Whether you are an artist, photographer, corporate executive, housewife, yoga teacher, athlete, therapist, writer, politician or barista…how do you begin each day, what is your meditation for the day…? As most of us feel the demands of life right away and are pulled in a multitude of directions as soon as we wake up, we are potentially exposed to a barrage of stressors and downers right from the get-go. Equally available however are uplifting and harmonious influences.
Peace starts at home, it starts in our own minds. So, what can you do to start and take charge of your own mind? Especially in today’s day and age where, as I realized the other day, we are in our 5th year of: “The Crisis”…
I believe that most importantly one has to stop receiving broadcasted fear, judgment and negativity, which often times have their origin in one’s own transmissions. It becomes essential to discern and utilize tools for yourself which allow you to realize that in fact you are a higher level of consciousness at work. This is all part of cognitive shifting as you must shift your focus of attention away from what makes you feel bad to what makes you feel good, or you are not going to feel good. And this needs not only be applied in thought but more importantly in action. Because in the end and above all, I am here to serve, to prosper and to enjoy myself, and that pretty much covers it.
As a full-time photographer, artist, entrepreneur and part-time single dad I occasionally wrestle with “staying on track”, whatever that may mean at a given moment. Ask me what time of day and month it is, and you most likely will get a different interpretation. Yet, I continuously do incorporate a combination of some of the mentioned elements you are about to read into my own day.
A few days back a business partner and close friend of mine sent some food for thought along, which originally appeared at Onlinecollege.org. I am taking the liberty to share that information here and thereby extend the offer to peek into the routines and rituals that writers, philosophers, and statesmen have depended on to keep their work on track and their thoughts flowing. Here are their meditations for the day.
- CS Lewis. Writer and thinker CS Lewis had a very clear schedule of his day, with activities such as work, walking, meals, tea, and socializing down to the very hour they should be done. He even describes when beer should be enjoyed (not at 11:00 for fear of running over the allotted 10 minutes for the break).
- John Cheever. American writer John Cheever wore his only suit of clothing each morning as he rode the elevator down to a basement room where he worked. Upon arriving there, he would undress to his underwear, hang up his suit, and get to work. He would dress to go back upstairs for lunch and again at the end of his day when he would ride the elevator back home.
- Fred Rogers. Don’t doubt that Fred Rogers was indeed a great thinker, despite the fact that he is best known as the familiar Mr. Rogers from the long-lasting PBS children’s show. His television show was a safe place for many young children, by his design, and he fought hard, in his quiet manner, for the show to stay on the air. The famous routine that started and ended his show was not the only routine in his life. Each day he would wake at 5:30 and begin his day with reading, writing, study, and prayer. He would take a swim most days of his life, take a late-afternoon nap, and go to bed at 9:30 each night. Perhaps the most idiosyncratic of his rituals was that he kept his weight at 143 pounds his entire adult life. He saw his weight one day and realized it aligned with the number of letters in “I love you” and vowed to maintain that weight, which he did.
- Stephen King. This famed writer keeps to a strict routine each day, starting the morning with a cup of tea or water and his vitamin. King sits down to work between 8:00 and 8:30 in the same seat with his papers arranged on his desk in the same way. He claims that starting off with such consistency provides a signal to his mind in preparation for his work.
- Gertrude Stein. This famous writer discovered inspiration in her car. Apparently she would sit in her parked car and write poetry on scraps of paper.
- Immanuel Kant. Kant would begin his day with one or two cups of weak tea and a pipe of tobacco. While smoking, he would meditate. He would then prepare for his lectures, conduct lectures from 7:00 to 11:00, write, then have lunch. Lunch would be followed by a walk and time with his friend. The evening would consist of a bit more light work and reading.
- Barack Obama. Taking care of physical fitness and family are two important elements of President Obama’s daily ritual. He starts his day with a workout at 6:45, reads several newspapers, has breakfast with his family, and then starts his work day just before 9:00 in the morning. He may work as late as 10:00 some evenings, but always stops to have dinner with his family each day.
