Good Morning, Part 1 of 3

Two things drive me insane  (1) The first minute and a half of any amateur You Tube video and (2) intros where the author tries to sell you the premise of the article and it is something you already know.  If I have to tell you about how important morning is then this site is not for you.

Oh, and weather people telling me to dress warmly.  I can afford cable.   Let me rephrase, I am successful enough that I can afford cable in Westchester, NY, where the federally regulated price of a postage stamp is three times what it is elsewhere.  Not really.  Let me rephrase.  I can afford cable in Westchester and that means that I have thousands of dollars a year of disposable income to spend on TV.  So.  (Thousands is not an exaggeration over here, by the way – ask me about Optimum) So if I can afford the cable to watch you I know how to dress myself.  There is no more objective news, no one gets their news at 6:00at dinner time (actually no one eats dinner at dinner time), no one reads news in papers, blah blah blah news has changed.  HOW COME THE WEATHER REPORTING CAN’T?

Oh, and storm logos.  You guys get those?  Up here in we-pay-more-so-we-expect-everything-to-be-better-but-it-isn’t-land when any two weather events take place simultaneously,  it is a storm.  Pick em.  Any two.  And then, it gets a name (Not the traditional hurricane names, which made sense. Hurricanes and such are events that we recall in later conversations, so they need names.  I remember Super Storm Sandy…) – it gets a name that I swear is some staffer’s niece’s middle name (Tropical Storm Zuma) and a LOGO.  A lot of thought goes into this.  They have to make sure the font relates to the logo of the channel, they have to use alliteration, the color matters, some intern has to do three drafts then hand it off to the art director who thinks silently that the intern is better at this than the art director is, the art director tweaks it so that the intern thinks they aren’t really working for free, and they post this logo during storm coverage.  A ton of thought goes into this, then someone gets paid money to make sure that someone else (who, if it is a guy, inevitably wears an ill fitting suit, seriously, never ONE weather person with a suit that fits anymore) spends valuable broadcast seconds, which the advertising team will argue to clients are worth $xxx,000.00 for 30 of them) – valuable broadcast seconds laid over all of this sophisticated work, to tell me the same exact thing Sister Mary Ellen told me in kindergarten.  Zip up when it is cold.

ISN’T, BY DEFINITION, ALL NEWS BREAKING NEWS???!!!???

So let’s skip the sell on the value of morning routines.  Everyone has one.

Oh, and if one more person writes a stupid blog about how successful people get up earlier…

But here is the science on why that could matter to you.  I get up at 3:00.  Been doing it since I got better (abovereferenced psychotic rant against local weather broadcasts notwithstanding) so that is about 8 years, and it comes naturally to me now.  I didn’t know there was science behind why it works if you are managing your mental health but there is.  I, and you, have a chronotype.  Mine is middle aged ex-beach volleyball players.  KIDDING.  From the US National Library Of Medicine National Institute Of Health (the word National is in there twice because none of these MD’s can spell check):

Chronotype, or diurnal preference, refers to behavioral manifestations of the endogenous circadian system that governs preferred timing of sleep and wake. As variations in circadian timing and system perturbations are linked to disease development, the fundamental biology of chronotype has received attention for its role in the regulation and dysregulation of sleep and related illnesses.

In other words, some people like me are programmed to get up early, and some people have to work at it.  There are theories as to why this is good for you, but that it is good for you is supported by Harvard research.  Again, from the US National Library Of Medicine:

Morning diurnal preference is associated with reduced risk of major depressive disorder (MDD); however, causality in this association is uncertain.

So we know that it works, we don’t know why.  Like aspirin.  The thinking that makes the most sense is that people who get up earlier are exposed to more daylight, daylight is good for everything, and so forth, but either way, any good piece about mornings is going to tell you to try to get up earlier.  Not because Bezos does it (he’s been doing a lot, a LOT of partying lately and it has been unfortunately, if not intentionally, photographed) but because science, and me not being on that floor of the hospital where they don’t let you use the elevator both support that it works.

 

I’ve been both those guys. You?

