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Updated: Jan 18, 2021

A well-established morning regiment serves to optimize mental, emotional, and physiological functioning. Most, if not all, highly successful individuals implement specific protocols throughout their private morning hours.

A structured morning routine, replete with nourishing rituals, is the cornerstone of a productive day. Productive days make for fulfilling years. Fulfilling years combine and coalesce into a life well lived.

Intentionally engaging with ourselves in the twilight hours before stepping out into the demands of the world tethers us to an imperturbable wellspring deep within. As we contact this deep inner space each morning, we learn to skillfully respond to life situations from the wisdom of this depth.

Highly functioning people, from monastics to CEO’s, create a refuge for themselves in the sweet monotony of their morning routine – a replenishing time where there are no decisions to be made, no social pleasantries to be exchanged, no choices to be had – only the potent medicine of singular focus on the completion of the regiment.

The early morning is sacred and fertile soil, if you consistently plant there the seeds of discipline, your regiment will yield the crops of vitality and harmony. As your discipline in practice yields more and more vitality, you channel that increased energy back into your regiment. As years pass you grow your regiment, and, more importantly, your regiment grows you.

Developing a morning routine takes time and energy. It’s not easy to establish good habits. But, as with all things, it is possible through consistent effort.

In your attempts to maintain an unshakeable daily routine you’ll inevitably fail; you’ll hit the snooze button, you’ll skip days. Those things will happen.

Allow for your failures. Be easy on yourself – but not too easy. Be firm with yourself – but not too firm. Just keep showing up.

Strive continually to be diligent, knowing that every time you complete your routine you are making a deposit in your savings account of discipline and self-control. Those deposits accrue interest. In time, they mature into an effortless quality of harmony. A “just happening-ness” arises in your routine where formerly there was resistance.

There was probably a time in your early life where a caregiver basically had to force you against your will to brush your teeth. Little kids would rather not! But, with the help of some external prodding, you stayed consistent through time and in so doing you matured in both your view and behavior.

Likely, you stopped entertaining the notion of not brushing your teeth a long time ago – you noticed that your mouth feels better when you brush, so now you just do it. The thought of not brushing your teeth no longer even arises. There is no longer any heroic discipline or external prodding required to get you to reach for your toothbrush, it just happens. In time and with consistent effort, your inner approach to completing your regiment will mature and mirror your approach to brushing your teeth.

My routine, which I share here, has become quite long over the years - it fills several hours. But it certainly didn’t start this way! There was a time when 10 minutes of meditation was more than I could consistently commit to on a daily basis. Like any man, I have dealt with interpersonal problems and emotional fluctuations that have made consistent practice, or consistency toward anything, challenging. But I have found that the way to heal those problems is through developing a daily practice regiment that is challenging enough to catalyze growth while not being so demanding that it feels impossible to stick to.

The healing path requires daily effort. No matter your current struggles, you are capable of summoning some sliver of effort. Start where you are. Pick a small handful of practices from the list below and begin to architect your morning regiment around them.

Below I list and briefly explain the hallmarks of the morning regiment that has revealed itself to me over the years. Explanations are brief as each respective practice could easily be the subject of its own blog, or course for that matter.

If you’d like further clarity on a given practice bring any questions to my Tribe Men’s Community calls.

morning regiment

1. Attenuate

The morning regiment begins at the moment of awakening. “Attenuate” describes an intentional moment of inviting your attention away from the incessant chatter of mind and into your body. Having arrived there in feeling space, gather any pertinent information. Useful somatic inquiries upon the moment of awakening:

“Did I awaken on an in breath or an out breath?”

“Is there an emotional state present in this moment?”

“What was the emotional tone of my dream journey? Was any information given?”

Inviting the felt sense of your body into conscious awareness nurtures latent intuitive capacities. It is a very good idea to take a moment to “drop in” and attenuate to the feeling tone of your living body before reaching for the phone or even engaging with your partner.

2. Potentiate

Having allowed some time for felt receptivity, now it is time to intentionally cultivate a feeling state. “Potentiate” describes the practice of opening the door for the potential of positivity to emerge by evoking positive feeling states through intentional internal mental talk and conjuring pleasant internal mental images.

