The Mindful FAQ: Why Meditate Early in the Morning?

Test your theory about not being a morning person.

Illustration by Susan Haejin Lee

I’ve heard that it’s best to meditate early in the morning, like 5:00 a.m. Why? I’m afraid I’d fall asleep!

I know some people find that hour to be a good opportunity for practice, before the sounds of the day begin to creep in: the newspaper delivery, the garbage truck, the smell of coffee brewing or bacon beginning to fry. (Nothing acts as a meditation repellent as well as bacon frying in the morning.)

But we each have our own rhythm and routine. I would encourage you (if you are inclined) to go ahead and try 5:00 a.m. for a week or so. See what happens. Perhaps you’ll fall asleep, or perhaps, wonder of wonders, you may fall awake instead!

There is a kind of early-morning alertness that some of us possess and others only despise about us. There are morning people, and there are night people, but in fact these are just stories we tell about ourselves.

I once had a participant in a mindfulness course who said, “Everybody who knows me knows that I’m the diet cola lady. I go through six to eight cans of diet cola every day, and I always have one nearby. This week I decided to pay really close attention to what I take in, including diet cola. And you know what I discovered? I don’t like it!”

This woman had once perhaps liked diet cola, began drinking it, and stopped paying attention to it. Then at some point the story of her being the “diet cola lady” took precedence over her actual experience of diet cola such that she perpetuated a story that was not based on any actual desire or even affinity on her part.

So test out your story of not being a morning person, and if after a week or so you still find yourself awakening an hour later with a start and find a little rivulet of drool making its way down your chin, you might think about trying an evening meditation time instead. But be willing to explore, to try, and to see what works for you.

This article appeared in the December 2017 issue of Mindful magazine.