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It was so hard to wake up today.
I hit the snooze button five times in a row—I counted!
First, I untangled the phone from the charger. Then, I placed it on my bedside table so I could hear better. Then on my husband’s pillow, so I could reach easier. Then, I fell asleep, holding it.
After the hard work of snoozing repeatedly, I finally got up. I could hear the cheers from the heavens—and I smiled.
I join the right and left palm together at the center of my heart. I bow to a new day. I let go of the expectations and embrace what is.
Gratitude has been one of my greatest, most devoted companions. This humble feeling has let me unlock the secret of wakefulness in my life, gradually, consistently, and lovingly.
It is a practice, not a result. It is something I work on every day, with diligence, for when gratitude is nourished consistently, it grows. Joy and peace follow as the side effects. The practice starts anew each morning. And while it is simple, it requires a loving awareness for each action—yes, even for hitting the snooze button.
Today—this hard-to-wake up, hit-the-snooze kind of day—is a perfect day to practice gratitude.
I start my way down the wooden stairway toward the front door. The cat is waiting patiently to come inside. Unlike me, this black, panther-like animal has no trouble whatsoever waking up early to his daily chores. I admire him. I watch him patiently waiting for his bowl of food. He moves gently and pauses, his soft paws lightly bouncing off the floor as he nears his meal.
He glances at me, satisfied, and finishes his last bite, his rosy tongue showing great appreciation. Then he disappears into his nap chambers.
I decide to go for a walk first. My eyes feel too heavy to sit on the cushion right away. I need the fresh air to lighten my mind. I put a pair of old, black sneakers on my bare feet and walk straight out. I can feel the leftover sand inside the shoes. Step by step, I can feel the bounciness in my feet.
As I take strides, the question that keeps popping in my head is, “Are you half awake?” I still feel sleepy—until the buzz of a fast-approaching mosquito makes me quicken my pace. My brain still feels foggy, but I am in a dreamland solving the great mysteries of life.
I keep walking, feeling each step I take, just like I have been taught in my walking meditation class. I feel the lightness slowly unwrapping from the soles of my feet through the bones of my legs up into my chest. The drop of my shoulders releases the tightness in my back, and my gaze softens. The grass looks even brighter now.
I turn the corner and there they are: my neighbors, a friendly couple in their early 60s. She holds the dog’s leash, always—firmly, focused, and intense. Even when she tries to smile, she looks stern and overburdened. He walks beside her. It looks like he is hovering around, never knowing exactly where his place is, but trying to cover it all. He reminds me of a yellow bumble bee, landing repeatedly at different places in the center of the flower to drink its nectar. Never missing a single spot.
Their dog, Betsy, greets me gently. She looks like a good companion and seems to balance the couple with her quiet nature. I smile and greet them. In just this brief encounter, I feel connected to them. They have invited me into their space, and I have invited them into mine. Our paths have intersected many times now.
To live my life half-awake is not my purpose. I demand from myself to fully wake up every day, with each encounter—hitting the snooze button on my iPhone, the cat, the mosquito, the neighbors and their dog, or the morning walk. It does not need to be perfect. Perfection is not the goal. Practicing with diligence is, and showing up, being present to what arises.
When I show up, I make sure the right attitude is there—that I approach each moment with an open mind, that I can allow space for anything to be just as it is.
Sometimes there is not enough space. I feel the tightness. I feel the fatigue. I feel the boredom. I feel the hesitance. I feel the doubt. I feel the sadness. And I let myself feel it. I don’t walk away from it—I walk with it. I make friends with it. I like to make that feeling known and accepted. I try to get that feeling to talk back to me, unafraid of being judged.
I recently came across an article by Pema Chödrön called “Three Methods for Working with Chaos.” Being a practitioner of Buddhism myself for the past couple of years, I drank her words thirstily and earnestly. Feeling it, like the sand in my shoes waking up my feet—not always comfortable, but it serves a purpose higher than just comfort.
Then I went back to her article and read it again, slower. The need to reread felt right, and necessary, just like the little bit of extra sleep I needed in the morning. I went at it a third time, really savoring each morsel, exactly like my black cat Berry ate his breakfast, with deliberation and pure satisfaction. What stood out for me was her explanation of the third method: “regard what arises as awakened energy.” She shares:
“The third method for working with chaos is to regard whatever arises as the manifestation of awakened energy. We can regard ourselves as already awake; we can regard our world as already sacred.”
If we already see ourselves as awakened, and the world as sacred, there is only room left for gratitude. Pema continues, “Whether we regard a situation as heaven or hell depends on our perception.” Then she encourages us, “Finally, couldn’t we just relax and lighten up?”
I invite all of us to have a snooze day, and not guilt-trip ourselves about it. Snuggle into our soft sheets again and set our alarm clocks early enough that we earn ourselves early bird access to snooze-land without interrupting our day. Getting up, we can connect to the heart and extend our gratitude. We have awakened. We have earned another day to practice on this Earth how to be a human, and become better at it.
Our Earth life becomes our playground. We enjoy a walk, greet the trees, love our neighbors. As we lighten up, the world around us responds. The space has been created. The invitation has been sent. The paths intersect.
As long as we don’t mind a little sand in our shoes, we play along—and it feels just right.