A few times this week I’ve woken up around 4:15 am. Intellectually this would be a good time to get up – no harsh sun and temperatures in the low 80’s. Yet, I invariably fall back to sleep for another hour or so. Today I decided to just try getting up and staying up.
I went into the kitchen and put my breakfast on. This morning it would be cauliflower chicken curry and my usual cup of germinated brown rice. I put the two into a small cast iron pan and turned the electric stove on low. Breakfast would be warm in about 20 minutes and would not burned even if I became preoccupied and did not return for an hour or more. When it was time to eat, I’d add some oil (flax or coconut to the rice) a dash of Spike (seasoned salt mix) and two raw large carrots. I used to microwave my food, but this slow heating alternative pleases me.
My mind noted that this morning it felt like winter. I was surprised by the thought and realized that it had been winter the last time I was up before dawn. I am up before the sunrise almost everyday, but to be up while it was still dark and the stars were still shining was rare this summer. Interesting that my body and energy associated this “being up while it was still dark” with “winter”.
I proceeded outside to do my morning practice of chi gung and tai chi. My objective is to be 100% present and in the moment when I practice. Although I have a body memory of the movements, and can go through the form on automatic pilot, I focus on my body and how the energy feels moving.
I noticed how wonderful the morning was. It was getting lighter, but even the birds were still and quiet until about 15 minutes into my routine. I was outside and it was early morning in the desert. Absolutely spectacular!
I remembered my first trip to the desert when I was a teenager. I took a course called the Natural History of Anza Borrego. On the trip, I decided to sleep out away from the group at a location that was sure to get the first rays of sunrise. The memory of the trip and the dawn’s first light brought me pleasure.
I continued to think about how I’d like to wake up like this every day and the best way to do that was to sleep outside. When I sleep outside I am more in rhythm with the planet and my subconscious notices the changes in the environment leading up to dawn and awakens me.
I began planning where I’d sleep, how I’d hang my mosquito netting, what type of bedding I’d use, and alternates to all these ideas. I was wondering how long before the nights became too hot to sleep outside comfortably. I thought some about my plan, then have a memory of the past, connect the two and then focus on the smooth even flow of my tai chi movements.
Eventually I noticed that much of my thoughts were not in the moment doing tai chi. I was in the past, remembering. I was in the future, planning. I was also a very good multi-tasker because my mind would flip back into being with the birds or the movements of my body, the now, before it would be swept away by another idea. Indeed, it is possible for me to have part of my mind in the present moment and part of my mind planning or remembering.
It is really cool how the mind works. I traced back the mindstream until I found the point of major deviation. I found that the pleasure of being in the desert before the dawn triggered my mind to try to capture it and keep it. Instead of fully enjoying the moment, I was figuring out how to have that moment every day. Logically, if I liked what was going on, I would focus more on the moment. Yet, I have the illogical mental habit of planning. Perhaps, I enjoy planning more than I enjoy the experience of spontaneous life.
I have been noticing recently how I think certain thoughts repetitively. For instance, after several years of living on savings, I finally have work that pays my bills. I tend to think about this with appreciation over and over. It is like I’m using the thought to create a certain feeling. I suppose I have a very subtle financial insecurity that this thought alleviates. When I observe the thought and my body’s reaction very closely, I can almost feel a surge of some “pleasure” chemical being released. Even if I don’t have financial insecurity, I am “using” the thought to produce pleasure in my body. Does this mean I’m addicted to the thought and the chemical it produces?
The practice of introspective and extrospective awareness, sometimes referred to as mindfulness, allows me to know what I am doing,why I am doing it and the consequences of my actions. This awareness can then inform my actions. I am finding, through this practice, that I have many habitual mental habits that don’t appear to be useful. It appears that my mind is awakening, but that it is still before dawn.