Tonight is the New Tomorrow

Our days are a reflection of our nights and our nights are a reflection of our days. In other words, ,the quality and quantity of our sleep will greatly influence how we meet and deal with our days and vice versa. So where does one start the virtuous cycle towards a healthier, happier and more effective version of ourselves?

I would like to suggest that working on our nights is a better place to start.  Firstly, unless one suffers from a sleep disorder, our nights are overall more simple, and controllable than our days.  Secondly, sleep is the activity we do the most and therefore plenty of experience to draw on. Lastly, it is very likely that we are sleep deprived and the earlier we remedy the issue the better!

So before I enquire further on the topic of fearlessness, commitment and freedom, let’s establish some basic healthy habits and sleep must be one of the most crucial one. If we are to be ready tomorrow we have to be ready tonight. Here are some of the most common tips for better sleep:

  1. Turning our bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment
    (Dark, cool, quiet, stimulation-free and comfortable)
  2. Sleeping for at least 8 solid hours per night
    (recent studies have shown that apart from some very rare exceptions we nearly all need the same amount of sleep)
  3. Keeping our internal clock set with consistent sleep
    (establishing basic rules about bed time and wake up time)
  4. Avoiding chemicals that interfere with sleep especially in the evenings
    (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine…)
  5. Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light
    (exposure to natural daylight during the day & keeping the room dark during the night)
  6. Limiting daytime naps to 30 mins
    (for some, regular early-afternoon naps may be beneficial)
  7. Balancing fluid intake and eating light meals in the evening
    (Drinking plenty during the day and less prior to bed)
  8. Exercising daily 
    (stretching, walking, swimming, running…)
  9. Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine
    (warm shower, light stretches, relaxation, reading a book…)
  10. Remembering that not all nights will be good nights
    (Avoiding, feeding worries, moving, looking at clock)

Everyone will have their own issues: not enough exercise, caffeine in the afternoon, looking at screens in beds, waking up too early and the list goes on. For me, establishing a regular and healthy bedtime routine has perhaps been the hardest. There always seems to be things to be done, conversation to be had, email to be checked, etc…, and until quiet recently I nearly gave up on the idea.

Today’s exploration, however, has uncovered that it is where I need to focus, so without further adieu, I am off to plan my ultimate night routine with the help of an article on Lifehack I just stubbled on.

Sweet dreams and remember tonight is the new tomorrow.


Photo by Krista Mangulsone

Some useful links:

[1] The Strength of She: The Importance of a Nighttime Routine
[2] Business Insider: What your nightly routine should look like, according to science
[3] Pick the Brain, Grow Yourself: The Best Night Routine for a Productive Day
[4] Little Might: Nightly Routines and how to sleep hack your way to a productive morning
[5] Mark’s Daily Apple: Primal Starter: Is Your Night Routine Encouraging Fat Storage?
[6] Cosmopolitan: Six minutes of reading before bed will help you sleep, dream and live better
[7] Zapier: 12 Morning and Evening Routines That Will Set Up Each Day for Success
[8] The Muse: 5 Bedtime Routines That Will Make Your Mornings So Much Easier
[9] Pick the Brain, Grow Yourself: The Best Night Routine for a Productive Day
[10] National Sleep Foundation: Recommends New Sleep Times
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Taking care of ourselves

Taking care of ourselves

Looking after ourselves is a sacred act. I am not talking here about occasionally treating ourselves “because we are worth it”, nor am I suggesting emphasizing self-centred activities, rather it is about caring for our mind and body regularly as if it was a temple. But what does it mean practically to take care of ourselves?

First and foremost, it is about having the right attitude. It starts with loving-kindness. We cannot properly look after anything or anyone unless we have respect. In other words, regardless of how healthy we are, we must appreciate our bodies and our minds as they are. Being grateful is the opposite of taking things for granted. It is essential that we are grateful for that heart that is beating; for all the different functions of the body; for our senses that feel, that see, that hear, that smell and that taste; for our brains and our abilities to think and question; for our faculty of adaptation and our potential to apply our wisdom.

We need to understand who we are and to have unconditional love for ourselves, and that means letting go of ideas about how we should be. It is fine to have good intentions but much too often we spend a tremendous amount of energy struggling to live up to our ideals and feel frustrated. To accept ourselves as we are – as a fact – without identifying with it or fixing it – is powerful. It is only when we really see something for what it is that we are freed up to act and go beyond the present state.

