Check-in with your body, mind, and emotions
Get up, void and empty your bowels
Brush your teeth, scrape your tongue and oil pull
Gharshana (dry brushing)
Abhyanga (oil self-massage – this is delightful if you warm up the oil a little first especially in the colder months)
Meditation or Pranayama Breathwork (or both)
Do I follow this list everyday? Nope.
Have I ever done everything on this list in this order? Again, nope.
But there are a few that I know when I do them I feel wonderful and that today is going to be a good day.
The song that I have for you is one that we’ve recently changed to be our alarm clock because it gets stuck in my head in all the right ways and I sing it to myself as I go through the first hour or two of my day. It’s the perfect dance-in-the-kitchen-while-the-water-is-boiling-for-tea kind of song.
It’s called “Good Thing” by Cecily – give it a listen. I dare you not to smile.
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