Often, I wake up around 4:00am, compelled to reevaluate my entire life and overhaul my entire personality.

I awaken to a racing mind, a tense body, vivid images and long lists of all the things I wish were different in my life.

This used to bother me. A lot.

I’d replay memories and feelings, seduced into old strategies of needing to “figure it out.” Specifically, figure me out. And fix myself, of course. There’s always something that needs fixing.

I’d get distressed about being awake, annoyed with my critical mind, and stressed out predicting how tired I would be later in the day. I’d then try to force myself back to sleep. Unsuccessfully, of course.

The more I resisted being awake, the more distressed I became.

Ever the researcher-scholar, I turned to books and google (my personal, metaphorical duct tape for life). 

A sample of findings…

  1. Chinese medicine blogs: 4:00am waking could be related to deep unresolved grief. (Grief, me? Check.)

  2. The wonderful Rumi: “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.” (Stay awake? Check.)

  3. Wayne Dyer: We’re closest to Source Energy in the early morning hours, so get up and harness great inspiration and creativity. (Connect to Source Energy? Check.)

I stopped pathologizing my being awake so early.  I stopped seeing it as yet another thing “wrong” with me. I stopped fearing future fatigue that I was convinced would be my daily undoing. Changing my relationship to it, I welcomed wakefulness instead.

When you turn around to face and embrace those things you’ve been resisting or running from, possibilities open.  

These days, I’ve noticed a soothing internal shift around 4:00am.

A softening. A melting. 

Sometimes I just turn on my lamp, cuddle up with my comforter and enjoy a book.

Sometimes, I get up, make a cup of tea and sit in the living room starting at the trees outside and enjoying the darkness, getting present to my more feral feelings. 

  • I’ve learned to ask, “What important information wants to be seen and heard this morning? What grief is longing to be felt? What vision of a better future is driving these vivid self-reflections? What is deeply important to me right now?”

  • I’ve learned to trust that if something has enough energy to wake me up, that this same energy will also resource me to get through the day. It does.

  • I’ve learned I do some of my best thinking and writing before the world wakes up. It’s sacred time.

  • I’ve learned to trust the timing and process of waking up and to work with it, instead of against it. Non-resistance is key.

What about you?

  • Where do you resist “waking up” in your life?

  • What are you currently struggling against and judging?

  • What struggles and awarenesses are asking you to turn around and face them, welcome them, embrace them?

  • Where in your life could you flow with the river, instead of trying to paddle upstream?

As Mark Epstein writes, in The Trauma of Everyday Life, “When we stop distancing ourselves from the pain in the world, our own or others, we create the possibility of a new experience, one that often surprises because of how much joy, connection, or relief it yields. Destruction may continue, but humanity shines through.”