During a typical workweek, when I get into a flow from day to day and wake-up early to read, write, and exercise, the first thought that I usually have, after turning off my alarm, is “x more days until the weekend and I can sleep in.” I really dislike the first moments of waking up. I get up much earlier than my wife, and I am always afraid that my alarm is going to wake her up, so I try to roll over, find my phone, and turn off my alarm as quick as I can. After that, as I groggily pull myself out of bed, I usually think about getting an extra hour or two of sleep in the morning on Saturday and Sunday.
In The Miracle of Mindfulness, author Thich Nhat Hanh describes a Buddhist monk named Doc that he once met. Hanh briefly writes about Doc’s daily routine and how he incorporated mindfulness into his day from the very beginning. “When he woke up in the morning,” Hanh writes, “his first thought was, ‘Just awakened, I hope that every person will attain great awareness and see in complete clarity.'”
The monk was building awareness and mindfulness into his day from the very beginning of each day. I rarely think beyond the initial moment and my desire to continue sleeping when I wake up. I could certainly allow myself to be a little slower with turning off my phone and I could make an effort to be more aware and mindful in my first moments. Running this thought through our minds at the outset of the day helps us be present and recognize that we are in the process of awakening and that nothing terrible has happened to us yet (even waking up as early as I do is not a terrible torture). This helps to set us up for a productive and self-aware day, something that is often missing when we go through the world complaining about each given moment. Doc’s thought is powerful because it aligns our thoughts to be productive, and opens us to compassion toward others as we are recognizing the mental challenges and struggles that others will face as soon as we wake up, rather than thinking about our own misfortune.