It has been a week since my last entry because I am in the process of turning my sleep schedule around. I’ve been a night owl for the past year. The problem is that now the sun rises very early – just after 5:00 a.m. And for some reason, I’m not able to sleep past 5:30 anymore – despite wearing a sleep mask and no matter what time I go to bed at night. So, getting to bed after 11:00 at night just isn’t cutting it. Day after day, I have walked around sleep-deprived and not functioning up to par, promising myself that tonight will be the night I will go to bed earlier and catch up on sleep.
Many spiritual teachers talk about getting up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and doing their practices before the rest of the world has awakened. Then they go through their day attuned to the energy generated from their practices and from the deep stillness of early morning, and go to bed early in the evening. When I go on retreat and am removed from the usual distractions, I find that my natural rhythms fall into an early-to-bed, early-to-rise pattern.
My teenage son has been experiencing some sleep issues for a while now and recently has been educating himself in the science of sleep. I have watched his mood, outlook, and confidence improve dramatically in response to a good night’s sleep. He realizes how critical a good night’s sleep is to overall functioning and how much of it is within his control. The positive changes he’s experienced lately have inspired me to curtail my night owl ways and become more of an early bird instead. My son has been my cheerleader, reminding me of our mutual goal throughout the evening – as I remind him to relax his mind and not worry about whether or not he will sleep well. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious and have inspired our whole household.
And what a payoff! I am remembering the abundance and power of the gifts dawn brings: the rose and tangerine shades of the sunrise sprawling across the sky, beads of dew lining the spearmint leaves in the garden, spider webs revealing themselves in the field.
There is a certain energy contained in the day’s first rays of sunlight. Filling myself with it improves the quality of the rest of the day. It is my fuel. Prior to this week, it had been a month and a half since I’d last experienced the sunrise.
Lately, this is how my days begin:
A bird call awakens me from a dream, and the first thing I notice upon opening my eyes is a golden glow of light streaming through the windows. Our house is situated above the river, so we experience the sunrise indoors before it happens on the river.
When I see the glow cast against the bedroom wall, I know I have a few minutes before the first rays of light beam above the tree-lined shore at river level. I grab my camera, head to the dock, and wait for it to begin. In the meantime, I listen to the birds, inhale the ocean-like scent of the river, and feel the energy in my feet as they connect with the steps or the dock. Soon, one ray at a time, the sunrise pushes through the trees, and the reflective river stage is filled with the light of two suns that shine more brightly with each passing moment. I inhale the light and, inspired by the sunrise, generate the intention to let my light shine as brightly as possible this day.
The best thing about getting up early is that I can go kayaking when weather permits. I am convinced that there is no better way to start a day! It is so quiet and still, with the exception of a work boat or two that passes by. The grackles and other birds are hopping along the shore looking for breakfast.
Two mornings ago, I paddled across the river but then saw a large, familiar shape land on a fallen tree back on our shore. That was my signal to cross back over and greet my friend, the heron – standing still as a statue – for the first time this year.
For the rest of the time I was on the river, I played a game of hide-and-seek with the heron – who eventually slipped away for good when I had my back turned to ride the wake from a work boat.
I was so happy to see the heron.
Early in the morning, a beaver often swims by the dock, and upon noticing me, dives below the water quietly, resurfacing about 15 seconds later a surprising distance upriver.
Although I should know better, every morning I expect the river will be much like it was the day before. But every morning, it is different in some way that leaves an impression. I bring a small notebook with me and jot down what I notice – sometimes sensory impressions, sometimes insights or ideas.
Early this morning
the heron has returned
to its perch on the shore.
A few lily pads have ascended
and now float on the surface of the water.
The first daisy has bloomed on the bank.
It is a good day.
I find that I have greater energy and patience, a more positive attitude, and a better sense of humor when I give myself the gift of time to start my day doing something that nourishes body, mind, and spirit. It is so much more satisfying than getting up 45 minutes before I need to leave for work and racing against the clock the whole time. And I think that everyone in my life is grateful!
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