You can wait for the countless variables of your external life situation to align themselves in a way that allows you to feel good, or you can implement the internal PRACTICE of feeling good in this present moment! I find the latter much more efficient and I always orient toward practice.

In internal mental talk space, I hold the mantra, “Yes. Thank you. I love you. Keep Going.” I maintain the repetition of this phrase as a background practice to nurture positivity while I tend to items three through five on my list. I also find smiling and widening my eyes to increase wakefulness during this time; there are countless scientific studies on the effect of smiling on neurochemistry.

For a more detailed explanation on this meditative technique click here.

3. Urinate

Drain the main vein!! Enough said.

4. Hydrate

“The solution to pollution is dilution.”

Sufficient hydration is crucial for robust health. It’s important to hydrate all day long but the early morning is a critical time to replenish hungry cells with H2O as the sleep state is a fasted state. Filling the body with water facilitates energy production, waste removal, satiety, mental clarity, and overall well-being. For a deep dive on the importance of hydration, check out Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by Dr. F. Batmanghelidji.

Quite simply, many people are just dehydrated. This carries dire health consequences which can be alleviated by drinking enough water. As a general rule - take your body weight in pounds, cut it in half, and aim to drink that many ounces of water every day starting first thing in the morning.

In addition to watering myself, I take this time to water my plants. I smile at them and thank them for making my home beautiful. Some mornings I give them a hug and a kiss and we laugh together.

I am open to the possibility that I’ve just become an absolute kook; but sharing love with my plants makes me feel pretty good and I’ve noticed it seems to make my plants stronger too. And, they love me back! Plants are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird is a great read on this topic.

5. Medicate

I take a minimalist approach to dietary supplements and I recommend my clients do the same. One’s focus should be on the macronutrient content provided through an organic whole foods diet. If your diet is poor then you are supplementing a poor diet - it would be more efficient just to flush your money down the toilet.

Staples in my morning supplementation protocol are:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Lemon Juice

  • Oregano Oil

  • Ginger

  • Cayenne

  • Bentonite Clay

  • Charcoal

  • Turmeric

  • Grapefruit Seed Extract

  • Salt

Each of these healing foods contains potent anti-fungal/bacterial properties that facilitate a healthy microbiome. I combine them all into a healing tonic and drink along with some probiotics.

You can access your free Fungal/Bacterial Detox Protocol and learn more about bringing your gut back in to balance here.

6. Cultivate

Metta is a Pali word that translates loosely as “loving kindness.” The intentional cultivation of Metta is a Theravada Buddhist meditation practice traditionally offered in five directions: for the beloved, for self, the neutral person, the enemy, and finally for all beings. This is done through the repetition of a simple phrase which, as the mind becomes highly concentrated upon, evokes the cooling mind-state of loving kindness. I cultivate the mind state of Metta for all beings while concentrating on the phrase, “May all beings be peaceful.”

A good read on the powerful practice of Metta meditation is Sharon Salzberg’s Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

While practicing Metta for all beings, I enjoy a bag of tobacco. Research shows moderate doses of nicotine enhance cognitive performance. To administer the beneficial effects of nicotine and mitigate against the harmful effects of carcinogens which result when incinerating tobacco, I use a large desktop vaporizer which heats up dry herbs without the use of a flame and releases active ingredients into an inhalable vapor which collect in a bag. My choice is Storz and Bickel’s Volcano Classic.

I smoke an old school organic American tobacco and I’ll add some medicinal herbs like peppermint leaf, lavender, rose petals, mugwort, damiana, skullcap, or calamus. I find this relaxing smoking ritual combined with intentionally cultivating loving kindness calms the nervous system and concentrates the mind.

7. Consecrate

Establishing a soothing vibration in the home is a beautiful and important practice. If you’ve ever set foot in a cathedral, monastery, or holy site, you understand what I’m getting at here.

Sacred spaces are impeccably maintained not only with regard to physical cleanliness and orderliness, but energetically. There is something very different about the feeling tone of a monastery compared to that of an office building, even if both are clean and orderly.

