You don’t know what you don’t know, but once you know, you cannot un-know what you now know.
That has been my life for the last three years. My journey of awakening started when I met my now mentor Pauline Nguyen. On many occasions, I had expressed to her my thirst for personal development, and so, she invited me into her world. “It’s not about personal development,” she would tell me, “It’s about Personal Disruption.” Wow! How game changing and disruptive the last three years have been!
When we met, I had not long ago won the State Powerlifting Championship. The training was gruelling and relentless. It required massive discipline to overcome the pain. Keeping consistent with the coaches programs was tough. Real tough. I would regularly go to sleep at 2 am and wake up at 10 am. I worked reactively and went to the gym for hours at night. My job was to eat copious amounts of food in order to keep up my protein intake. Many of my training buddies were doing the same. We all trained together. We all ate ridiculous amounts of food. The portions could easily feed three small people. It was the culture. It was the lifestyle. It was taxing on the body. Food comas were the norm. Lethargy, inflammation, and low vibration were my constant companions. It wasn’t the most efficient and effective use of my time, my energy or my body, that’s for sure!
Pauline lives in a state of constant evolution and learning. Growth and Connection are her two highest human needs. She would invite me to conferences and events to meet her teachers and learn from the other speakers. At each event, she would pack two boxes of food – one containing assorted nuts and the other, fresh chopped vegetables. Crisp carrots, raw beetroot, juicy cucumbers, raw broccoli. Pauline would generously offer the prepared food to her companions who sat with her. She was always surrounded by a posse. Initially, this amused me and I thought, maybe that’s just her thing – bringing healthy snacks and offering it to her friends. But then she would never eat the food at the conference canteens like everyone else. I began to notice her many nuances, and as I became more aware, I started asking more questions.
I remember asking, “Why don’t you ever eat the food outside?” She would respond matter of factly, “I’d rather starve than fill my body with rubbish. Not only do I feel crap afterwards, the regret takes up too much of my mental and emotional energy. Prior preparation, prevents piss poor performance baby.” Gradually I became more and more curious. I asked more and more questions. What is her diet? What are her rituals and routines? What time does she go to sleep? What time does she wake up? How does she think? Who are her friends?
Things changed dramatically during the first year of opening my specialty café, Brewristas. Pauline was coaching me on my business (and inevitably my life). Before bed, I would report to her the results of my day, leaving her a message at a time when she would be waking up to start her day! A super early riser, 3am-4.30am! “Shit don’t get done while you’re sleeping,” she would say. I thought she was crazy.
When she started to take notice of my schedules, my diet and my way of life, she asked me one powerful question. “How is it working for you Mr Ly?” BOOM! Her question hit me in the face. The truth was, it wasn’t working for me! It wasn’t working for me at all! None of it was. Her next question hurt. “What are you going to do about it?” OUCH! You see, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But once I was aware, I knew there had to be change… massive change.
Through Pauline, as well as the plethora of books, podcasts, conferences, new teachers and new friends she has introduced me to, I have finally ‘woken up’ and I realise, that I have been sleepwalking all this time. She has shown me the limitless benefits of meditation, yoga, fasting, eating nutritious food, having a learning mindset, surrounding myself with quality people, and now, the insane advantage of waking up at 4:30am!
Over the last 3 years of our friendship, I have gradually put together these learnings and continue to develop my own morning routine, designed to turbocharge as well as maximize and optimise my days. I began waking up earlier to be at Brewristas for the breakfast shift, and now, I wake up even earlier for my morning routine. It has been a gradual process, waking up at 6am, then 5.30am and now, 4.30am. The 4:30am start has made a massive difference to my life. On so many levels, I feel like I now live my life by design. I live my life deliberately and no longer by default. Like Pauline says, this way of life makes us feel ‘Badass.’
Physiological and Spiritual benefits of rising at 4:30am
- Melatonin levels is at its highest. This is the optimum time for meditation and deep reflections – seeking solutions inside for tough situations.