 

Once up, coffee.  When I drank a ton, it was survival.  When I stopped drinking a ton I still wanted coffee, so I did what any good Ivy Leaguer does.  I went to an accredited University to get confirmation bias on something I was going to do anyway.  Johns Hopkins fit the bill, and they provided me with these 9 (seriously, somebody in the coffee lobby has a working expense account… 9!!!) reasons why I should do that.

  1. I could live longer.  The study cites studies (does no one do their own homework anymore) about the reduced risk of the leading causes of death.  Wait, I am citing a study.  I take back the homework bit.
  2. My body may process glucose better.  I don’t know why they say “may” but I bet it has something to do with the sugar lobby check clearing as well.
  3. I am less likely to develop heart failure.
  4. I am less likely to develop Parkinson’s.
  5. Coffee and caffeine have a protective property for my liver.  Talk about win/win.
  6. I will have stronger DNA strands.
  7. My odds of getting colon cancer shrink.
  8. I MAY decrease my risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
  9. I am not as likely to suffer stroke.

I don’t need to sell you on coffee anymore, right?

For me, the next step is to write three pages, handwritten.  I first learned of the practice way before I got sick, in a book called The Artist’s Way.

the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

 

If you don’t know about this book, it is a permission slip for creatives.  Much of it, I dunno about.  She talks about going out on a date with your inner artist, that seems unnecessary.  She talks about processing the negative voices – that’s important I guess but Buddha does a better job in my opinion.  But the one thing she hit upon that really works is the three pages.  You do them first thing, with the coffee so that you are helping your colon and your mind.  It sounds like hokey if you are not creative but I did it when I was doing corporate turnaround too and this is how it works if you aren’t creating for a living.

You get up, you put the TV on, or  a podcast (Rogan has gone way downhill, an Ivy critique of Rogan is forthcoming) or your family, you read, whatever.  All data is being input.  You drive and you listen while you are driving, again all input.  By the time someone at work asks you to do something, your brain has been in input mode for hours, and doing work feels like doing work.  The pages start your day with data output and for some reason the rest of the day is more productive and easier.  I think it is because you have started the energy in that direction when you were still blurry, and then you get momentum.  But that is Burton, not Hopkins or Harvard.  But it does work.

The three pages work like this.  You hand write them.  I do it with a fountain pen because I am a thinking and grounded person with taste and I hold myself to a respectable level of aesthetic and quality, but hey, whatever works.  You just write.  You don’t format, you don’t worry about the reader because there is no reader.  If you don’t have anything to write, just write a word, over and over.  Been there, it gets boring fast, but everyone does it.  You don’t try to make sense.  This isn’t your day job, it is the pages.  Sometimes you get amazing insight.  Sometimes you get total crap.  Sometimes it helps you remember something and sometimes it helps you forget.  It doesn’t take long and no one else is going to see it but it does shift your gears.

Pages done, one or two cups of coffee in, now I meditate.

Meditation is another one of those things – yeah we get it, it is good for you, but it is such a pain in the ass.  It really is.  And I have taught it.  And it is still a pain in the ass.  I have meditated crazy and I have meditated sane and let me tell you being sane doesn’t make it any easier.  My routine is a minimum of 20 minutes and a maximum of 40.

Ok.  So before I taught meditation I studied meditation.  One time, I did an 8 hour meditation.  I did it here, in a very small group.   This is the largest Buddha in my hemisphere, if you get a chance you should really come to the temple.  It is something to see and to feel.  Here’s the site.

 

That is one big Buddha.

 

Anyway, so my group, it is like 7 of us, are there with a monk, and he does about a half hour before the meditation.  Monks are rarely entertaining on a good day, so taking class with one is a meditation in and of itself.  The monk then asks us if we are ready to begin.  The hardest part about meditating for long periods of time has nothing to do with breath or letting your thoughts pass, it has to do with your hind quarters and back.  It is a physical challenge as much as a mental one and learning to manage the pain in a meditative way is part of the meditation.  By the end my spine was trying to unzip my back so it could crawl out, my legs had atrophied, and all of us were peeking at the clock and each other.  The chime goes off, after 8 hours, and the monk just continues to meditate.  5 minutes.  10 minutes.  I will be damned if I get up before the monk.  Finally the monk openes his eyes and says, “Oh, I didn’t hear the chime, sorry if I ran over.”  And I ended 8 hours of meditating pissed off at a monk.

