Three little clay pots

Mold clay into a bowl.
The empty space makes it useful.   Laozi

Three little unfired clay pots sit on my desk. They are simple, misshapen, chipped little pots but they bring me joy. They have travelled many thousands of kilometres and made it to their new home intact; which is no small feat considering how roughly bags are handled in transit.

This trio of terracotta vessels come from India, a land of contrasts and a land that has captivated my heart and mind.  I drank chia on the streets of Kolkata from these pots, one was a gift from the vendor who served my tea in a similar small pot with this one beneath to save my fingers being burnt by the heat of the fresh, steaming brew.  The taller pair I kept, instead of throwing onto the pile in the street.

Why did I keep something that is the equivalent of a disposable paper cup by western measures? They are reminders of a magical land of heat and dust, of remote villages and bustling cities, of streets thronging with people and noise and the smell of delicious street food during the day and a roaring silence at night.  As a reminder of a land where the constant presence of armed authorities, to the unaccustomed, can feel at first threatening and sinister contrasted with the gentle welcoming nature of individuals who draw you into their home, make you comfortable and make tea. It’s a land of colour, art, spirituality, incredible history and aliveness.

These pots are also a reminder of the simple and elegant beauty of life and the richness of human interactions. Someone in that massive country made these pots by hand, they were transported, sold and stacked and eventually passed across the well-stocked counter of the chai wallah’s stall.  An Aussie girl stood in a muddy lane, surrounded by early morning chia drinking men, and numerous homeless dogs at her feet, to enjoy the relative quiet before the hustle and bustle. The simple elegance of these pots, the curious looks, the numerous conversations asking where I was from and how long I would be in India, the shared appreciation of the flavours of a hot milk chai and being warmly included in a long-standing Kolkata morning routine is why I brought them home. This simple elegance of welcoming a stranger to share a daily ritual, warmed my heart.

So, three simple, misshapen, chipped, little clay pots sit on my desk and I smile as I look at them. I arrived home only an hour or so ago from my travels and was overjoyed these tiny earthen vessels survived the journey that I had to write of my joy.

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The magic of mornings

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. ~John C. Maxwell

I’ve been interested to learn about the morning routines of various entrepreneurs from as far-reaching backgrounds as science, fitness, entertainment and politics. All of these high-flying high achievers have a ritual they perform daily that sets them up for a winning day. Many of these morning routines have some common features such as meditation or focus time, movement, journalling and healthy eating.

My well long-standing morning routine has suffered some neglect of late and slipped into a regrettably haphazard, hit and miss, come what may state. I feel the lack of it weighing on me like a heavy wet cloak. Determined to reinstate my winning beginning to each day I have distilled my leanings, reflected on what has worked for me in the past and considered some new ideas.  My intended routine is fairly simple, it’s nothing ground breaking or earth shattering; I don’t have a cryogenic chamber or cold water plunge pool like Tony Robbins (though I could just take a cold shower to boost my immunity though I’m not terribly excited by this water torture technique), nor am I going to be as obsessive as Beethoven was in counting out precisely 60 beans of coffee for his morning java.

First thought:  On waking and before opening my eyes my first thought is always one of thanks and gratitude for another day on this wonderful planet. Test the difference between holding a thought of gratitude and holding one of wishing to sleep longer, being bummed the alarm has gone off, cranky it’s a work day.

Meditation: Always before this step I clean my teeth and wash my face. It just doesn’t feel right to settle into a meditation without having cleansed in some way. I’m not a great meditator but I do enjoy the peace it brings me, even if I spend only 10 minutes in this state.

Journalling: My journalling usually falls out of my meditation practice.  Thoughts and insights that have arisen in that time are written down. Sometimes I draw an tarot or oracle card to provide some guidance or insight for the day ahead or an issue I am facing and journal a stream of consciousness piece that arises from that stimulus.  I have explored Julia Cameron’s morning pages idea and engaged in that regularly for a period of time. Now, though, I am keen to explore some new ideas with regard to my morning journalling that include a focus on gratitude, guidance and intent. Check out the five minute journal.

How do you think you’d feel if you began your day by identifying three things you were grateful for, reading a poignant quote, piece of poetry or spiritual guidance and zeroing in on one thing that must be accomplished in the day? Would you feel more present? Mindful? Full of intent? I’m going to experiment to see what impact it has.

Movement: My steady yoga practice stagnated and died a slow and agonising death when my enthusiasm waned in the absence of a much-needed injection of new inspiration and stimulation. Sadly, my yoga mat languishes in a dusty corner.  I wish to reclaim my morning movement regime, my body is demanding it and my mind needs it, so I am going to experiment with a combination of yoga, stretching and brain gym.  Rather than leap back into a full on hour  and a half Ashtanga yoga practice I will commit to a half hour session of whatever postures feel right combined with some strength training exercises such as basic push ups, sit ups, squats and isometrics, along with some brain gym movements.

I avidly used Braingym routines many years ago in classrooms to increase student performance and focus.  I’ve begun using these again recently and I am keen to pull out my books and charts to refresh my memory to contribute to a vital and healthy morning practice.

How long will all this take? That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? How early does one begin, how much time should one commit to a morning routine? I don’t believe there are any rules. People’s morning routines vary in length from 10 minutes to 90 minutes and longer.  When rethinking my morning routines I allocated 20 minutes to meditation and journalling and 40 minutes to an hour for movement. An hour forty sounds like a lot of time before heading off to work at 7am when showering, dressing and eating breakfast all need to be achieved before walking out the door. Being an early riser helps but a more realistic estimation may be 10 minutes, give or take a few, allocated to the first two areas and then 30 minutes for movement. That’s definitely achievable while allowing room for expansion as the need and desire arise.  To be honest, I don’t think it matters how much time you commit, and I don’t believe you need to be rigid in following each step faithfully each day. Joy in life comes from being flexible and open to spontaneous redirection. Five focused minutes of setting your intention for the day is better than rolling out of bed, eyes half closed, mindlessly and robotically beginning the daily grind.

How might a more focused start to your day change your life?