Once we have accepted who we are, it is possible to change mindfully. A good place to start is on establishing a healthy rhythm. Some of our most basic physical needs require regularity, like sleeping, eating, exercising, and relaxing. They form the basis of self-care and what the French call “hygiene de vie”. All those needs can be improved if we put our attention to them and give them space in our schedules. Over the last few months, I have managed to establish a good morning and evening routine and I am amazed about how it has impacted my overall well-being. Contrastly, I am now away from home and I have had a very erratic  rhythm and I really feel disorientated and emotionally tired.

Finally, we need to do quite the opposite with our thinking, relationships, and active life. Habits, routine and staying in our comfort zones really does not nourish our souls. Our thoughts much too often go in circles, our relations can become stale and our work monotone. Self-care in this arena is to be creative, alert and ready to take risks. Although neither supple or strong, I am currently doing a month-long bi-lingual Ashtanga yoga teacher training course in Barcelona. Not only am I learning language (Spanish), but I am also having to adapt to a whole new way of understanding my body limits. It is of course not necessary to travel or learn a new skill to renew ourselves, it just requires the willingness to think differently and the desire to meet life afresh every day. A good friend of mine once remarked:

“The body needs regularity and routine and the mind does not – but we tend to do it the other way round. We sleep, eat and exercise erratically and feed our brains the same food”.

Taking care of ourselves is about learning the art of living and addressing our physical, intellectual and emotional needs. Our bodies need rituals and our minds need freedom.


Photo: Joshua Sortino

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Be the breath


The first act of mindfulness is breathing and unfortunately, most of us lose it at a very young age. As adults, we breathe but usually poorly. So, I invite you to start a learning journey towards skilful breathing once again. There are many exercises that you can learn, but as always it is good to start small and simple. Here is one to begin with:

Sit with your back straight and gently seal your lips. Start to notice your breath. Is it full? Are you using every part of your lungs? Is your tummy moving? Breath smoothly, soundlessly and without pause between the inhalation and exhalation.

Exhale for 6 seconds and inhale for just 3 seconds.

Keep breathing and, if you wish, add a little visualisation. Imagine that with every out breath a little parcel of negativity escapes your body. Let go of muscle tension, mental boundaries, emotional limitations, and release whatever is holding you back.

Continue for about 3 minutes, then gently stretch before getting up.

Go on, do it now… you have nothing to loose.

Breathing is something most of us take for granted, yet our breath is much more than getting oxygen to our blood. It shapes how we are. There are countless moments during the day when we get stressed, irritated or tired. Stopping for three minutes and focusing on breathing is a great way to become more conscious of what is happening. The more we do it the more natural it becomes.

Be the breath and your awareness will expand.


Photo: Anton Repponen

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Go to bed

Go to bed

“Go to Bed” was perhaps the sentence I disliked most when I was a child and I heard it every night. It was just a sentence but it often felt like a little death sentence. The days never seemed to be long enough and even if I was tired, going to bed meant turning my back to all the people that were still up and all the exciting things I suddenly felt like doing. Going to bed was a battle.

Later on in life, I realised that it wasn’t just me, most of the people I’d ask admitted that they usually went to bed too late to their liking. In other words, we do not listen to how tired we are and stay up to find more exciting things to do. In the short term, it is not a big problem, we either catch up by getting up later or just adjust to less sleep. In the long term, however, it can develop into unhealthy rhythms and sleep deprivation – both of which can have adverse health consequences.

Everyone is different, and some people may feel more productive at night than in the morning, and it is not for me to judge what is right or wrong on the matter. However, I have learnt to listen to my body and know that I feel so much better when I go to bed early and wake up early. Even more so when I have a regular rhythm.

This does not mean that I do it, though. I regularly go past my bed time and regret it the next day. It is always surprising to me how knowing that something is right for us, does not necessarily make us act upon it – even when we want to. I guess it is often tied to poor habits, and this is why it ‘s hard to do something about it.

Learning to go to bed when one is tired is perhaps one of the most basic skills of the art of living. For lack of energy and vitality affects everything we do. So it may be worth it to change our habits. There are three relatively simple things we can do to put ourselves on the right track:

  1. Go to bed as soon as we feel tired
  2.  Wake up at the same time every day – even on the weekends
  3. Exercise daily

It is very likely that you and I are going to ignore this advice totally and continue to go frequently to bed late. And, as I discovered as a child, it is not enough for someone to tell you: “Go to bed,” the change has to come from within, and we have to be clear about the benefits and the trade-offs. Having plenty of vitality and not feeling tired throughout the day is wonderful – and it starts by making peace with the idea of going to bed before one is ready to drop.

