TO greet the day, Evan Sutter heads out of his Newcastle East home and down to the sea, to swim or surf, to paddle, or to simply walk along the sand and meditate.
It is a fine way to wake up.
"It's part of my daily routine," Mr Sutter said, explaining the reasons why he loved the sea. "Playfulness, getting out in the morning, and disconnecting from whatever it is - technology, work, busyness - and reconnecting to the body and nature.
"Part of being awake is implementing things in your life that allow you to feel awake, that allow you to feel alive."
Evan Sutter has turned his actions into words.
The self-described happiness speaker, author and coach has written a book titled Awake.
It's a good time to learn skills that will benefit your life when things go wrongEvan Sutter, author
He sees the book as a wake-up call for people to get living.
"For so many people, it's easy to get stuck in the trap of busyness and doing things," he said. "We're always focussing on what we're doing next and always further down the track thinking about ticking off our to-do list. I think Awake is a call to be alive."
The book has been published by an American company, Schiffer, and has been recently released in Australia. The author designed Awake to be more than his words, with its subtitle being "A journal. A guide. A retreat. A friend."
The 37-year-old explained that he wanted the book to be not just a collation of his ideas and research about embracing a fuller life and finding joy and meaning even in the hard times. Throughout Awake, people are encouraged to undertake exercises and meditations, to write down their own thoughts and responses, to interact with the book, rather than simply read it.
"I wanted to have a mix of both, of the book and a journal, so people go through the content and actually have ways to put it into their lives, in simple and accessible ways," he said.
This wasn't advice, he said, rather, "it's just a whole range of ideas that I hope plants seeds for you to look at things a little bit differently. And if you look at it in a different way, you can implement it in your life in a way that's beneficial to you."
Evan Sutter said his writing was not based on what he had been formally trained in but what he had learnt and read through life. He grew up in western Sydney and, after studying marketing and business at university, he was working in finance and leading a busy life.
Then in his late 20s, Mr Sutter woke up to the realisation he wasn't living as he wanted. That came about after he accepted an invitation from his older brother, Nathan, to join him in a Buddhist monastery in France, where he stayed for three months.
"It wasn't until I was there in the monastery with no distractions - no phone, no TV, no alcohol, no girls, no pubs - I actually realised I was a bit of a fraud in many ways," Mr Sutter recalled.
"I realised I was quite lonely, bored, I couldn't really spend much time by myself and certainly couldn't cultivate joy by myself."
As Evan Sutter wrote in Awake, "In many ways, happiness starts in solitude, that time alone when we explore and analyze what it is that makes us tick."
He was on his journey to happiness. When he returned to Australia, Mr Sutter practised what he had learnt at the monastery and developed his own ideas, and a way of life.
What he had learnt he wanted to share. He created a career for himself around happiness. He has been involved in public speaking internationally and held coaching sessions.
And what he had learnt, Evan Sutter said, wasn't something he had gained in school or university, nor on the rugby league field or in the boxing ring, where he had spent time and energy as a young man. Those skills, he believed, had not equipped him to live fully, especially in challenging times.
"A lot of the skills we're taught you have to ask yourself, 'Are they really helping us when things go wrong?'," he said. "That's why I created this book."
In his book, Mr Sutter wrote that, "you are the creator of everything that happens, good or bad, in your life."
Yet in this time of a pandemic, many are feeling as though it is COVID that has created so much of what has been going on in their lives.
"We're always going to have things outside of us that cause harm, and it's always how we react to those things," responded Mr Sutter.
As an example, Evan Sutter cited his own response to COVID. When the pandemic took hold, he was living in San Francisco.
He had established a company called Hapzly, which helped businesses to be more sustainable, creative, and more capable of producing happiness. As well as his business, Mr Sutter had his speaking engagements, and he was working on his book. Then COVID arrived.
"So my business, my talks, and my book, the three things I'd been working on for years, stopped," he said.
"It could have been a pretty bad time, but I had to embrace where I was at that particular time. No point sitting in 'what could have been'."
He learnt more about the art of adapting from an 84-year-old tennis-playing buddy in San Francisco, who, when locked out of his local court, took to practising "Ten chi" on his driveway: "He started mixing Tai chi and his tennis strokes".
Evan Sutter took the same playful and adaptive approach to his life.
He decided to head back to Australia. His parents and a brother were living at Port Stephens, and, from a time living in Newcastle when he was younger, he knew how beautiful the beaches were. Evan Sutter created a new home in Newcastle.
"It's been a great thing," he said of the move. "There are so many things you can do here to enrich your life."
For one thing, he has had the place and the time to work on Awake, believing that others could benefit from the book.
"It's probably been two of the more difficult years that most people would face; unpredictability, change, fickleness, not knowing what the future holds, and they're all scary," he said. "Uncertain times bring worry and doubt and fear."
"It's a good time to learn skills that will benefit your life when things go wrong, and they will again."
At some time in the course of life, most of us say, or are told, "Wake up to yourself!".
So, to the author of Awake, what does that mean?
"Have a little bit more awareness," Evan Sutter replied.
"Take the time to explore why you're doing the things you're doing, get to know yourself a little bit better, and make choices that are a better reflection of your values and what you want to be doing in this world."