Make Your Morning Routine the Best with These 5 Habits

Harvard researchers say the first hour after you wake up in the morning is the most impactful of your day.

So how can you spend the first 60 minutes of your morning in a way that sets you up for success throughout the day?

Here are five strategies I use in my morning routine, based on my forty-year career of learning from and working with the world’s leading entrepreneurs, executives, and creative geniuses…

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Practice of Reading

In our modern age, the noble art of reading has been truncated and compromised. Today, a skilled reader is judged as someone who reads rapidly, who can scan the skeleton of any piece of writing and abstract its silhouette of meaning. Yet this is like taking an x-ray of a person and thinking you now have met the whole person.

The word “read” comes from the German raten which originally meant “to guess.” So reading is always a guess at what matters, a leaning in to all that is beyond words, a bow to all that gives rise to words.

I have always been a slow reader, not because I struggle with comprehending what I read, but because when challenged or moved by what I read, I slow down in an attempt to absorb what I’m taking in. Inherent in immersing ourselves in books is the call to enter time and not just move through it. Understanding reading in this way, books become thresholds to moments of living beyond our own.

There is a story in the Talmud in which students notice that their rabbi has been quietly reading the same passage over and over for several days. Concerned, one of the students approaches his teacher to see if he is alright. The rabbit smiles and says, “When I have come upon this small window into Eternity, why should I go anywhere else?”

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Trusting Your Gut: How to Live from the Soulful Self Vs. Personality Self

Have you ever struggled to make a decision, your mind spinning constantly as it vacillates between options yet can never find a solution?  This confusion or lack of true knowing comes from the mind, or what I like to call the “Personality Self.”

On the other hand, have you ever had a “gut” feeling about a situation in your life? In a particular moment, you simply “knew” what to do without knowing why or how you knew it? This “knowing” is the wisdom that comes from the True you, or your Soulful Self.

Both the Soulful Self and the Protective Self exist, yet only one contains the truth of who we are and what we’re meant to do in our life. Our task is to learn to live from the Soulful Self, and have constant access to that deep wisdom within guiding our lives in the direction we’re meant to go. To do this, we have to start listening to the messages of our body.

Our Soulful Self speaks to us through our body and to learn how to hear the messages it sends, our mind, or Protective Self, needs to learn how to trust the body because the body doesn’t lie. It is constantly revealing truths to us, yet the mind can’t perceive these messages because it’s so distracted keeping itself busy with questions of what we should do next.

The minute we can bring the mind’s attention onto the body, the mind can begin to filter information more accurately. Once we do, we have access to deep wisdom and we begin to cultivate the power to do something about what we know to be true.

How the Body Speaks to the Mind

Have you ever felt a knot in the pit of your stomach? Maybe you assumed it was indigestion, or that the burning in your belly had something to do with you needing to take some kind of antacid to cover up the discomfort that you’re feeling.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Energy of Hope

I believe that teaching, reading, and writing all have to do with searching. Each involves searching for Wholeness through dialogue and experience. When that search involves other living things, we find ourselves in the province of learning and teaching. When that search involves other living things that are not present or of our time, the dialogue takes the form of reading. And when that search involves things that are present and living but not yet visible or known, we have entered the creative realm, which includes writing.

These forms of search are really inseparable. They constantly impact each other. In truth, a teacher is someone who is actively involved in all three forms of search—whether they have a classroom or not, whether they are reading the wind instead of a book, or whether they ever write it down or not. At the heart of it, learning is really seeing, while writing is really internalizing what is seen through the life of our expression. And teaching is asking questions about what is seen and taken to heart—in an effort that if honestly entered usually leads to seeing further and taking in more.

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What to do when you're truly feeling overwhelmed

When everything feels too much to handle, even with the best laid-out plans you’d feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Everything seems to come at you all at once and you feel like that there’s not enough of anything to do everything—not enough time, not enough money, not enough support, and most especially not enough you. Desperate for help, perhaps from no one in particular, you ask, “How do I do this? What do I do?”

