Morning Mantras

How I start my day my way


In the spirit of sharing “ideas and practices that have improved the quality of my life”, I figured I’d share one of my daily practices that‘s undoubtedly elevated the quality of my experience.

Each morning, I do a series of breathing exercises while repeating mantras to myself. I’m well aware of how woo-woo I sound touting the benefits of chanting mantras, but hear me out...

I have a tendency to wake up at the mercy of my Planning Brain. This is the part of me who’s simulating the day’s events in order to piece together the optimal strategy. I have my Planning Brain to thank when I execute my life "according to plan." However, important to note that my Planning Brain has no concern for the well-being of the “I” who’s doing the executing. Its sole responsibility is results.

So, this morning mantras practice serves as a proactive reset before I’m actually greeted by the happenings of the day. I create the space to relax back into my True Self before moving forward.

The breathing wakes me up and grounds me where I am. The mantras serve as a reminder of who I am, what I believe, and how I want to live.

Warning: deep breathing exercises early in the morning might piss off your still-slumbering roommate (sorry, Robbie) or spouse (thanks for understanding, Erin). If possible, this is best done in a private, quiet space or outside.

The process:

  • 10 slow, deep & full breaths while raising my hands over my head in a circular sweeping motion

  • 10 quick, in-and-out-of-the-nose breaths while doing a shoulder press motion with my arms

  • 5 quick, in-and-out-of-the-nose breaths while doing a back row motion with my arms

  • Repeat 1 of the mantras until the idea sets in, until I’m able to really feel it & embody it

  • Repeat the whole process from the beginning with the next mantra

The current snapshot of the mantras:

I don't mind what happens
I am Whole regardless
You are Whole regardless
The River flows regardless

We are One
It just is

What I control…
I control my perception and my reaction
I don’t control others' perceptions & reactions, my environment, or the future

In choosing how I perceive this moment, I choose:
- The attachments to layer on
- The attachments to let go
- Gratitude
- Joy
- Loving kindness

How I play my game
Relax back into the flow
Love others, see others
Trust my Nature
Play like a kid

Today will be an adventure
Enjoy the experience

There you have it. A few lines to help me get aligned.

I’ve arrived at this lot because it covers most of my bases. A total reset on my overall mindset. Often, if I feel stuck in an area of my life, then I can suss out the culprit by noticing which phrase I’m resistance to.

If I’m taking myself too seriously and my ego is running the show, then repeating “play like a kid” can feel like my scowling façade is getting blasted by a Super Soaker full of finger-paint.

If I’m rushing around my life, trying to pack it all in, then “relax back into the flow” shows me that I need to release my death grip on the false belief that “I can do everything.” The reminder helps me turn my absolute focus to the "next, most necessary thing."

When I wake up enraged that it’s raining outside (and the weatherman lied!), then the reminder “I don’t control my environment” is all I need to hear to knock my perception back into gear. As I experience the freedom of letting that go, I shift my attention back to what I can control.

If I’m tempted to launch an offensive attack on another, then “We are One” reminds me that we’re in this together. We’re on the same team. I suddenly cease plotting. Instead, I order a ceasefire.

When I interact with a person, whether a stranger or a friend, “love others, see others” encourages me to work to understand. To uncover the underlying needs of another because, once again, we’re in this together.

This is all to say, these reminders only matter if I remember them when I need them. Admittedly, I don’t have perfect recall once the day begins. (If I did, then I wouldn’t need to “practice” in the first place.) However, starting my day this way gives me a fighting chance. It’s like studying my notes before a test… the test being my life.

Now, the current state of this list is the result of years of experimenting to see what sticks. I could fill a delightful, yet disjointed commonplace book with all of the phrases, quotes, and ideas that have been a part of this practice over the years. I’m constantly swapping phrases in & out. And that’s part of the fun. Sometimes, I’m jazzed about adopting a new mindset from a book I just read or conversation I just had. When that happens, I just add it into my mantras for the month. I commit to trying it on to see how it fits. This keeps the idea top-of-mind by keeping it top-of-morning.

The phrases are dynamic but the practice is constant: the practice of reminding myself what I want to remember.

These mantras are what work for me. They might have an impact on you, but I wouldn’t expect them to. That’s because each one is just the tip of an iceberg that reminds me of one of my deeper truths, intentions, or reflections.

Granted, some of these are quotes borrowed, while others are personally crafted. Regardless of their source, they've taken on a life of their own in the context of my own life. The important part is that they all work for me (for now).

That being said, this piece isn’t about the beliefs. It’s about the practice. Choosing the phrases that I want to be reminded of every day prompts me to think deeply about how I want to live… before the living begins. I get a chance to set my approach for life before life approaches me.

Maybe morning mantras isn’t your thing. And that’s ok. Maybe your practice is a walk or a dance or a prayer. There’s no “right” answer here. It's about doing whatever gets you there.

Whatever helps you start your day livin' your way.

A Note of Gratitude

I didn't invent this practice. The process is the combination of two disparate morning routines.

First, I heard how Scott Adams used affirmations to manifest future-state outcomes in his life. He would set a goal, then repeat it to himself each morning with intense focus. One of his examples was "I will become a No. 1 bestselling author" (before he'd ever written a book).  His personal anecdotes about how these affirmations ultimately materialized were convincing enough for me to test out the practice. My own experiments have produced similarly positive results. Worth noting that over the years, I've adjusted my practice to focus less on "what I want to achieve" and more on "how I want to live."

Second, I was exposed to Tony Robbins' morning “priming” exercise of deep breathing + deep gratitude in this episode of The Tim Ferriss Show (starting at the ~26:00 mark). I was drawn to Tony's pitch on how the exercise could serve as a sort of active meditation for those who struggle to sit quietly without thoughts. From the first time I tried priming, I experienced the state shift that he describes. It was as if my morning self had catapulted from being a still-dreaming sleepwalker to a grateful, in-the-zone gamer. Now, I'll even use it throughout the day if I need a mental pick-me-up.

I'm grateful to Scott and Tony for their willingness to share such an intimate part of their day. I'm also grateful to Tim Ferriss for being the source from which I discovered both routines (and so much more).

Finally, as previously mentioned, a number of these mantras were inspired by various authors, thinkers, and friends. I'll unpack the quotes with proper attribution in future pieces.

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