Even my daughter thought I was crazy to deliberately wake before 4 a.m. to do an early yoga, meditation and prayer practice with my friend Katherine.
But we’re Up North, preparing to lead a retreat focused on finding your voice through writing and yoga, so what did I have to lose?
Of course, I woke at 3:50 a.m., Spirit pushing me to do it. I climbed out of bed and into warm clothes and pulled my yoga mat and warm wool blanket from India into the common room. It was black outside, the skeletons of trees outlined against the shadows.
It starts with Japji, the Gurmukhi prayers one after the other like the ones I heard when I walked around the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. A river flow of words untangling off the tongue, the lilt of prayer like my people’s Hebrew, braiding along with our hearts and souls to pull us in a spiritual direction.
After that, we did a set of Kundalini yoga by candlelight. Moving the energy up the spine, loosening up the stiffness from sleep, generating heat. Finally, 62 minutes of meditation. I curled up under the blanket on my mat and slept, soaking in the soul-enriching blessings.
By the time we finished, the trees were bright green, back-lit by early sun. Cool air through the screen, a sweet kiss.
I felt fresh. Inspired. A totally different start to the day. When I rise early to swim, I am also inspired, but in a different way – something visceral and felt, my body awakened so my soul can calm.
Today was soul awakening. A little bit of body, too, but the point was to center the mind so that we can move from the heart all day long.
After a cup of coffee and some of the last local strawberries of the season, we did our heart-based meditation for 20 minutes. Then we ate strawberry-rhubarb bread with ghee, cucumbers and avocado on the side, and the day was full on its way.
I’ve heard about sadhana, this early morning practice in the Amrit Vela, the golden veil, the precious hours between 4-6 a.m. when our souls are at their high point and we can take in all of the beautiful blessings we choose to shower ourselves with.
But I was never inspired to get up and leave my house in the dark to experience it. I did it once in India but it didn’t move me like today. Today was simple and sweet and so enriching, and it was easy. I loved the Kundalini (which I always do anyway) but it just got me moving, body mind and spirit.
We stack our days wrong in this western world: work and rushing everywhere instead of planning our soul nourishment first and then fitting in everything else around it. Don’t you think we’d be so much more productive and accomplished if we flipped the order of our priorities?
Every tradition has its version of sadhana. In Judaism, the most involved prayers happen in the morning, inspired by sunrise. Start the day with prayer and it will guide you on your way.
In this way, we are all connected, as we are always connected. No matter what tradition we claim, there is an emphasis somewhere on connecting with our Spiritual Home before doing anything else. Say a prayer before eating. Thank God the first time you see the ocean after a long time away.
Notice the beauty of this world, not the angst. Remark on the specialness. Focus on the good fortune. Connecting to some lineage helps us to do this. When we are left to our own thoughts and demons, we often walk a crooked path.
So was it worth it, to get up in the mid-night to worship in a new way? Absolutely. I’ll do it again tomorrow because I’m here and my friend makes it easy for me to connect into the tradition.
I’ll get clear before I get anywhere else. So that I can be my best self. And go out into the world as if everything matters.