Most of the time, in the attempt to deal with everything, we spring into action even more. We reassess our plans, downsize our to-do lists, set our priorities, start to say ‘no,’ delegate tasks and manage our time as efficiently as we can. We enroll in a yoga class and start a meditation practice or do whatever we think would help take away the feeling of overwhelm only to realize that they are yet more items to add to our already endless list.

Worst of all, our mind goes on overdrive, stressed not only about what’s going on around us or what we have to do, but by the commentaries going on in our head: I can’t do all of this. I don’t have what it takes. What if I made a mistake? What if I fail? We want to prove to everybody that we can do it all hiding the fact that we are a mental and emotional mess.

Our lives are filled with obligations and must-do’s. To make matters worse, in our materially-driven world, we are pressured to be ‘productive’—which often translates to always doing something (even if it’s not productive). We don’t want to appear lazy or useless so, sometimes, we even make ourselves busy just to appear productive even if busy and productive are, in fact, two different things.

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How to Move Out of Your Ego Wounded Self

If you sometimes get stuck in your wounded self and can’t see how to get back into your loving adult, here are some ideas that may help you.

Sometimes, when we get stuck in our wounded self, it is hard to wind our way out of it. I’ve noticed what I do when I’m happy and my frequency is high, as opposed to when my frequency feels low.

It is helpful to me to keep a list of ways I’ve learned move myself from closed to open.

 

Here are some of the ways I’ve found work for me…

The subtlety of these choices is that I need to be consciously doing these things because it is loving for me to do them, rather than as a form of control. It’s possible for your wounded self to choose these same behaviors as a way to avoid responsibility for your feelings and avoid learning from your pain. When that is the intent, then these choices will not raise your frequency, which means you will not move out of your wounded self. So please be honest with yourself!

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Use Your Imagination To Create Reality & Open The Door To Synchronicities In Your Life

Working with so many people over the years, I’ve really gotten to see how, with effort, insight, and perseverance, we can co-create our reality in partnership with Spirit and transform our lives.

It’s so important to remember that you have a partnership with Spirit that is essential to your life and highest good, crucial to your destiny, and more powerful than any rushing around you could ever do. Spirit is your manifesting partner. God, Quantum Fred, The Dude, Goddess, The Holy Spirit, the Field – whatever you call it – you need to be in service to it, as it is in service to you!Joseph Campbell said it so eloquently when he said:

“When you take one step towards the gods they will take ten steps towards you!”

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How do we communicate?

We communicate through energy! The receptors read vibrational energy fields such as light, sound and radio frequencies, and if the receptor is atuned to the particular frequency it can alter the proteins and change the shape of the receptor. This is the one of the ways our cells are impacted by the vibrational Universe. "Thought waves" and "emotional waves" being of obvious importance in the field effect on biology. We are immersed in living fields of vibrational information. 

Specific frequencies and patters of electromagnetic radiation regulate DNA, RNA and protein syntheses, alter protein shame and function, and control gene regulation, cell division, cell differentiation morphogenesis (the process by which cells assemble into organs and tissues), hormone secretion, nerve growth and function. 

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See Progress

Are some things getting better?

The Practice:
See progress.

Why?

There are always things that are getting worse. For example, over the past year, you probably know someone who has become unemployed or ill or both, and there’s more carbon in the atmosphere inexorably heating up the planet.

But if you don’t recognize what’s improving in your own life, then you feel stagnant, or declining. This can foster what researchers call “learned helplessness” – a dangerously slippery slope. It typically takes only a few experiences of painful entrapment to create it but many times as many counter-experiences to undo it.

If you don’t recognize whatever is getting better in the people around you, then you might feel more disappointed or despairing than you need to feel – and they might feel not seen, criticized, or “why bother.”

If we don’t see the positive trends in our world amidst the negative ones – such as for many people, improved medical care and access to information, and less extreme poverty – then we’ll get swallowed up by all the bad news, and give up trying to make this world better.

