I almost always have the intention to get up early in the morning and go for a walk before I do ANYTHING else, including showering—lest I be tempted to check my emails or engage in some other time-squandering activity. “No,” I tell myself. “Just get up, brush your teeth (that one’s non-negotiable), and throw on your jeans and a sweatshirt—any one will do—and go.”
Then morning comes, it’s semi-dark outside, and the warmth of my bed and comforter often seduce me back to dreamtime. Today was no exception except that my brain started ruminating on the refrain in Rumi’s poem, Don’t Go Back to Sleep:
The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!
The words were relentlessly insistent. I sat up, turned on my night lamp and noticed the book I had taken down from my bookshelf last night and placed there called Writing the Sacred: A Psalm-Inspired Path to appreciating and writing Sacred Poetry, by Ray McGinnis (which I highly recommend). I opened it randomly to a page that read:
“I wake up and a new day has begun. There is air to breathe…daylight. The earth is renewing itself with sunshine; or watering grass, gardens, and vegetation with rain. Birds sing; waves lap upon the shore. The earth pulsates with life.
…Most of us have a place we like to go that we call sanctuary; a place that is restful, healing, beautiful and revitalizing. I have a number of these places. One is close by, requiring only that I step outside my front door. There I can view the wonders of English Bay, walk along the seawall, listen to the waves crash along the shore, hear seabirds, and smell the salt in the air.
I have a route that usually includes Vancouver’s Lost Lagoon. On my way, I encounter raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, skunk, occasionally a coyote or beaver, swans, geese and other waterfowl.
When some people begin their day with the news, I begin it with a fresh encounter with the natural environment outside my home.”
Okay, this is no accident that Don’t Go Back to Sleep is echoing in my ears and this book and these passages await me. The book has 219 pages and I open it here? No accident.
And an even bigger coincidence (of course, there is no such thing), Ray is writing about a place I once lived, and the walk he takes is the same one I took almost daily and coveted—and it was also a stone’s throw from English Bay and Lost Lagoon. But that’s not all:
Just last night I answered an email from a woman who is receiving coaching from me to write her book. She said that she has been feeling depressed lately and is far behind in her work and is not motivated to write. She’s also in Vancouver and won’t be back until Thursday. “Can we hold off for now?” she asked. In my reply I let her know that our process is about nurturance and not pressure. Among some comforting words I offered her, I suggested she take time between business meetings to walk along the beaches of English Bay and Lost Lagoon! The very words that were on the pages meant for me this morning!
This was too obvious a message to ignore. It was stronger than a shake or tap on the shoulder whispering, “Junie, time to get up.” No, this was a message that was clearer than clear. And within minutes I was out the door.
It was cold and wet but that didn’t stop me. I walked down the street four blocks and was in Victoria’s answer to Stanley Park—Beacon Hill Park, which is lush and vibrating with new life: daffodils and crocuses are lifting their colourful heads in joy, the peacocks, ducks and geese are swimming, diving, flying, and walking upon the earth, in the pools, and in the fountains. The soft rain is leaving glass bubbles on the tips of leaves and in puddles on the pavement. Even the gray sky has a silver lining running through it this morning. And I can’t forget to mention the magnificent cherry blossoms that are showing off their pinkness in mid-February. In Canada! Seriously!
Oh my… Thank you Rumi and thank you Ray McGinnis. And to you, I say, don’t go back to sleep. No matter where you live, there are sounds and sights and smells that only come in the morning to wake us up in ways that nothing else can. This is what awaited me… just beyond my doorstep:
Don’t go back to sleep. Set your alarm for 6:30 a.m. and go for a 45-minute walk, taking your journal with you. Walk with all your senses awake: breathing in the air, notice what you see up close and in the distance. Are you warm enough? Are there other people on their way to work? Are you strolling city streets or pausing in nature? What sounds do you hear? When your senses are full, take yourself to a neighbourhood coffee shop, order a latte, take out your journal and fill the pages with your fresh memory of visceral and sensual delights.
Blessings to you,
P.S. If you live in Victoria and you want to join me for a silent mindfulness walk and a chatty coffee afterwards… email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love an early morning walking buddy to tell me, “Don’t go back to sleep. Don’t go back to sleep.”
As always, please leave comments below and/or join us in our private Facebook group, Junie’s Writing Sanctuary.