November 20, 2023
A Short Story on Waking Up Early
I recently had a client ask what time I got up in the morning.
5am, I said. Pretty consistently, I add. (I had to confess to sleeping in this Sunday until 6). Oh, yeah, so then what time do you go to bed? 9pm, pretty consistently. I don’t have much of a social life, I laughed.
She was curious, having recently given up a bad habit and leaning into a shift in routine. She wanted to know how it was possible to stay the course of one’s intentions, especially in the dark of dawn when the demons of self-sabotage are most mischievous.
I wasn’t always an early riser.
In fact, just a few years ago, a sequential slog of snooze buttons and serious session of mental self-flagellation was required to drag myself out of bed before the sun or at least before the last possible moment that would get me clean, caffeinated, and out the door to the office on time.
“Get to it! You are needed, they can’t do it without you! Hurry, you’ll be late, shame on you!” The demons taunted.
For a decade or more, getting up in the dark felt like an affront to my nature.
First, to the cool-headed intellectual, ultra-bohemian artiste self-image I longed to live up to. And, second, to the notion of hardworking, dedicated professional that had shorn up my identity, my sense of self-worth, and every little success I had ever had since grade school … or so I thought.
What I realized – actually scratch that, it wasn’t just one realization, but many many tiny ones consistently over time.
What I realized was that it was the patience of daily practice, the incremental enlightenment of sitting with the rising light inside me that ever so slightly, perceptibly shifted the reason why I got out of bed, and eventually how and when I did so.
And it wasn’t the 9 to 5. It wasn’t work. The reason, or the realization.
Work isn’t our reason for being, even if it takes up a third or more of our days.
What I had done – all that I had done – was make a small commitment to starting better. To waking up with one simple thought: I am breathing in, I am breathing out. To being as is.
Over time this thought grew. Into a multiplicity of breaths. Into a 5-min meditation in bed and then to more time on the cushion. Into a softening of the panic-making voices of my demon-nature. Into a breathing in the understanding that my days are better when I am present and alive in them and when I breath out and witness the ways in which I can and cannot contribute to the betterment of the world … And ultimately this starting better grew into a full-blown morning routine that sustains me so well that I can now serve others without the resentment of fatigue and force.
This is not the grind of working 9 to 5 but the wisdom of the 5 to 9. It’s still eight hours, but done better.
Here’s to waking up every day! To knowing with each breath we renew the intention to be better. This is no small thing.
Today is a great day to start.