Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it 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 ~

Today is a glorious day. So, this will be a boring post, nothing much to say, nothing much to learn. The learning is right here, and the saying is being done by the birds with their own special dialects: some whistling, some chirping, some calling, some lilting. Shadows cast by a rising sun are crisp and bold, and it’s cool for a summer morning.

Can't beat this office space--computer, coffee, and a windowless world!

This poem by Mary Oliver reminds me that waking up late on a day like this is like leaving money on the table. Lately, I’ve been taking my computer outside with my coffee and feeling like I have the best “office” in the world. Some boast of their corner office with views. How much is the rent for a space like that in New York, I wonder? But can it be any better than my “office”? No, you can have your corner office, I’ll take my windowless one with my view of the potted plants and the birdbath, and Nessie at my side.

Many “doers” and self-help gurus tout the benefits of waking early from a productivity standpoint. Leo Babauta, of zenhabits speaks to it in his blog entry: 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How I Do it. Ben Franklin claims early to bed and early to rise will make us healthy, wealthy, and wise.

From a spiritual standpoint, I think rising early makes you feel part of the natural order of things. Sometimes when Nessie gets me out of bed for a walk as dawn breaks, I feel like I’m in the natural equivalent of “rush hour”–when dawn’s first light hits, you start hearing the bird’s morning chatter, the squirrels have already started staking out the goods underneath the trees, and the day is on the move!

This daily transition from sleep to wake, silence to action, inner world to outer world is all part of the ebb and flow of a harmonious life, and another reason waking early helps ground me–sets me up firmly on the balance beam we traverse during our waking hours.

A great self-help guide in walking this beam are the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. I am a novice in the spirituality of St. Ignatius, but I do know that it’s a very practical spirituality. I’ve been reading about it from authors such as Margaret Silf, Larry Warner, James Martin, and from a really great website, ignatianspirituality.com.

What I’ve learned so far is, in a nutshell, is that Ignatian spirituality is a discipline that is both contemplative and very active–a discipline you can wake to and go to work with. It’s a program of reflection, meditation, self-examination, and determining God’s will for us, and how to take the inner silence that this discernment requires and go out into the world doing your job, whatever that might be. It helps me store up the first cold press of the day, and use it as a generator for the active life. The result: the ability to find God in all things–the mundane and the chaotic, the kind as well as the “miserable and crotchety.”

Nessie in a morning meditative state

Today is the first day of a 31-day “IgnatiusFest” sponsored by Ignatian Spirituality.com. Here is the link to a cool calendar–each day has a new topic. Today’s is “What Is Ignatian Spirituality?” Tomorrow’s is “Why Do We Pray?” I encourage you to check it out. When I first started exploring this spiritual program (which the AA 12-steps were supposedly loosely based on), it seemed like it would be reserved for spiritual heavyweights, but this 31-day IgnatiusFest is a great way to learn about the spiritual exercises, break them down, and see how you might use them as part of your own spiritual journey.

Good morning.