At the age of 51, I have settled upon a beginning of my day that really works for me. I do it whether I am traveling or I am at home, whether I am on a work schedule or vacation. I know that we all have different circumstances — children, work, commuting, pets, health issues, and so on. I am not suggesting that you should adopt my routine, but I do believe in starting the day in a manner that supports the life you want to lead. Here is what my morning looks like.

Focus (5 minutes): I begin by making a short list of what I am grateful for and what is most important to me. This morning’s list: family, health, humanity, and MOE (miracle of existence). With each item on my list, I pause until I can feel gratitude in my body. It feels a lot like a warm, expansive smile in my chest. I also make sure that I am clear about the relationships, commitments, values, and goals that really matter. I want to help others thrive, publish my book, help with the housework, and let people know I love them by how I behave.

Sweat (30 minutes): I move my body and stretch. The goal is to get my heart rate up, to build some strength and flexibility, and to get my brain going. I don’t worry about mileage or amount of weight lifted. I just want to feel the invigorated feeling that comes with physical exertion.

Shiver (5 minutes): I take a cold shower every morning. I do this for four reasons. 1. I live in Southern California and it feels wasteful to send cold water down the drain when we are in a drought. 2. There is a lot of evidence that it is good for you – skin, metabolism, and mental alertness. 3. I don’t want to. My preference is definitely to take a warm shower. It has been great to build a daily choice into my life that goes against my temporary desires. 4. It feels really great when it is all over. I feel incredibly alive and ready to start my day.

Sit (20 minutes): I meditate. Before I jump into the activity of the day, I want to be sure I have spent some time intensively practicing awareness. Sitting with the restlessness, distraction, and boredom that naturally arises is a great way to prepare for the waves of experience that will happen during the rest of the day.

Three more thoughts:

1. I do not look at a screen (phone, computer, tablet) until I am done with this routine. I want to meet emails, texts, phone messages, news updates, etc.. with clarity and with access to positive internal resources.

2. I often run into a conditioned desire to stay in bed or skip this routine altogether. This is a great opportunity to see the internal struggle, to let go of my attachment to these thoughts and sensations, and to just do the next thing that serves my best interests.

3. This routine takes an hour. I have to get up early enough in order to fit this in. Getting sufficient sleep is also really important to me. This requires me to make some choices the night before. It all boils down to this — I can live my life by default — a victim of my current conditioning, or I can live my life by design — choosing actions based on what matters most. The latter is what I call good life practice.