- Alexander Dumas. Whether or not he had heard the adage about keeping the doctor away, the writer of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, Dumas started each day eating an apple under the Arc de Triomphe.
- Benjamin Franklin. Franklin kept to a tight schedule, starting his day waking at 4:00 am. Until 8:00, he would wake, wash, eat breakfast, and think about what he would accomplish for the day. From 8:00 to 12:00, he worked. Lunch was from 12:00-1:00, where he ate, read, or looked over his accounts. He then worked until 5:00. The evening was filled with dinner, cleaning up, music or conversation, a look back over his day, and then bed at 10:00.
- Haruki Murakami. This popular Japanese novelist sticks to a specific daily schedule that begins at 4:00 when he awakes. He writes for five or six hours, then either runs 10k or swims 1500 meters (or sometimes, both). After his workout, he reads and listens to music until he goes to bed at 9:00. Murakami claims that writing a novel requires both the physical and mental strength that his routine provides.
- Franz Kafka. Kafka started his day at his job at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute from 8:30 to 2:30. Afterward he would lunch until 3:30, then sleep until 7:30. Upon waking, he would do exercises and have dinner with his family. He began writing at 11:00 in the evening, usually working until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning–sometimes later.
- Toni Morrison. Writer Toni Morrison describes not only her daily routine, but the importance of rituals to writers. Morrison describes her own ritual involving making a cup of coffee and watching the light come into the day. Her habit of rising early was first formed as the mother to three children, but after her children left home, she discovered a routine of her own–that still includes early mornings. Morrison urges all writers to look at what time of day they are most productive and what type of surrounding is most conducive to their work to help form rituals that will promote creativity.
- Ingmar Bergman. This famous director, writer, and producer of film and drama demanded quiet and set schedules. While working on a play in 1996, he was reported to stand outside the rehearsal hall half an hour before rehearsal to ensure the actors were not socializing. He had a set time for beginning work, taking lunch, and ending work. He disliked noise, meeting new people, and crowds of people. While he aspired to a quite life of writing without deadlines on the island of Faro, he could not actually stay with his retirement, and returned to the scheduled life of work. He was still working just a few years prior to his death in 2007.
- Charles Darwin. In his middle and later years, Darwin stuck to a very rigid schedule that started at 7:00 in the morning with a short walk, then breakfast. He would then work throughout the morning. Lunch, at 12:45, was his biggest meal of the day. His afternoon was also scheduled and consisted of two walks, reading, and backgammon. Darwin could not tolerate much socializing, and kept it to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time.
- Kingsley Amis. This British comic novelist and poet was also famous for his love of alcohol. He kept to a strict routine of writing in the morning until about 1:00, when he would take care of his dressing and shaving, then begin the afternoon with a drink and a smoke. He would work until lunch at 2:00 or 2:15, sometimes going back after lunch to work and sometimes not. He considered any work accomplished in the afternoon a bonus. When the bar opened at 6:00, he would fortify himself with more alcohol and work again until 8:30.
- Winston Churchill. While Churchill’s routine may not be for everyone, it seemed to revolve around lots of food and drink. He would rise at 7:30 and stay in bed until 11:00 where he would eat breakfast, read several newspapers, and dictate to his secretaries. When he finally got out of bed, he would bathe, take a walk outside, then settle in to work with a weak whisky and soda. Lunch began at 1:00 and lasted until 3:30, after which he would work or play cards or backgammon with his wife. At 5:00 he napped for an hour and a half, then bathed again and got ready for dinner. Dinner was considered the highlight of his day, with much socializing, drinking, and smoking that sometimes went past midnight. After his guests left, he would then work for another hour or so before heading to bed.
- Aldous Huxley. This famous thinker and writer would start early each day sharing a breakfast with his wife. He would work uninterrupted until lunchtime. After lunch, he and his wife would go for a drive or a walk, then he would return to work again from 5:00 to 7:00, then have dinner. After dinner, his wife would read to him until almost midnight. Due to an eye illness early in life that left Huxley with very poor eyesight, he relied heavily on his wife to do many activities for him besides reading. She often typed his manuscripts and was even reported to have cut his steak for him at dinner.