Some places carry a specific vibrational feeling tone due to the years of the intentional cultivation of its inhabitants. Sensitive individuals can perceive this consciously, but everyone can perceive it unconsciously. You’d have to be pretty disconnected to stroll through a cathedral talking loudly on your phone and eating popcorn for example. At a subtle feeling level, it is just understood that kind of casual behavior isn’t appropriate. This felt understanding is the result of both the orderliness of the space and the vibration that has been cultivated within it.

I maintain my home physically by tidying up, putting things where things belong, making the bed, etc. A great resource for specific protocols around consecrating your living space through decluttering is Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

Energetically, I consecrate my space each morning through the recitation of specific prayers and the cultivation of internal feeling states. I give thanks for the gift of my home, my warm bed, my food, and the shelter my home provides. I feel gratitude.

Taking this time each morning is a nice reminder that I am very lucky to have shelter in a world where so many people do not. I ask that the vibration of my home be up-lifting and beneficial and shared with all.

While holding this vibration of gratitude for my home I light some sage and smudge the space.

8. Defecate

Everybody poops but nobody talks about it! As a holistic health practitioner, I’ve learned to get a pretty accurate read on an individual’s vitality based on analyzing the quality and frequency of their reported bowel movements.

The body craves regularity. When our lifestyle is aligned with the natural order – when we eat whole organic food, drink plenty of clean water, learn to calm the mind, maintain sound sleep hygiene, move often, and establish functional breathing patterns, we find regularity emerges in our bowel movements.

Peristalsis describes the rhythmic patterns of contraction and relaxation of the musculature of the intestines. This involuntary rhythm is governed by earth’s movements in relation to the sun! Poor lifestyle management can disrupt our connection to this natural rhythm, leaving us either constipated or needing to run to the toilet too often.

Functional peristalsis is designed for release in the morning hours when cortisol is high and the body is again upright after a period of sleeping. In the morning hours a healthy digestive system is primed to expel all metabolic waste in the intestines and begin a new circadian cycle on an empty tank.

Taking a big satisfying morning dump every day is a good indicator of overall wellness and connection to nature’s rhythm. And, let’s be honest - nothing feels better than those deep rhythmic contractions that assure you the bowel is completely empty, free and clear. Without them, you’re literally walking around full of shit! Pooping is a highlight of my morning and it should be a highlight of yours too.

For a deep dive on all thing’s bowel maintenance check out Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care by Bernard Jensen, MD.

9. Caffeinate

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant and neuro-enhancer in the world. In addition to its potent effects on memory enhancement, a good organic coffee is loaded with polyphenols and anti-oxidants that reduce inflammation.

But, as with so many things in the health and wellness field, there is a lot of literature on both sides of the fence regarding the beneficial and detrimental effects of caffeine.

Some people will tell you it’s poison and provide studies to back it up, others will tell you it’s panacea and produce studies as well. You must listen to your body and find your own way. One thing is for sure though, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Personally, I find two cups each morning to be ideal. Most mornings I’ll take it black but sometimes I like to blend in some good grass-fed butter and organic coconut oil. Not only does this taste great but the healthy fats delay the metabolic uptake of caffeine which allows for a steady uplifting quality absent of the jitters some people report.

10. Coordinate

Inner and outer space tended to, and with a piping hot cup of coffee at my desk, I am ready to engage technology. I’ll turn the wi-fi back on, (it’s switched off during sleeping hours) open the laptop and turn the phone on to see if anything requires immediate attention. I’ll take this time to coordinate my schedule with my clients for the coming days, review the day’s work obligations, and make necessary preparations.

I have found it so incredibly beneficial to forgo any engagement with tech until after I’ve tended to some of my morning rituals and practices.

Though unfortunately it has become quite normalized, it’s very detrimental to our well-being for a screen to be the last thing we see before we fall asleep and the first thing we reach for upon awakening.

Tech addiction is real and it is getting worse. Billion-dollar companies profit when your nose is buried in your screen, and so they develop highly sensitive algorithms to capture your attention and keep it there!

