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Running on Empty: How Early is Too Early to Arise for Meditation?

Posted Dec 02 2008 1:47am

It seems to be a perpetual challenge for my clients, many of whom state a consistent intention to start a meditation practice, to find an optimal time to do so.  Monks the world over find the 3:00 hour a powerful time for meditation. A recent Chicago Tribune article on the monks in the New Melleray abbey sheds light on why. These monks know that much evil takes place in the world during the depths of the night which makes these pre-dawn hours particularly needful of prayer and activities which cultivate higher consciousness. While most people I speak with seem to be in agreement that early morning (okay, maybe not that early) would be most beneficial for their own centering practices, barely has this sentence passed their lips before the wind completely leaves their sails. "But I already get up so early, I'll never get enough sleep if I get up even earlier!"

To those who fear early awakening, I simply offer you this to consider:

It is not lack of sleep which fatigues you. It is the toxicity of your thoughts and your environment.  The incessant fears and anxieties of the ego and the constant (and often strategic) assault on your senses and psyche that the world at large presses upon you daily work in combination to exhaust you.

Commit to beginning the day in silence and fully expect your ego to writhe for a time until it releases it's addiction to distraction. Guard against habits like that one quick peek at e-mail to get a jump on the day, succumbing to that compulsion to check Match.com just one more time or jotting a quick grocery list while taking the chicken from the freezer. Remain steadfast and begin first with sincere dedication to a centering practice and soon you will relish your day's first hour. Simple acts such a lighting a candle can do much to focus and anchor the intention of this time. In fact, moving by candle light alone and avoiding the relative harshness of electric lights during this time can enhance the peaceful, reflective centering time profoundly.

Through this first hour of the day and your actions that follow, seek to detoxify your body, your heart, your mind and your environment bit by bit by bit and you will find your energy increasing. Consider that the spirit knows no fatigue.  You have never been so tired as to stop breathing completely. The body always seeks to breathe in, literally to inspire, to draw in spirit. 

Inspiration is, quite literally, the way we live.

Anything that does not allow inspiration will ultimately lead to your death.  Take your exhaustion and lack of joy as a warning sign. It isn't more that you need to strive for. It is less.

Michaelangelo said the David was created by removing all that was extraneous in the marble.  So it is with us. It is what we remove from our life that leads to our perfection.

Release ungrudgingly, resting in the assurance that each attachment shed leads to lightness and with lightness comes joy. Do not worry. You cannot shed what is eternal. You cannot shed Truth. You can only unencumber and reveal it.

Life seeks life. Life loves life. You do not need to decide when to draw your next breath, when your heart should next beat. Your heart and your lungs are not waiting for your permission. They are not asking you to research just a bit more so they can be assured of "doing it right." They don't give a single care to how well or poorly they expand and contract in comparison to the hearts and lungs of those around you.

It is true you can hinder them, burden them so greatly that their strength may wane. Gradually all our systems do wear out but not for lack of love of life. How many stories have we heard of those who seemingly had no consciousness left waiting for that final visit from a loved one, or perhaps waiting for them to gain safe distance from witnessing those final moments before expiring?

It is in your very nature to relish life no matter how little passion for it you may be experiencing right now. How persistent are the seeds that sprout given the least bit of soil in a crack of asphalt? Why less you? Whatever blocks you from loving, joyful engagement with life must be shed. Do not fear the end of your life and the advance of your years. Turn your attention instead to cultivating true gratitude for today. It is curious that so often those who are striving intently today to provide for their future comfort and security are the very same who harbor seeds of fear, self-doubt, bitterness and resentment for what they feel they must endure to reach the future they hope to enjoy, all the while feeling a pervasive lack of passionate engagement and joy in the present.

Consider, carefully: What do you believe tomorrow owes you for the troubles you are enduring today? Who or what are you hoping will make up for the sacrifices you are currently making? What if tomorrow doesn't come through?

One peaceful, protected hour, to release what you cannot control and to bring your mind back to sincerely felt gratitude for what remains, when observed daily with devotion, will pay you far more dividends than any stock portfolio.

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