On a recent morning walk, I came upon a neighbor who was patiently waiting for his small dog to finish a thorough sniffing-inventory of a strip of ground cover along a popular sidewalk.
“There must be so much vital information there,” I said.
“They say it’s the equivalent of reading a morning newspaper,” he said.
Dogs know it’s wise to start your day by focusing on what’s important.
I’ve heard that generations ago, the Bible was the only book many people had in their house, which they would read every morning. In time, that was replaced by newspapers. Then television. Then email. Now, for many of us, it’s social media.
As we’ve become more attached to our devices as our first focus of attention, some thoughtful people have encouraged us to consider alternatives. “Sky before screens” is one suggested mantra…go outside and gaze at the stars before picking up a phone or tablet.
Sometimes, before we arise, we can just say, “Thank you” for the miracle of being alive.
One colleague said if he wakes up while it is still dark, he listens for the first bird song outside his window. Once some brave soul breaks the silence, others join in. He likes paying respects to the one who had the courage to start the concert.
I have a Jewish friend who begins each day doing yoga while reciting ancient morning prayers.
The first Muslim city I ever visited was Fez, Morocco. I wasn’t used to hearing Arabic, so when the local muezzin called the faithful to morning prayers from the tower as the sun rose, it sounded a bit jarring. But I became fond of it. There’s a melancholy beauty in the recitation, a soulful invitation to begin our day with gratitude and focus.
I’ve attended numerous retreats at St. Andrew’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery south of Lancaster. The chapel bell rings at 6 AM to call everyone to the first service, known as Vigils (Type-A early risers like the Trappists begin at 3:15 AM). Sometimes I’ve heard the bell and gone back to sleep. But other times I’ve gotten dressed and made my way out the door. Walking in silence to a chapel in the desert as evening gives way to daylight while being summoned by chanted praise is always worth the effort.
I knew a mother of young children so desperate to start her day with prayer that she would lock herself in the bathroom at 5 AM, leaving her husband to manage the chaos for just enough time so she could center herself.
Maybe the instinct to start the day with a meaningful focus lies deep within us.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Gelada Baboons in Africa. They wake up before dawn and find a place to greet the sun in silence. As described by photographer Simone Sbaraglia, they do it “just to wallow in the sun’s golden light.”
Photos: Simone Sbaraglia, Caters News Agency, https://www.slrlounge.com/golden-hour-worshipped-photographers-gelada-baboons-alike/