If you recognize your relationship to the screen is becoming a problem, unplugging and reclaiming sovereignty over your attention will take a well-planned and systematic course of action. Two great books to motivate you in this endeavor and help to plan your strategy are Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier and How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price.

11. Educate

Having handled any pertinent work responsibilities, with the energizing effects of caffeine and nicotine percolating through the nervous system, I turn my attention toward studying and writing.

I usually have three or four writing projects going - blogs, educational courses, a book, promotional material etc.

In fact, this is quite a bizarre moment – I am presently in the writing portion of my morning regiment writing about the writing portion of my morning regiment. Whoa..

Anyway… when you stop learning you start dying! Find a topic that makes your soul come alive and educate yourself! Make time each day to read a book! Write a poem! Share your truth! There is so much to learn and time is running out.

12. Exfoliate

The ancient samurai held an impeccable grooming standard. They viewed grooming practices as a both a reminder of and a preparation for their inevitable death. Keeping hygiene uptight is a good practice of honoring the gift of the body – one day you’ll have to give the gift back.

I begin my hygiene regiment by exfoliating my skin with a dry brush. Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system to remove toxins, maintains healthy skin, improves circulation, and breaks down cellulite. You’ll want to use a firm abrasive brush. It may feel harsh at first but in time it feels really good.

After dry brushing I’ll floss, brush my teeth, and scrape my tongue. I prefer to brush my teeth after my morning coffee. But, to get rid of the unpleasant morning breath taste, I’ll do a coconut oil pull with some herbal mouth wash while when I wake up. Just put one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, add a little herbal mouth wash and oregano oil, and swish it around for about 10 minutes. This will not only leave the mouth feeling fresh, but strengthen the enamel and maintain healthy gums.

13. Invigorate

Two staples in my morning regiment are an eyewash and the application of peppermint essential oil.

My preferred eyewash is Dr. Schulze Eye Bright. It’s an herbal formulation that supports circulation to the ocular cavity and removes any harmful contaminants from the eyes. I’ll do this immediately before a cold shower.

After my cold shower, I’ll add a few drops of organic peppermint oil to my palm, clap to activate the ingredients, and then hold my palms to my nose breathing the scent in deeply. The potency of the peppermint clears the sinuses and stimulates the tear ducts which cleanse the eyes of any debris.

Bookending a cold shower with these substances is very invigorating.

14. Vasodilate

There is nothing better than a morning cold shower to light a fire in your belly. Daily cold exposure serves many benefits, both physically and with regard to cultivating concentration and willpower.

While true that it is sometimes a good practice to put yourself through something uncomfortable on sheer willpower, it’s also true that, given enough time, willpower will no longer be required. The human body mind is incredibly adaptable to hardship.

Through the continued practice of gradual cold exposure, the body acclimates to the initial cold rush and gets over the inner paralysis we call a “gasp reflex.”

Once the gasp reflex subsides, cold showers become quite enjoyable! I’ve taken a cold shower every day for about seven years and willpower doesn’t even factor in anymore. At this point, I can quite honestly say that NOT taking a cold shower would be much more challenging than taking one. I’ve come to rely on the intense energy and mental clarity the cold water gifts me.

One of the many physical benefits of a cold shower is vasodilation, the opening of the blood vessels for improved circulation and decreased blood pressure. When the cold water hits your skin, veins and arteries constrict in an effort to prevent the blood from getting cold, and, as a survival mechanism, blood is shunted away from the appendages and toward the vital organs. Once you step out of the cold shower and the body accepts outside warmth, the blood vessels dilate and the blood is circulated from the torso back to the appendages.

This daily shifting between vasodilation and vasoconstriction stretches the cardiovascular network of tiny little muscles that open and close our veins and arteries, preventing their atrophy and maintaining healthy circulation into old age. A daily cold shower is exercise for the cardiovascular tree that strengthens the heart, nervous system, and improves circulation.

15. Emulate

This practice is one I have done every morning for many years and share with all of my clients. If you could only pick one practice from this list to implement, let it be this one.