- James Thurber. Another writer with difficulties seeing, Thurber would often compose his work in his head at almost anyplace he found himself. His wife would recognize the look in his eyes and interrupt him mid-paragraph while they were socializing at a party, and his daughter saw him retreat into his private world over dinner. His method later in life was to spend all morning composing his text in his head, then between 2:00 and 5:00 he would dictate about 2,000 words to his secretary.
- Gunter Grass. This German writer starts his day at 9:00 or 10:00 with a long breakfast that includes reading and music. Afterwards, he begins working, taking only a break for coffee in the afternoon, and finishes at 7:00 in the evening. He claims that he needs daylight to work effectively. When he writes at night, the work comes easily, but upon reading it in the morning, appears to be of lesser quality.
- John Grisham. When Grisham first began writing, he still had his day job as a lawyer. In order to do both, he stuck to a ritual of waking at 5:00 and shower, then head off to his office, just five minutes from home. He had to be sitting at his desk with a cup of coffee and a yellow legal pad by 5:30. He gave himself a goal of writing one page per day. Sometimes this page went as quickly as ten minutes while other days required one or two hours. After finishing his daily page of writing, Grisham would then turn his attention to his day job.
- Gerhard Richter. Famous German artist, Gerhard Richter, sticks to the same basic routine he has for years. He wakes at 6:15 and makes breakfast for his family, then takes his daughter to school. By 8:00 he is in his studio, where he stays until lunch at 1:00. After lunch, he returns to this studio until the evening. He claims that his days are not usually filled with painting, but with the planning of his pieces. He puts off the actual painting until he has created a kind of crisis for himself, then pours himself into it.
- Simone de Beauvoir. French writer and lifelong companion to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir reported that she got bored if she didn’t work and tried to work every day except the few months she would take off to travel. While writing, she woke with tea, then began her work around 10:00. She would work until 1:00, then have lunch and socialize with friends. At 5:00, she would resume working, usually at Sartre’s apartment, until she would stop for the day at 9:00.
- Jean-Paul Sartre. In a letter Sartre wrote to de Beauvoir some thirty years before her recounting of her daily working routine, Sartre describes his days, which is noticeably similar to the pattern later described by de Beauvoir. Sartre writes about waking early and having coffee in a cafe, then reading, teaching classes and private lessons, then lunch. After lunch, he would do more reading and letter writing.
- Jacques Barzun. This French-born American historian and cultural critic celebrated his 100th birthday just two years ago and still enjoys a life of routine and work. He starts his day at 6:00 with coffee and the local newspaper, followed by 45 minutes of exercise, then a morning of work in his study. He spends his afternoon reading. Cocktails are at 6:30, followed by a light dinner. Barzun’s evening is spent reading the New York Times, no TV, and bed by 9:30.
- Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway described his writing ritual as starting just as the sun began rising, then working straight through until whatever he had to say was said. He likens completing his morning of writing to making love to someone you love–being both empty and fulfilled at the same time. Upon completing that morning’s work, he would wait until the next morning to begin again, going over his ideas in his head and holding on to the anticipation of starting again the next day.
Many of these personalities unquestionably lived in different eras with very different dynamics prevailing at that time. Presumably the speed of life was different, and most likely there was no or very little need for the all so mighty tyrant of multitasking we all are so familiar with in our times. Yet, how does the progression of your typical day resemble or differ from the above? What will you do to make a sustainable change in your life?
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Marian Kraus Photography is a Chicago area based professional architectural photographer, multi media artist and fine art photographer who has been consistently delivering compelling architectural photography to clients including architects, advertising agencies, home builders, corporations, real estate companies and the like since 1999. Additionally, Marian Kraus Photography’ s nature and architecture fine art photographs can be found in a growing number of corporate and private art collections.