Meditation doesn’t always work.

Except that it does, over time.  For me, it has trained me to not react and to not believe my thoughts too quickly.  But I started crazy.  For you, it might work like the pages in that it puts your mind in guard rails with a speed limit so that you can still travel but also enjoy travelling.  There are physical benefits, too.  If you are interested in talking about meditation with an Ivy guy who detests robes, email me.

Tomorrow:  the right amount of products for the shower and after (we will NOT be Zoolander)  and how to use them, and whether to pick out your clothes the day of or the night before.

JB

14 Comments on "Good Morning, Part 1 of 3"

  1. You’ve mentioned doing morning pages à la Julia Cameron in so many words in a previous post or two. Thanks for going into more detail. I have done them on and off since I first read her book maybe 18 or so years ago. (Alas, I’m currently in an extended “off” phase.) Your perspective on the morning pages reminds me why they’re so great, and why I should probably find my way back to doing them.

  2. Up before six this morning, wearing a HEAVY old duffel coat, school scarf, and Optimo fedora to combat the cold outside plus now enjoying French press coffee from a small thermos while I take a break from work stuff. Recasting student assessments from rigid 20th century pencil and paper exercises to more flexible 21st century digital collaborative activities based on Universal Design for Learning. Interesting stuff, but after a while, ya gotta refill the cup, take a sip, and collect your thoughts.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

  3. Have you come across any meta analysis that explains why the first cup is by far the best of the day? I suppose I should do a search on pubmed ….

  4. Early to bed, early to rise…
    When I was in the best shape of my life, not long ago, in my mid-50s, I would get up 3 or 4 days/week at 01:00 AM (no kidding) and go for a run for about 45 minutes to an hour, chased by several steep uphill sprints. Then back inside to drink two quarts of lukewarm water, shave, shower, and back to bed. I would then read heavy theology and meditate on different theological concepts. Then as soon as my heart rate settled, I was out like a kerosene lamp. Next thing I knew, I would wake up again, dress, grab a cup of coffee, and head off to work. I would have no problem falling asleep in the evening, aided again by reading and meditation.
    Why so early everyone asks. Because there is so very little traffic at that time of day. I could run down the middle of the street if I chose. In addition, in the heat of the summer, especially if the humidity is high, that is the time of day to do strenuous outdoor exercise with the least risk of heat exhaustion.
    It was, at the time, the perfect plan. I still do the reading and the meditating. I highly recommend it. I am sure writing would only increase the benefits. In my case, this would initially be in the form of taking notes from the reading. At this time, what I lack to facilitate this is a study with built in bookshelves, a desk, and a chair. I do not even need a lamp. I could go full monk and use candles.

    Damn. Now I know where the Hard in Hardbopper comes from. That’s an amazing ritual. – JB

  5. John Matney | January 12, 2022 at 8:30 pm |

    An excellent essay, thank you. My routine begins with waking up at 5:30 am. It’s been that way since boot camp and it doesn’t matter when I went to sleep, I wake up at 5:30 am. Now that I’m retired, I lay in bed and read the news from several different sources. Then I get up and have breakfast. After that, it’s either on to my chores, of which there are many or to the golf course. Back home, I’ll have some lunch and either go out for a hike with my wife, do a strength routine or go for a run. I will work on more chores until dinner. After dinner, I’ll read (currently Pandemia by Alex Berenson) or call family on the West Coast who are 3 hours ahead of EST. Hit the sack 9:30-10:00 read a bit more and go to sleep. Repeat.

  6. whiskeydent | January 12, 2022 at 8:43 pm |

    Judging by your somewhat grumpy attitude in this piece, I’d guess you were not in the best of moods at 3:01 a.m.