The practice is simple. I call it the Grandfather/Grandmother Practice.

Stand before a mirror. Look upon your reflection. Gaze into your own eyes. See yourself as you are now, from the imagined perspective of your highest ideal.

Imagine you are looking upon the present moment version of your reflection from the perspective of the wise and fully realized elder you are destined to one day become through years of your relentless practice. Emulate this wise elder through breath, through gaze, through feeling tone.

Allow words to come through. Do not think, just speak out loud to your reflection. What would this benevolent, kind, compassionate, elder say to you? Let the words bubble up, you may be surprised at what comes through.

Though simple, this practice is challenging - especially if we have a tendency to be very hard on ourselves. The Grandfather/Grandmother practice facilitates a direct confrontation with both the emotions that play out beneath the surface level of conscious awareness and the old, unexamined, afflictive beliefs we carry about ourselves. This confrontation provides an empowering choice as to which kinds of feelings and beliefs we want to foster in our lives and which we are prepared to release.

Be patient with yourself in this. Allow whatever comes up, to come up. You are clearing a channel that may not have been opened for a long time – some emotional “gunk” might come through. That’s ok.

Allow the Grandmother/Grandfather to remind you that you already are what you are destined to become. You are perfect and beautiful as you are right now. You are totally worthy of your unconditional love exactly as you are; in spite of, and because of, whatever flaws you mistakenly perceive in yourself.

Consistency in this practice allows for the gradual uprooting of afflictive patterns of self judgement and negative self-talk and establishes a connection to a supportive and healthy internal metronome to guide you in your life’s course.

Whatever we practice, we will get very good at. Look into your own eyes and practice loving yourself every day. This is the highest act of service, as love is the most efficient way to save the world.

16. Alleviate

I implement a stretching, calisthenics, and foam rolling routine every morning to alleviate aches and pains and facilitate ease and pliability in the body.

The less we move, the more pain we feel, the more pain we feel, the less we want to move. It’s a vicious cycle, the way out of which is to move every day. Not too much, not too little – just the right amount of movement each day will mitigate against chronic pain and produce energy and vitality.

This doesn’t need to be complicated. For you it could just be some basic stretches, a walk around the block, and a few pushups. Don’t overthink it - just move!

17. Regulate

After a movement period, I lay down and engage formal breath practice. I implement many modalities, some very vigorous, some more relaxing. In my daily practice I blend Mongolian throat singing, breath of fire, chanting, box breathing, Tummo, and the Wim Hof Method.

Vigorous breath practice (breath of fire, Wim Hof) with an emphasis on inhalation stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight). Gentle practice (throat singing, chanting, box breathing, Tummo) with an emphasis on a slow deliberate rhythm and long exhalations stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest).

Practicing at both ends of the spectrum regulates the nervous system into a balanced still point of a relaxed alertness, the perfect balance of simultaneous preparedness for action and calm.

With consistent daily practice you can quite reliably have peak psychedelic experiences through breathing alone. These experiences accelerate meditation practice and are available to anyone who efforts to be consistent.

18. Ingratiate

Energized by the cold, well moved, and well breathed I sit at my desk to write a reflection in my journal. This daily practice has been in place for about eight years now and has taken many forms. For the past few years it has become a practice of maintaining an empty internal state and witnessing the pen move. What usually comes through are prayers that often surprise me. I feel more like the witness of these reflections than I do the author.

From there I read a passage from the Stephen Mitchell translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. It never ceases to amaze me how timely each passage is. There is always a direct application to whatever present struggle I am facing that often makes me smile.

In addition to channeling a prayer and reading, I take this time to “Establish the Retinue.” I won’t go to deep into this practice here as it is complex, but in a nutshell, this is an intentional period of calling forth assistance from the spiritual world to guide you in your path of purpose and healing. Guides may come in the form of archangels, saints, sages, bodhisattvas, archetypes, ancestors, animal spirits, etc.

