It's OK, I know! Getting up early isn't most peoples favourite things. And getting up even earlier to meditate is pretty much the biggest killer in committing to a regular practice. What is the difference, and does it even matter anyway?
Well, firstly let's look at the benefits of both - meditating in the morning, or meditating in the evening, or whenever you can find time to squeeze it in.
I'll start with the evening meditation as I find that this is where many people find themselves landing up, being unable to commit to a new morning routine, which may involve getting up half an hour earlier than normal….
Benefits of meditating in the evening
Meditating in the evening, after work or just before going to bed is a beautiful thing to do. Once the stress and responsibilities of the day are over, it is a wonderful way to totally switch off and transition from the work aspect into your personal life and to make a very clear definition between those two areas. Meditating before bed is a much healthier way to bring the activity of your brain down preparing it for the state of deep relaxation it needs if you are to get the best quality sleep possible, to feel refreshed and restored in the morning. Hurrah!
Benefits of meditating in the morning
If you commit to sitting first thing in your day, you are committing time to yourself before all of your other responsibilities have begun to crowd in on you - family, partner, work, shopping, all the thousands of things that we each need to do on a day-to-day basis. This is the time that your mind is already clear and so sitting can be easier and less 'noisy' if you do it first thing. If you are able to meditate in the early hours, as the sun is rising, you also take advantage of the gathering energy of the day around you, the waking of the world, and you align your own energy with that of the Universe. It can really energise and set you up for the day in a way that coffee and Facebook will never be able to do!
The ideal time to meditate
Of course we each make our own choices and if you are sitting regularly, you will find what works best for you, but from a classical perspective, that of the ancient teachings and wisdom upon which I rely to guide me in my own practice, nothing can beat early mornings - or the ambrosial hours, or Amrit Vela, as they are known.
I struggle with this. I've had times when I've been able to spring out of bed at 5am, and earlier, without resistance, other times I have a daily battle with myself and my snooze button. But I know, that when I meditate first thing, it completely transforms my day.
Meditating in the evening is nice, it's relaxing, it's comforting, but it's like putting a sticking plaster on the wounds of the day. It doesn't help me to actually face the problems that arise, as they arise, which sitting in the morning does. Sitting in the evening soothes the traces of the day's battle scars. Sitting in the morning gives me clarity and energy and resolve and commitment to do my very best, to excel in all areas of my life, to face my battles head-on, and come through victorious.
If I am committed to a daily 40, 90, 120-day, or even longer practice, then getting to the evening, mentally and physically tired from the day, and knowing that I HAVE to do it before bed, otherwise I will be back at day one the very next morning, can be excruciating. There isn't a single day where I have pushed my meditation to the evening, that I don't regret massively not having done it in the morning instead.
So there's the beauty of hindsight. It doesn't always help me, but it does help a bit. One of the best ways to side-skip this avoidance/regret cycle of pushing my meditation back, is that I know, once I have sat, once I have spent my time on my mat, have honestly and wholeheartedly given myself to my practice, there is a lightness to my day that - seriously - nothing else can give me. Knowing that I have done the single most important part of my day (giving to myself first and foremost, putting all other responsibilities second to my spiritual growth and development) gives me energy for the rest of the day and I feel full, content and completely alive and vibrant as I go about all the tasks that otherwise might drain or overwhelm me if I hadn't sat first thing.
At the moment I'm playing with a funky little app called Sleep Cycle which I can set to wake me when I am in the lightest part of my natural sleep rhythm to see if I can make those early mornings a little easier (you lay it next to your pillow and it magically monitors your movement at night and maps that on to your natural sleep cycles - clever! And you get cute little graphs and stuff to look at when you wake up again!). Ultimately I need to just commit to getting out of bed as soon as the alarm rings - some days are easier than others, I will fully admit that.
But as a student of mine says, "The moment you're sitting on your mat, you've won!" And it's so true - all the turmoil, all that inner screaming and temper tantrums that your Ego throws to keep you from sitting, they are gone the moment your bum touches the floor, you close your eyes and tune in. It's amazing, and quite frankly, scary how much resistance our mind can put up to the idea of getting up half an hour earlier to sit in stillness. If you recognise this in you, then, like me, clearly there is a lot going on in there that needs to be looked at, cleaned out, resolved and released. It can be a dirty business, meditating, but one that, ultimately is as rewarding and fulfilling as throwing out years worth of junk from an old cupboard or shed.
Please share your experiences of meditating - morning, evening, somewhere in-between. Have you had any interesting insights in your own practice, and experimentation of the optimal time of day to sit. Please stop by below and let us know - I look forward to sharing.