  7. Ivy Coffee, there is a conversation to be had here. This readership likely falls far from the can of Folgers on the counter but definitely not all the way to the eight adjective Starbucks order. Fellow Ivys, I hope you grind your own beans. I hope you know the origin of those beans. I don’t always choose Fair Trade or Organic but I do pay attention to which brands I choose in beans like I do in which cords I wear. Because quality matters. Today’s brew in my mug is Democracy Coffee. The packaging I read while the machine hisses and drips addresses election finance reform. I don’t drink it black, which would be a far more Ivy choice, but I drink it daily and am better for it.

  8. Terry Garratt | January 13, 2022 at 1:37 pm |

    I’m a 74 year old man with an enlarged prostate, getting up anytime during the night is no problem for me, getting back to sleep is the hard part.

  9. Greenberry’s Coffee out of Charlottesville for me brewed in my Bosch TKA 9110 or French pressed. Black. Nothing at all wrong with Folger’s or Maxwell House either. Starbucks is undrinkable.

    Will

  10. Dutch Uncle | January 14, 2022 at 2:11 am |

    sacksuit,
    Thank you for your honest “Nothing at all wrong with Folger’s or Maxwell House” comment. This fits in nicely with recent comments from others that there’s nothing wrong with pleated trousers, plain old Parker Jotters, or Timex watches. It seems that we’re shedding the faux aristocrat pose that some Ivy aficionados have been intent on perpetuating. (Oddly enough some of these folks have even looked down on Bass Weejuns, the ultimate Ivy shoe). Perhaps one day, commenters will admit to wearing Lands End chinos and two-button jackets. The fact that JB prefers white OCBDs to what used to be the compulsory blue, is another sign that Ivy is escaping from its restrictive bonds.

  11. Dutch Uncle,
    I confess to wearing two-button jackets, although sometimes I would rather not. My navy blazer is two-button, and I much prefer it to the three button BBs we’ve seen more recently. It was only luck that I found it, c. 2004, “out of style” and at a great discount due to the retailer having a moving sale. We are at the mercy of the fashion industry.

    We do not look down on Bass Weejuns. It’s just that there were others, i.e., J&M SKI-MOCs, albeit not so well known, and more expensive, that would last a life-time with a resole job, and support your feet better. My impression is that guys wear Weejuns until they wear out and then toss ’em and buy another pair.

    On OCBDs, I thought white was compulsory, and blue came later as an optional color. IMO blue works with a few things, white works with almost everything. Pink, green, yellow…yeah, I don’t think so.

    The pose that some Ivy aficionados perpetuate is due to the fact that, they were there, and thanks to the internet, I-S.com et. al., we look for the archetype in order to compare that to what we see today. In most cases, the archetype is unobtainable given the fact that there are so few of us now. It’s more archeology than anthropology or sociology.

    On coffee. I buy a cup at the gas station every morning, with Splenda and half & half. It is delicious. Gas station coffee has come a long way in the last few years.

  12. Nothing wrong with Lands End khakis either.

    Cheers,

    Will

    Nothing at all – totally agree. – JB

  13. sacksuit:

    Lands End khakis and OCBDs were responsible for keeping Ivy alive. I think they still are.

  14. I think the last living godfather of Ivy, Richard Press, would insist that what’s been referred to as “faux aristocrat pose” may very well be what Ivy was (is?) all about. Just a guess.

    I’m reflecting on his comments that now serve us as sort of jurisprudence — how Ivy was American take on British (aristocratic?) style– with “snob appeal.” Key phrase: “snob appeal.” This must drive the sartorial populists insane.

    The Weejun was a (much) better made shoe forty years ago–even thirty years ago. Today, it is, with all due respect, absolute crap.

    I’m fine with white OCBDs and Parker Jotters, but this effort to expand Ivy to friendly-to-all territories seems, at times, like a dumbing/watering down of what it once-upon-a-time was– gloriously. What it still is in many circles–

    — I say as I reach for an old Rolex and my decrepit C&J Bostons. What the heck, I’ll plug ’em:

    https://us.crockettandjones.com/products/boston-burgundy-cavalry-calf

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