I was first exposed to this as a formal practice by Dan Brown, a lineage holder in the Bön, the pre-Buddhist shamanic tradition of rural Tibet and Harvard professor. I also found this practice mirrored in my studies of core shamanism, Vajrayana Buddhism (as explained by Shizen Young), The Red Road – the Native American spiritual path, and Christian Mysticism.

I’ll often say that the more I learn, the less I know. I have found that, to a certain degree, surrendering my intellect and allowing for things I may not be capable of rationally understanding has been quite fruitful.

In exploring these realms, keep one foot placed firmly on solid ground.

19. Meditate

A dedicated daily meditation practice is a critical foundation to a happy and purposeful life. Through the daily practice of stillness, we learn to come into relationship with ourselves at deeper and more empowering levels.

We could define meditation as bringing the totality of one’s attentional resources to a specific area of focus. Nowhere in this definition of meditation is there a presupposition that the practitioner must be seated in a specific posture with eyes closed. In some sense, the entirety of the morning regiment could be categorized as a period of meditation, as I am intentional with my attention for the duration and vigilant against mind’s tendency to wander.

That said, at this point in my morning I engage the formal practice of seated meditation. This period of practice is subdivided into two categories:

  1. Concentrate

  2. Liberate

A. Concentrate

Much like one would warm the body up before a heavy lifting session, it’s useful to warm up the mind with a period of concentration practice before a meditation session.

Concentration is a skill, and like any skill it can be developed through training. Cultivating the staying power of mind will serve well to optimize not only meditation practice, but capacity in any endeavor whatsoever.

To develop concentration, I hold the mind on the sensation of the breath. I begin my formal meditation period with intentional and effortful breath practice to loosen the belly, brighten the mind, and attenuate to subtle bodily sensations. I implement diaphragmatic breathing with prolonged retentions on both inhalation and exhalation, alternate nostril breathing, breath of fire, chanting, belly vacuuming, and box breathing. All throughout, I am mindful of the rhythms of the breath and their rippling sensations in the body.

With concentration now well developed, I turn to the “Liberate” category of meditation.

b. Liberate

Here, with eyes opened, I do nothing. I relinquish all effort to control the breath and allow the body to breathe itself. I do not think, or effort to prevent the mind from thinking. If thoughts arise, they spontaneously liberate before coagulating into mind wandering.

Immersed in this highly concentrated and empty witness perspective, the external visual field tends to unfixate into flow which facilitates the same phenomena in somatic and auditory space.

I have found that any internal effort or striving to bring this state on stands as a hindrance to its arising.

20. Oxygenate

After a formal period of seated meditation, I once again lay down for more breath practice. The emphasis here is on the inhalation, to further activate the sympathetic nervous system and energize the body. Here I implement the basic Wim Hof Method protocol for three rounds of eight, sixteen, and twenty-four full capacity inhalations with natural exhalations. Breath is held out on the 8th, 16th, and 24th exhalation of each respective round. I employ one final round of “over-breathing,” where I’ll inhale and exhale forcefully through the mouth and retain the breath on the 10th inhalation.

21. Evacuate

With a body full of energy, I rise and grab my rattles. Shaking the rattles in rhythm I enter a trance state allowing for the unfiltered expression of whatever movements and sounds the animal body wants to bring forth.

I have found this practice to be intensely liberating with regard to the release of somaticized emotions. In the shamanic tradition, this practice could be referred to as “powering up.” It is a practice of surrendering into the spontaneity of no-mind.

For a deeper dive on using movement and sound to release somatic trauma research Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine.

22. Circulate

As you might imagine, the morning routine here laid out cultivates quite a lot of internal energy, and so a dedicated practice of circulating that energy into a pleasant and manageable rhythm is critical. At this point in the regiment I engage the practice of Qi Gong.

Qi Gong is one of the five pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine, along with meditation, herbology, acupuncture, and Tui Na (body work/massage). It is the intentional practice of relaxation through specific gentle movements connected to the breath. Regular Qi Gong practice creates tender muscles, dense bones, internal harmony, enhanced organ function, longevity and increased vital energy.

After my Qi Gong session, I’ll vigorously tap the energy meridians to further facilitate the release of habitual muscular tension.