This is not looking through rose-colored glasses. The point is to see life as it is, particularly your own life – including the progress that is occurring.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Refection: Not Great But True

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

Rumi

Because all young people are taught to be ambitious, I began as all young artists do—working toward some imagined greatness that might reveal itself in time if I could stay devoted enough to my craft. But along the way, I was humbled to be more uplifted by what was true rather than what was great, by what was heartfelt rather than what was intricate. It kept me close to my own experience, which when entered honestly began to reveal the common ground of all experience and all time.

From there, I risked more by entering the poems than by writing them, not sure where they might go, and found myself touched and changed by showing up in my life so completely. Well, that’s not very different than being changed by loving another, is it? Now in the second half of life, I am devoted to being in that holy space where the conversation of aliveness exists. It’s not about the words but the poetry of life that is revealed and enlivened by our honest engagement.

The process of writing and expressing—whether you become a writer or not—offers many valuable tools for living. If you concentrate on learning what those tools are and are diligent in using them, this concentration of wakefulness will help you live, and chances are that you’ll surface good writing.

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Dream Crazy Big – Here’s How

I have been studying and practicing the art and science of manifestation since 1984, and I am always learning (or being reminded of) another dimension of it.

Last night I attended a big fundraiser for Just Like My Child, an organization I have been on the Board of for 13 years, and our keynote speaker was the amazing Mary Morrissey of Dream Builder fame. (that’s Vivian Glyck, founder of JLMC, with me and Mary in the photo)

The theme was Dream Crazy Big and when I arrived at the event, they asked me to put on my name tag what my big dream is.
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It’s Still Mercury Retrograde: Time to Reevaluate, Realign, & Release for Deep Healing

It’s that time again…actually, we are already halfway through this cycle of Mercury Retrograde! Right about now, you’re probably thinking I KNEW IT! That’s why everything has gone awry. So, if you just got frazzled and also weirdly relieved at the mention of this planetary cycle, take a deep breath. Today I’m going to share my insight into this Retrograde and help you make the most of the next nine days, as I feel the last week of Mercury Retrograde is the most profound. 

For a quick refresher, from October 31st through November 20th, Mercury is retrograde in Scorpio, the sign of deep-diving and deeper healing. Mercury Retrograde happens three to four times per year when the planet Mercury slows down and appears to stop and move backward. It’s an optical illusion, since there is forward movement, like speeding by a slow-moving train—as it recedes, it appears to go backward. 

The purpose of Mercury Retrograde is to review and revise our life and our connection with reality. In many ways, this time helps us prepare for the future by propelling us to realign and reevaluate our plans and ideas. Since Mercury rules communication, things most often go haywire in that area—computers go on the fritz, (totally happened to me) miscommunications abound, and often the internet goes down. 

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Why I’m Staying Open to the Unexpected

I've Been Thinking...

I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday. It was a beautiful, warm, meaningful, lovely, and easy day.

It started with one of my daughters bringing me coffee, and then I took an early morning walk with my elder son (who bought me another cup of coffee and a vegan scone!). My other daughter picked me up later and read me my horoscope for the year. And then, my youngest son (who is away at college) Facetimed with me.

If that wasn’t enough (and it was!) so many friends and family took a moment to text, e-mail, and call to let me know that they love me and that I matter to them. I’ve come to learn over the years that that’s what life is really about: having people around that love you, see you, make you laugh, and make a point to reach out to you.

Something else also happened on my birthday that made me take a step back. It made me reflect on how I approach my life and discover a theme for my new year ahead.

What happened was that I got a text from someone I met many years ago—someone I really don’t know at all. It was someone I would have never expected to reach out to me on my birthday, but lo and behold, they did. Their message, which came out of the blue, reminded me of our previous exchange and wished me a happy day.
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Start Attracting Positive Life Results

If we can see how positive inner states lead to positive life experiences, then we can also see that negative inner states must attract negative results. Shedding light on this dark cycle will help us bring an end to it as a source of self-compromise.

Suppose someone walks into your office and drops the bomb that your company has unannounced plans to lay off several employees, and that no one knows who these unfortunates are going to be. Without higher principles to meet this unexpected moment, the fear would surely take control of you and the moment. In no time, you would be the victim of your own self-compromising plans for revenge on an insensitive company, or some such enemy.

