Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it all over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

I wake early most days to meditate.  I have floor to ceiling windows in my third storey bedroom that look out over fields and then on into the woods beyond.  I have a puja table* (a brightly painted Indian dowry tin chest) upon which I collect together things that inspire me (pictures of my teachers, stones from my favourite beach, shells from Holy Isle, notes from my children) and where I light a candle and come to meditate.  It's how I start most mornings: roll out of bed grumbling a little bit and move straight to my cushion to sit for an hour or so.  Easier in the summer when the sun is reaching across the fields touching everything with warmth and light, harder in the winter, rising in the dark and the cold and wrapping my creaky winter self in blankets. 

Meditating sets me up for the day; it reminds me to live from my heart and not my head (my head gets too caught up with stuff I know doesn't really matter if I let it); it helps me to set a positive intention for the day and to set forth on each new day mindfully; it helps me to remember what is important; it reminds me to stay grateful.  It's not always easy, meditating, but it is always beneficial.  It is so important to me that I set my alarm to go off an hour before I have to get up so that I have time to sit (and I am someone who really likes and needs a lot of sleep!).  Over the years I have found that, without doubt, meditating in the morning is more important to me and brings more good things to each day than an extra hour in bed ever could or would.

The morning is traditionally the most auspicious time for meditation and it has always proven the best time for me.  My mind is fresh and free from the troubles or to do lists of the day, I haven't yet begun to fill up the hours with work and caring for my children, with friends and talking, with clearing up and tidying away and laundry and all the stuff of a full life.  And my mind is at its most silent, nobody has engaged me yet in conversation and I haven't yet begun the internal dialogue with myself that is the backdrop to my days. 

If I leave it until later on, it is too easy for me to let it slip (there are always more pressing things to get done), or else I procrastinate and leave it so late that I find myself squeezing it into a time just before a deadline, or I try and sit before bedtime, but I am never at my best just before I go to bed (too sleepy, too keen for the warmth of my bed).

I have a well-established daily meditation practise of many years and it is part of who and what I am now, but your practice does not need to take this form or last so long.  There are lots of ways for you to affirm your commitment to living from your highest sense of self, to meeting each day with positivity and gratitude, and to moving through life with an open heart.

It can begin before your feet even hit the ground: in those first moments when your alarm goes off, or your child comes into your room, you can (silently or out loud) repeat to your self a mantra or positive affirmation that speaks to you of everything you hope to be and achieve in your day.  Or you might write down something that means a lot to you on a slip of paper which you keep by your bed and read on waking.  Only you know what you need and what works for you, but here are some suggestions:

  • I want to be good to myself today
  • I am thankful for this day
  • I want to be kind to others
  • Om namah shivayah (I honour Shiva, or the wisdom within me)
  • “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” (Meister Eckhart)
  • “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot
  • “Every morning [is] a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”   Henry David Thoreau
  • “When you rise in the morning, form a resolution to make the day a happy one for a fellow creature.”  Sydney Smith
  • “The morning wind spreads its fresh smell. We must get up and take that in, that wind that lets us live. Breathe before it's gone.” Rumi

Placing your feet on the ground as you rise from your bed, you might be inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh's suggestion: “Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

Or you might want to touch each finger tip mindfully with the pads of your thumbs and repeat four meaningful words to yourself as you do so:

  • Live, laugh, love, forgive
  • Move forward with gratitude
  • Let go, move on
  • Peace, kindness, love, compassion
  • Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you

If you have made a commitment to yourself (to lose weight, stop drinking or smoking, to take up a new hobby or an attitude, etc.), then each morning before you move out into the day is a good time to reaffirm that commitment and remind yourself of the reasons for it.

If you are someone with a particular faith, then you may wish to say a prayer, or to bring to mind your guru or teacher and dedicate your day to living by a specific teaching of theirs that feels particularly pertinent to you at present.

There are a thousand different ways to start your day in something other than a grump, a scowl and a race to the coffee pot and the train; there are a million ways to set out each day in a more positive frame of mind; there are dozens of ways in which you might offer a simple acknowledgement of all that you have to be grateful for each morning and all that you wish to do, be and say. 

And even if somewhere between getting up from your moment of affirmation each morning and arriving at your place of work there has been an argument with a surly teenager, an unholy scramble for the last seats on the train, spilt tea, a broken heel, a forgotten breakfast, I firmly believe that the effects of that morning affirmation percolate through your day in a resolutely positive way.  More than this even, it has a cumulative effect, so that the more you do it, the more that quiet, early morning commitment imbues your day with your highest intentions for yourself and the way you wish to move through your life.

I recommend that you start with something simple. 
I recommend that you stick with one saying/quote/mantra for at least a week or two before you change it so that its potency might be fully unleashed. 
I recommend that you don't beat yourself up about it on the days that you forget. 
I recommend you start first thing tomorrow morning.


“Have you ever seen the dawn? Not a dawn groggy with lack of sleep or hectic with mindless obligations and you about to rush off on an early adventure or business, but full of deep silence and absolute clarity of perception? A dawning which you truly observe, degree by degree. It is the most amazing moment of birth. And more than anything it can spur you to action. Have a burning day.”  
Vera Nazarian

*puja table - puja is a ritual offering or ceremony intended to honour or express appreciation for the Divine, while affirming or developing one's own Divinity.  A puja table is a small table dedicated to this practice, often decorated with photos of teachers, flowers, candles, etc.  Like a small shrine.


  1. Really interesting, useful and inspiring. I've looked up a couple of thoughts..."The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are."..."Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." V.


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