It's still very dark when I roll out of bed at 5:00 am. The town is silent and cold below my window, lit by the misty pools under orange street lights. The occasional early commuter zips by on the main road down the hill. The waning moon is high in the clear autumn sky.
I throw on a sweater and slippers and tiptoe downstairs to make tea. The mornings have suddenly gone from thankfully cool to a bit too chilly and there's a hint of frost in the air when I close a window left open. The popping of the kettle and the crow of the morning's first rooster punctuate the silence. The kitten scratches at the door. I let her in and light the fire I laid the night before.
While the kindling sputters, I set up my meditation space, light candles and smudge with sage. The smells of herbal tea, wax and sage smoke surround me with a sense of well-being. When my meditation is finished, I settle down in my rocking chair by the fire, drink tea and do a bit of reading on ancient goddesses, which is my current unnecessary indulgence of the day.
I do a joint-friendly workout and shower. By 6:30 the first gray light is coming out of the east. It feels wrong to wake children up so early but I have to. In the winter, the light will come even later.
Feeling a bit guilty I pull their clothes on over their heads while they try to burrow back under the covers. And the morning routine is well and truly started.
It isn't always easy for me to get up this early. I won't claim that I do it purely for pleasure. I'm sure there are some who do and I can see the attraction. The stillness and peace of early morning is matched by very few other moments, especially if your head is clear from sleep rather than muddled by an all-nighter.
But like most people, I used to think 7:00 was a respectably early hour to rise. So what changed? Why do I get up so early?
Well, I also used to think daily spiritual practice was an incredible feat only possible for monks living in isolated mountain monasteries--far from the stresses of professional jobs, election years and children. But then I started doing my thing some weekday mornings after the kids were in preschool. I felt much better on the days when I could fit it into the schedule, usually between 7:00 and 8:00 am. But on weekends--with the whole family home and going places--it seemed impossible.
Then after about two-years of doing mostly daily spiritual practice, I wanted it even in the summer and on weekends. The relief from stress outweighed even sleep deprivation. So, I started getting up before everyone else,
Z. E. Budapest writes in Grandmother Moon that we each have a certain time of the twenty-four-hour cycle which is our personal golden hour, and that it tends to be directly opposite to our most lethargic time of the day. I'm most tired and frustrated at about five in the afternoon, most of the time, regardless of what I've been doing all day. According to Budapest, this means my body's own rhythm is primed to be up at 5:00 am.
The theory entirely rests on my ability to keep an early bedtime in a world where most people are still functional far past 10:00 pm and most of the internet is just getting fired up at that hour in my time-zone.
So, it's not without it's struggles. There are times when I don't get to bed early enough and it is hard to get up in the morning. But the rewards of making it work are enormous.
We need a stress-free hour without the demands of children or work. And I want to use my freshest moments for something stimulating, rather than sink it into the bottomless pit of the daily grind.