Of course, at first glance, feeling scared and getting angry in an event like this seems like it makes sense. But a closer look clearly shows how it betrays. We can't have fear without anxiety. Anxiety can't exist without unconsciously comparing what we hoped would happen, to our new fears that it won't. And connected to this spreading fear our expectations won't be realized is our growing resentment of the situation, or person, we blame for wiping out our hoped-for happiness. So bitterness spreads. And as it does, it whispers to us that since we've already lost our future, why should we do anything more, for anyone, in the present? Now defiance has the reins, and in no time, self-righteous anger courses through our veins.

It's impossible to have one sad or sour state without another. But there's still much for us to see. Negativity, like all forms of thought, is actually physical in nature. All things physical, all forms of matter, have mass. And any mass in motion has momentum. Now, with these facts in mind, let's go back into our illustrative story and see what the momentum of this negative state has to ultimately attract.

So now the boss walks into your office -- or you see him at lunch -- and he asks you to do some extra work. But with the feeling of being betrayed still fresh in your heart, you can't help but meet him and his request with a full-blown negative state. The impression you make on him is indelible. Later on, at a time unknown to you, this same superior starts to review who he's going to keep on and who to let go. And he chooses to release you. Why? Because among other items weighted in his decision process, he recalls your barely masked aggression and obvious resistance to his request.

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The Surest Way to an “Aha” Moment

An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

One of the fastest ways to make a breakthrough occurs in an “aha” moment, a flash of insight that delivers an answer all at once. “Aha” moments are very desirable. Isaac Newton had one about gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree (even though this popular story was never told by him), and Alexander Fleming had one about penicillin when he saw that a common green mold had spoiled his carefully cultured dishes of bacteria.

Yet “Aha” moments are unpredictable by their very nature, and no one knows—or even has a clue—why or how they occur. This doesn’t decrease the urgent need for breakthroughs in all kinds of fields where conventional answers, and the method for reaching them, has failed. More than 200 promising Alzheimer’s drugs have failed, for example, leading some drug companies to give up the effort to find one that works. We have no proven answer for aging despite dozens of theories. We don’t have a viable technology to reverse the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Leaving these problems to science is the typical way, and for many the only way, to achieve solutions. But a growing number of theorists believe that every department of human knowledge should be allowed to contribute. If you divide the world into the objective domain “out there” and the subjective domain “in here,” science is very good at the one and drastically lagging in the other. If you want to understand all kinds of inner experiences—love, beauty, curiosity, creativity, pain, wonder, suffering ecstasy, or even what a thought is—there is little science can tell you compared with what centuries of personal experience can tell you.

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Receive Faces

What do their faces say to you?

The Practice:
Receive faces.

Why?

As our ancestors evolved over millions of years in small bands, continually interacting and working with each other, it was vitally important to communicate in hundreds of ways each day. They shared information about external “carrots” and “sticks,” and about their internal experience (e.g., intentions, sexual interest, inclination toward aggression) through gestures, vocalizations – and facial expressions. Much as we developed uniquely complex language, we also evolved the most expressive face in the entire animal kingdom.

Our faces are exquisitely capable of a vast range of expressions, such as showing fear to send signals of alarm, interest to draw others toward an opportunity, or fondness and kindness to increase closeness and the sense of “us.” These expressions include seemingly universal signs of six fundamental emotions – happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, anger, and disgust – as well as more culturally and personally specific expressions. For example, I know that very particular look that crosses my wife’s face when she thinks I’m getting too full of myself!

Of course, there is no sense in having evolved an extraordinary transmitter – the face – unless we also developed an extraordinary receiver: our remarkable capacities to recognize, sense, and infer states of mind in others from subtle and fleeting facial expressions.

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The Gift of Caring

“It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.” — Mother Teresa


I've Been Thinking...

November kicks off National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National Family Caregivers Month. For us here at The Sunday Paper, it's an opportunity to focus on the huge issue of caregiving (in all its forms), as well as on the value and importance of care. 

