How Do You Wake Up?

A note from Erin


How Do You Wake Up?

There is something so powerful about waking up in the morning. There are so many ways to do it.
How do you do it?
I’ve been particularly struck lately by noticing, “What is the question I ask myself when I wake up?” The morning unfolds in unique ways depending on what this question might be.Imagine the flow of neurochemicals, the kinds and quality of activities, the feelings and thoughts that follow these questions, “How soon do I have to be somewhere? What’s on my to-do list?” (I almost feel myself panting, my eyes darting around, ready to pounce on the day. Yuck.)Imagine the flow of neurochemicals, the kind and quality of activities, the feelings and thoughts that follow, “How do I want to feel today?” (Do I even need to tell you how crazy-much I love it when I start my day with this question!?)

This lovely piece hangs in my office and is a great reminder on so many levels. :) Thanks PapayaArt!

How about waking with “How can I be more loving today?”
or Do I reeeeally haaaave to get out of bed?”

Maybe, “How can I move through this day with least effort and most pleasure?”
or “How many emails am I behind on replying to?” (I don’t even want to go there!)

Perhaps, “How can awareness of impermanence help me to live my life fully today?”
Or maybe, “What wisps of dream do I remember? What are they here to teach me?”

Maybe, “How am I going to make enough money today?”
or alternately, Can I greet the joyful moments in my day with wholehearted gratitude?”

These feel soooooo very different to me.
I know each of these states in the morning. Intimately. I bet you do too.

Here’s Rumi,

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!”

He invites us to listen for secrets in the dawn breezes. That might be a great awakening question!
“What secrets does the dawn have for me today?”

He says, “You must ask for what you really want.”

That might be another awakening question.
“What do I really want? I mean really. The want that lives under all the surface wanting… What is it that I’m really about?” 

For me, it’s essential to take quiet as a companion in the morning.

I remember years ago when my sweetie and I were staying with friends, we let them know, “Carl and I don’t usually talk in the mornings for awhile. Not even to each other. Please don’t be offended.”

It’s just because, well, the dawn has secrets…. and they’re much harder to hear once there’s too much other noise.

In many contemplative cultures, the early morning hours are called “the sweet time,”and for me? Oh, how sweet it is. To wake with the earliest birds, before dawn. Before the neighbors awake, before there are many cars zooming around. To me, it feels like the collective consciousness of the city is still asleep and quiet, allowing we early-risers to find the deep sanity that precedes the busy buzz of a day. I love to meditate during the sweet time. Or even just to sit on my porch, quietly sipping my morning coffee, listening to the crickets. Rumi says, “People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.” It’s a magical time.

I think also of the importance of how we choose to move our bodies upon awakening.One client shared with me that she used to set her alarm clock on the other side of her bedroom so that its fight-or-flight inducing blare would compel her out of her bed to rush uncomfortably across the room to quiet the noise. (In her mind, this was simply ensuring that she’d actually get out of bed.) She’d hit snooze only to repeat the ritual a few times (progressively feeling the strain in her body from bolting out of bed and rushing to her distant alarm clock repeatedly) until she finally gave in and got up for good. She was amazed by the profound change in her life when she chose an alarm clock with a mellow chime and set it right where she could reach it from bed. (She was worried she might sleep through it, but she never did.) I also invited her to start her day by moving with as much ease and pleasure as possible, setting a tone for a friendly connection with her body and her movement, and not reinjuring herself right off the bat.

Moving in a nonaggressive way sets a profound physical impression of gracefulness and self-respect and orients us toward the radical path of least effort.  She’d never thought of it. (How would she? We live in a culture that honors us for straining ourselves.) No more sitting bolt upright, straining neck and back, but perhaps leisurely rolling her head a few times to feel her neck that morning, enjoying a few moments of deeper breathing, circling her ankles, stretching out her arms and legs and after 20-30 seconds, rolling in a graceful way to the side, swooping up to sit with ease.  It really only takes a minute longer.Do you begin rushing the very moment your eyes open? Where are you rushing to?The end? 

Years ago another client whom I’d invited to explore this way of waking up used to show me with delight the various creative ways she’d discovered to roll, spiral, or swoop out of her bed, paving the way for not only feeling better in her body, but also stimulating an attitude of creativity, curiosity and playfulness in her day.

If you know there’s an easier way, but you continue to move in ways that hurt your neck, can you really blame your pain on your neck? (Feel free to substitute “back,” “shoulder,” “hip,” or whatever you like.) It’s the classical kind of annoying/empowering inquiry we Feldenkrais teachers love to offer (and ask ourselves as well.)

What do you ask yourself upon awakening? (Do you have some good morning questions? Share them! I’d love to hear. Hit reply and let me know.)

How do you move your body as you awaken? 

It’s one of the most potent times of day to set the tone for everything that follows.
May it be one of ease and inspiration.
(That is, if you‘re into that kind of thing!)

Grateful we’re connected,


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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.