- The body produces small amounts of DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) which helps catalyse spiritual experiences and connection to source energy.
- The brain is tuned to think outside the box because our peak levels of hormones help us to take the creativity of our dreams and combine them with the consciousness of a waking brain.
- It is the best time to overcome sleep inertia – a period where we transition from sleep to full wakefulness. During this time, there is reduced alertness and lower performance, which can last 2-4 hours. So, by the time we are ready to start our day we will be in a full awake state. The increase in alpha brain wave levels has the ability to reduce depressive symptoms and increase creative thinking.
My routine: how I wake up earlier in the morning and what I do with that extra time:
- It starts the night before. Four hours before sleeping, I reduce as much blue light as possible. I use f.lux on my Macbook to bring the light down to 2700k. I activate night shift on my IPhone. The only light source I will use is my bedside Himalayan salt lamp.
- I write a list of focus items that need to be completed the next day, prioritising the items and allocating time slots so that I have a clear guideline and direction.
- I put on my sleeping boxers. The red love heart ones are my favourite!
- Do some reading if I am not tired yet and then right before sleeping, I completely switch of all power from the power point.
- Turn on white noise to play in the background while drifting off to sleep.
- I set two alarms, one at 4.30am and another at 4.32 am. The alarms are close together so that I can’t snooze and go back to sleep. I choose an alarm ringtone that is soft and relaxing, one that wakes me up gently. It’s important not to be rudely waked up by a loud shocking alarm.
- As soon as the first alarm goes off, I turn on the side lamp so there is light in the room straightaway. When our eyes take in light, we naturally begin to wake up.
- I put on my headphones and play a guided meditation to set my mind and intention for the day.
- Change into my workout shorts.
- I shock my body to affect my biochemistry. First, I begin my version of the Wim Hof exercise. Followed by pushups and yoga.
- I take a cold shower. Now this will definitely wake you up!
- I walk out onto my balcony where there is morning light and fresh air and I am overlooking the green grass of an expansive park. I read at least 10 pages of an inspiring book while I have my BBB coffee – a delicious nootropic that I developed myself to give me the kick and sustainable energy that is required for my day. BBB helps to curb my hunger and reduce brain fog. I fast until 1pm. (stay tuned for my next article on the benefits of fasting)
- Finally, I start to focus on the schedule that I wrote the night before.
- The day begins.
This is how I hack my biology and hack my day for peak performance and optimum results. One of the biggest lessons that I discovered here is that our bodies very quickly gets used to a routine. When our minds tell our bodies what to do, the body obeys and automatically follows a rhythm when specific actions are carried out. Note how there is a night routine and a morning routine and they are both specific. We are training our body to prepare to sleep and prepare to wake up. Overtime our body will get used to the habits and will know exactly what to do when we begin these steps. For example, the simple step of changing into sleeping clothes or exercise gear is enough to activate the brain to react biochemically.
The last three years has been a beautiful journey of learning and growing, and I am grateful to my mentor and my teachers. It has taken me a few years to catch up to the people I look up to and read about. The journey of constant and never-ending improvement has been a gradual one and it will be an endless one with limitless possibilities.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but once I knew, I can never un-know what I now know. It’s what happens when you stop sleep walking and finally ‘wake up.’ Joseph Campbell writes, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
It is not long now until I can manifest my new self and my new lifestyle and my new sense of wellbeing into my new specialty coffee house. Stay tuned for Brewristas 2.0. The future is exciting. I hope to inspire more people to love themselves and look after themselves and be kinder to themselves in this game called Life.
But of course, if eating well, having increased productivity, experiencing less brain fog, reducing anxiety, eliminating stress, and getting up at 4:30am and having more time is not your jam, then, that’s ok too. But I would simply ask you this… “How’s it working for you?” and if it’s not working for you, then, “What are you going to do about it?”