Meditation in the Morning

Two weeks ago, I met with one of my grad school classes. On Wednesday afternoons, we meet and talk about "life". We call them salons and I love them to bits--the people and the talks. I'm a people person and a talker and these meetings brings those loves together.

One of my colleagues is a Sikh yogi and he shared his morning routine of sitting and meditating before sunrise. He said it's an extremely magical experience to be up that early and awake and meditating when it's so quiet as the sun begins to rise. When I first heard this, I scoffed (silently to myself, of course). Get up that early to sit and meditate? The beauty of his experience was lost in my own intimidation and fear of applying myself to something requiring such discipline.

Then, once his words sank in a little more, I realized two things. One, it's incredibly beautiful that he does this and two,  I've been waking up at 5:46 am for about 2 months solid. On my own. No alarm. I know it's because my upstairs neighbor wakes up at that hour to get ready for her day as a schoolteacher. She makes so much noise that I wake up, too. I've resented it so much. Truly. I was allowing myself to become really frustrated by how much noise she manages to make.

I'm up anyway, and annoyed. What better time to practice meditation?

So, I did. I've done it a few times, now. And it's pretty great.

I first learned how to meditate from my friend, Amy Glenn. It was about 10 years ago, and it changed my life forever. I've also attended a few guided, seated meditation sessions in Brookline, MA and Cambridge, MA. Those experiences were ok. Sort of "meh". But, they did teach me a lot and, combined with what I've learned from Pema Chödrön, I feel like I have exactly what I need to know to sit by myself.

And sit, I do.

I notice that my jaw is clenched really tight, even at 6:00am. I've just woken up! Imagine what it's doing all day to my teeth and gums? And my neck and jaw muscles? And my general well-being? Hmm. Breathing into that one.

I notice my monkey mind. That's Buddhist-ese for "active brain chatter", when one's thoughts are hopping and bouncing about like a... monkey, I guess. Welcome to being me. Contrary to what most people think, meditation isn't there to help us relax. When someone said that in a workshop I was at a few weeks ago, I wanted to jump out of my seat. It's meant for us to get present with whatever is on our minds. Not to shove it away and pretend it's not happening. The idea of meditation is that we do that enough already, the stuffing down and pushing away. Meditation is the chance to not do that. And just sit with whatever comes up, pleasant or unpleasant. Agreeable or disagreeable. Pretty or not.

Bring it on.

Even though I'm not someone who sits and meditates every day (or hardly at all), I have been doing the sitting with my thoughts each and every moment of each and every day for many years. The sitting still on a cushion is different. And I really like it. It allows for a clarity that surpasses just my normal everyday awareness. I never noticed the jaw thing during the day.

The endless string of mental assessments? Yep, I hear them all the time.

The to-do list? Yep.

The doubts, fears and anxieties? Oh, yeah.


And the alarm sounds on my phone. It's been 30 minutes. And the sun is up.

Despite being up so early, I feel incredibly energized and more emotionally ready to welcome the day, whatever it's going to bring me. And man, does it make me tired and ready for an early bedtime! I also sleep soundly through the night. I am really enjoying that part, especially since my sleep the past few winters has been pitiful.

I can't wait to see my colleague tomorrow to tell him how much he inspired me, and what I've been able to create and notice, as a result of him sharing his morning meditation routine.