Practice Waking Up to Your Life

I wasn’t always a morning person.  I remember all throughout high school dreading the alarm clock and the school day ahead.  As an adult, I struggled many days waking up to my life, and to the challenges I would face that day.   Now however, through studying and practicing Buddhism, I’ve been introduced into an action orientated practice of acceptance of life’s daily challenges with a courageous heart.  I learned that meeting life’s challenges is all about walking a divine path towards your highest self, towards truly enlightened living.  The sun rises and sets everyday with out fail as an inherent marker for the beginning and end of this daily practice we call life.

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In February of 2013 I accepted a job in Chicago, IL but was still living in Racine, Wisconsin.  I knew the moment the job position was announced that it was my opportunity to claim, but the obstacles would prove to be tiring.  Commuting to work required that I get up at 4:30a.m. every morning giving myself 1 hour to get ready before hitting the highway for my almost 2 hour commute.  Leaving between 5:30a.m. and 6:00a.m. ensured that I would beat Chicago Rush hour traffic and be the first person to arrive at the office with plenty of time to make coffee for everyone and get settled.  When I accept a job, I strive for excellence which includes showing up looking pulled together, professional, and ready for to work.  I kept the commute up for 6 months before finding a 3 Bedroom 2 Bath apartment on the Northside of Chicago with a close friend who happened to be apartment hunting at the same time.

Now I’m happy to report, my commute is 25 minutes on the brown line train, or if I choose to drive 15 minutes with no traffic, 30 minutes with traffic.  With so much extra time you would think I would pour it all back into getting more sleep.  I did just that for the first few weeks…sleep.  I borrowed countless hours of sleep in order to prepare myself for the work I was doing.  Now, I need to leave my place by 7:30a.m., to arrive to work early, which means if I need an hour to get ready, that means waking up by 6:30a.m.  As a Nichiren Buddhist my daily practice involves chanting in the morning and the evening.  The longer I chant, the more centered I am to  handle the challenges ahead or to brush off the layer of fatigue and frustrations from the day.  Adhering to my buddhist practice would add more time to my morning routine.  I also recently made a commitment to mindful eating as a part of my practice for life.  After negotiating with myself I settled on allowing myself 30 minutes for breakfast, 30 minutes to chant, and 1 hour for shower, hair and makeup.  After doing the math, this meant getting up at 5:30a.m. every morning.

These are the time guidelines around my morning practice.  Is everyday perfect?  Far from it, but I am aware that each day is a chance to do better, and to be better.   Some days I chant for 15 minutes, and some days I miss and don’t chant at all.  Some days I have a bagel and orange juice.  Some days I cook eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Some days I’m lucky to grab a banana on the way out the door.  The point is I’m aware that how I start my day has significant influence on how my day goes and how it ends.

Part of being able to wake up well for your life is having adequate rest.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night and adolescents 8.5 – 9.5 hours of sleep per night.  7 hours seems like an adequate amount of sleep for me so now that I wake up at 5:30a.m. every morning, this means being asleep by 10:30p.m.  To assist myself in achieving this goal I have set a reminder on my iPhone to tell me it’s bedtime at 10:00p.m.  I will write a separate post soon on sleep practices, but for now I will point out the fact that the the quality of your sleep directly impacts the way you wake up to your life.  Examine your current morning routine.  Is there room for improvement?  If so then practice starts tomorrow morning.

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