2. Zazen (sitting meditation)
This is my cornerstone practice and what I do every morning immediately following my tea meditation. While tea meditation has become an important practice in its own right, I adopted it solely as a way to be able to meditate soon after waking.
Before I started doing tea meditation, I would sit down to write for a few hours before meditating, because otherwise I’d just doze off and have a very ineffective meditation session.
I sit down once, occasionally twice in the morning typically for 45 minutes to an hour. Over the years my meditation sessions have lengthened, starting with just 5 minutes a day in the beginning.
I mostly let myself develop naturally, never advancing to a lengthier session unless I felt totally comfortable with my current session length.
If there was one practice on this list that I’d say do every single day with absolute dedication, meditation would be it. Most everything else can fluctuate to some extent, but a daily practice of sitting meditation is one of the most powerful daily practices there is and really should be consistent if you want to get everything you can out of it.
3. Get creative
The morning is a great time to flex your creativity. When a novice monk or nun begins studying Zen, many times, if they have any natural inclination towards art within them, as time goes on they naturally begin to create art of some fashion more regularly.
It’s difficult to describe in words why this is, but imagine you’re a tuning fork. Through your spiritual practice, you’re attempting to attune yourself to the ultimate, the one in the all and the all in the one. When it gets down to it, realizing this is really the central idea behind all spirituality.
So through your practice you gradually begin to tune yourself closer and closer to it, and when this happens you naturally wish to express the all becoming the one, or the great expression of life coming to be in this moment.
This is what art really is, and the morning silence is the ideal time to look within yourself and feel a deep connection to the world around you. This brings out your natural creativity, and self-expression that comes from it is natural and nourishing for the mind.
About once or twice a week I practice Zen calligraphy. I used to draw a lot back in high school but stopped over time and just never came back to it. Zen has uncontrollably possessed me to express myself with pen and paper once again, and it feels great.
If you’ve practiced drawing, painting, or anything else before or want to start doing so then the morning is a great time to do it. And flexing your creativity in the morning is a great way to get your creative juices flowing for the rest of the day.