Paradoxically, it is eleven as I write these words. I shall follow my own advice “Go to bed” immediately!


Photo: Alex Pavlou

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This is day two of a writing challenge triggered by the work of Chelsea & Scott Dinsmore. The aim of this blog is to inspire change and to document a necessary transition, both individual and collective, towards a better, healthier world. The scope is holistic in nature, yet it comprises four specific fields of action, namely: Earth, Health, Wealth, and Self-knowledge.

Today, I am going to focus on wellbeing or more specifically on exercise and mindfulness. It is hard to help others and to be the change we want to see in the world if we are not well within ourselves. The topic of health is vast and usually tends to become more in important in people’s life when one is unfit or unwell, but it is well established that prevention is better than cure. Regardless of the state of our current health, it is vital that we spend a little time and attention to improving it. One of the most effective ways to do that is to establish a mindful habit of daily exercise and calm. And this where the XY-Zen project comes in.

Seeing the importance of encouraging more people to improve their health, a friend and I are devising a simple programme that can easily be adopted by almost anyone regardless of how busy their life might be. We have called it XY-Zen. I will not go into much detail here as it is still early days, but here is our intention with the project:

“Our mission is to help busy people adopt the healthy and minful habit of exercising and relaxing regularly,  through a carefully designed online programme and app. Each exercise is introduced slowly and gradually so it is effortless for our users to look after their mind and body from the comfort of their home. Using social accountability, our programmes are simple, fun and customisable to provide measurable results and greater well-being.”

I have been practicing a simple flow of exercise and breathing for the past sixteen years and more recently took up simple sitting meditation. It has been good for me and I really feel that more people could benefit from adopting a healthy routine for both the body and the mind. It is clear that there are many existing programmes already available out there but much too often they are time-consuming, or difficult to practice and  keep up. One of the unexpected consequences of starting this project has been a renewed interest in yoga, pranayama, and mindfulness. I have been spending the last four and a half months exploring different types of exercises and relaxation methods and feel super healthy! It has also become clearer that it was not going to be easy but I feel that it is still worthwhile pursuit.

If you are interested or would like to give us some feedback, feel free to either send us an email (xyzenstaff{at} or visit us on our XY-Zen Community Page

Do you have a daily exercise/relaxation sequence that you practice? If not, what is stopping you? We would love to hear your comments.


Photo Credit: Patrick Hendry

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A Lighter Routine


Do you have a morning routine? Many people swear by them, some even claim that it is one the foundations stones of a successful life. Others, question them on the ground that they are habitual and can make us mechanical. Over the last twenty years, I have experimented a fair bit with all sorts of combinations, and although I am still exploring the question, I have come to be clearer in making the process both whole and lighter.

The problem that many of us face is that we want to do too much. Personally, I love the morning and want to pack as much as possible before the work and the social day begins. Exercising, meditating, writing, planing, grooming, eating, walking in nature, and the list goes on. If I were to add all the things I wanted to include in a morning routine, it would probably be time to eat lunch by the time I finished it.

Consequently, my morning routine has become an interesting balancing act. The challenge is to create a rhythm and regularity while remaining flexible and spontaneous. My current morning flow comprises of seven steps and to make it more memorable I made up the following acronym C.L.E.A.R.E.R where:

C is for Cleanse
(1) I rinse my face in cold water, clean my teeth and tongue and drink a cup of hot water

L for Lighten
(2) I plan the day ahead and choose my ‘MIT-One’ (#1 Most Important Task) and download all the smaller tasks on my “Peace of Mind passport”

E’ for Exercise
(3)  I do half an hour of yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises) and finish with 15 mins of meditation

A for Act
(4) I work on my ‘MIT-One’ for at least 25mins. I rarely complete the task but I start it and usually know what I am going to do on the next time I have to work on it

R’ for Re:focus
(5): I do some eye movements, five minutes of relaxation and a short visualisation exercise to clarify my intentions for the day

E” for Exhale
(6) I go for a short run, a bike ride or a walk to oxygenate my body and to be outside in nature

R” for Ready
(7) I get ready: washing, getting dressed, eating breakfast and doing a bit of tidying before starting the day ahead.

This morning routine suits me quite well, the only issue I have is that it takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete. The trick is to get up early. At first, I used to be frustrated if I could not do it all, but now I am more flexible and feel alright if I miss one or more of the seven steps.

A healthy routine needs to nourish you and make you feel better both in the short and the long term. It also needs to be light and flexible to accommodate the changes of seasons and and the of heart. I invite you to create yours – it may bring more light into your life.