My mission is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and I’m relentless in my pursuit of it. That's why you often see curated news from the Women's Alzheimer's Movement (WAM) featured in this newsletter. My father passed away from the disease in 2011, so I know first-hand what a toll it can take on families. That's why I'm determined to do everything I can to stop it from happening to others.

Yesterday, WAM held its big annual event Move for Minds, which works to educate and empower you with the information you need to care for your brain health and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. It’s also a chance to raise funds for much needed women-based research, and to honor the work of those caregiving for someone with this mind-blowing disease.

Caring for another human being is God's work, and how one cares for another person tells you a lot about them. It tells you whether or not they value the concept of care. 

Care can be exhibited in so many ways, but what I know to be true is this: when a person feels cared for, the world suddenly feels a little less scary and a lot more OK. When you feel cared for, you feel soothed. You feel secure. You feel safe. And trust me, feeling safe is huge.

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Let Go of Anxiety and Regain Your Freedom

When life falls apart, or threatens to come unglued, it seems almost natural to carry around some desperate, stressed, or depressed emotional state. But why cling to something that makes us ache? The answer is surprising, but evident, once we’re aware of what’s actually taking place within us.

Negative states tell us that we must feel as we do.

In some strange and unseen way, the weight of a dark worry serves as proof that we have “no option” other than to buckle beneath it . . . to fall down, feel betrayed, or prepare for a fight.

Real life can no more act to pull us down than the rising sun can burden the spring flowers that wait to bathe in its nourishing light.

No event, in itself, is the cause of the fear we feel in the moment of its appearance. William Shakespeare, whose insights into the workings of the human mind still remain treasures in spite of passing time, validates this important finding: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

The same wisdom holds true when it comes to the moments that make up our lives: we meet in events nothing more or less than the wealth of possibilities they present before us.

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Don’t Be Intimidated

What makes you feel threatened?

The Practice:
Don’t be intimidated.

Why?

Humans evolved to be fearful, since anxiety helped keep our ancestors alive. Consequently, we are vulnerable to being alarmed, manipulated, and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and “paper tigers.”

This vulnerability to feeling threatened has effects at many levels, ranging from individuals, couples, and families to schoolyards, organizations, and nations. Whether it’s an individual who worries about the consequences of speaking up at work or in a close relationship, a family cowed by a scary parent, a business fixated on threats instead of opportunities, or a country told it’s under assault by “them” – the same human brain reacts in each one of these cases.

Therefore, understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry. Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom, and sense of inner strength – a mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them, and is less rattled or distracted by exaggerated, manageable, or false alarms.

How?

The nervous system has been evolving for 600 million years, from ancient jellyfish to modern humans. Our ancestors had to make a critical decision many times a day: approach a reward or avoid a hazard – pursue a carrot or duck a stick.

Both are important. Imagine being a hominid in Africa a million years ago, living in a small band. To pass on your genes, you’ve got to find food, have sex, and cooperate with others to help the band’s children (particularly yours) to have children of their own: these are big carrots in the Serengeti. Additionally, you’ve got to hide from predators, steer clear of aggression inside your band, and not let other hunter-gatherer bands hurt you: these are significant sticks.

But here’s the key difference between carrots and sticks. If you miss out on a carrot today, you’ll probably have a chance at more carrots tomorrow. But if you fail to avoid a stick today – WHAP! – no more carrots forever. Compared to carrots, sticks usually have more urgency and impact.

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Smackdown

Sometimes you’re the windshield;
sometimes you’re the bug….
Sometimes you’re the Louisville slugger;
sometimes you’re the ball.”
—Mary Chapin Carpenter

Life has a way of smacking us down, hard, sometimes repeatedly, when we least expect it. Things can be going along smoothly, and then out of the blue: wham! You are knocked off your feet by a sudden turn of events or twist of fate. It can be a minor passing upset or a major trauma. Life doesn’t tell you ahead of time what’s coming up around the next corner. Each day can be really wonder-full or really challenging. This is how I would describe my life over the past year.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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