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Exercise as a Practice


A while ago, I came across the following statement: “Those who don’t make the time for exercise, must eventually make the time for illness.” It is a bit harsh but it rings true. Most of us know how important it is to exercise our bodies, especially now that we live mostly sedentary lives, but we often tend not to make it a priority. It may not seem vital although it literally linked to vitality. The strange thing is that one almost always feel better immediately after exercising, yet there is usually a reluctance to start. This seemingly difficult first step is often what stops us. The same is true for most practices.

So what motivates some to break the initial discomfort barrier, go through beginner’s doubt and enter the next phase – which is generally painless. We all have gone through that process, it is not a mystery. Almost everybody I know experience the same thing. At first there is resistance followed by rationalisation and then if one is intelligent enough, one does it anyway. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. Some claim that the most effective way to overcome the resistance is to develop a habit of exercise. Although I like regularity, the idea of habit disturbs me. It feels like routine. It feels tedious.

When I look at it deeper, it would seem that what motivates me: is learning. If there is learning involved, a form of progression – growth – then it seems very worthwhile. So can we turn exercise into a practice? We may not clearly see the improvement at first, but if one exercises with awareness and attention, it becomes more interesting does it not? With this approach, not only are we exercising our bodies, improving our fitness and well-being but we are also learning the art of mindfulness as we do it. Exercising this way becomes more like holistic practice.

To turn exercise into a practice, one must commit. For example, I have been committed to doing Psychocalistenics everyday for the last sixteen years. It is a short form of gym/yoga which takes under twenty minutes to complete. I have more recently turned to a daily session of Yoga. Nevertheless I think I would really benefit from doing another regular form of exercise that involves going outside. So let me commit here and now to make a practice of either running or cycling  everyday – it does not have to be long and if I am in a place or situation where I cannot exercise, I can always go for a short brisk walk. What about you, are you ready to make exercise a practice?


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Breathing Balance

Nostrils onfire

A healthy mind in a healthy body” is probably on everyone’s wish list. Yet putting this simple wisdom into practice proves to be quite elusive.

Improving one’s breathing is a great place to start. There are many type of breathing exercises but one of my favourites is the simple exercise of alternate nostril breathing. the Sanskrit name for the exercise is Nadi Shodana and  powerful breathing practice with wide reaching benefits. It is quite simple and you don’t have to be a yogi to practice it. It is a great way to start the day with but it can be practiced almost anytime (preferably not after eating) and it is particularly helpful if you feel a little overwhelmed or stressed. Some people also practice this exercise just before going to bed to help them fall asleep and improve the quality of their sleep.

There are many variations of the exercise, but here is a simple instruction that I was taught and which I have been practicing every day for the last three weeks:

  1. Take a comfortable sitting position, making sure your spine is straight.
  2. Relax your left palm  into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face.
  3. Bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest below the thumb of your right hands as shown below. The fingers you will be actively using are the thumb and ring finger.
    Vishnu mudra right hand
  4. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
  5. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
  6. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
  7. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
  8. Inhale through the right side slowly.
  9. Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).
  10. Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.

Repeat 5 cycles allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales. A slow regular breath is recommended.

Alternate nostril breathing is both calming and spirit lifting and a perfect way to develop and maintain balance. When practiced daily, it provides the foundation on which to build a heathy mind in a healthy body.


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First Breath


That’s it, I am live. I am online and feel like the Little Prince when he landed on Earth. On one hand, Planet Web seems so vast and so empty and on the other, it seems relentlessly busy. It is difficult not to be affected by the stream of traffic. News, social feeds, campaigns, videos oozing out of tubes, information, mis-information, advertisements ticking back and forth, and click here buttons everywhere – with little clarity as to what we are looking for. Is it possible to stop and to stare out of the train window like a carefree child?

Welcome to you, the reader leafing through these lines. This is the first blog post of project Breangelo – the intention of which is to inspire and to explore the changes we want to see in the world and in our own lives – one breath at a time. Most importantly, it is about the challenge of acting upon that change. Your life is perhaps your most powerful message, so I invite you on this transition journey not only to be the change, but to breathe it.

So let’s start with the breath. As babies we most probably breathed well, but somehow as we grew up we may have be thrown out of kilter and adopted poor habits. Breathing is mostly unconscious, yet when one pays attention to the breath it can bring us back to the present and to a child-like alert quality. Most of us have forgotten to breathe properly. I would like to invite you on a brief learning journey towards skilful breathing once again. It may surprise you how powerful it is.

Tomorrow, I will show you a simple little exercise that could become the first step to a more aware and vital you on this transition journey.


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