The winter months are behind us now. The days are growing longer and warmer. Winters have a quiet feeling, while nature rests. But spring inspires us to get moving again. There is increased energy in the longer hours of daylight. And we start to think about summer’s activities with our homes, families, and friends.
Every year, the lengthening days inspire me. I wonder if can I get up earlier and make better use of that extra time and energy. One of my motivations is the Brahmamuhūrta—but what’s that?
Brahmamuhūrta: The Time of Brahma
Brahmamuhūrta is a big Sanskrit word, but we can break it down into manageable parts. Brahma is the traditional Hindu god of creation. Hinduism recognizes countless gods—the names given to the various forms or activities of God, or Divine Consciousness. Let’s not get confused or put off by these names or images. It’s their energy and activities that we want to consider. In this case—the energy of creation. It’s happening around us all the time. Each day is a new creation.
Muhūrta is a period of time: 48 minutes. Brahma muhūrta is two of these time periods, therefore 96 minutes. To simplify, we can think of it as one and one-half hours.
The Best Time for Spiritual Practices
Traditionally, yogis consider one Brahma muhūrta before sunrise as the most auspicious time for meditation, prayer, and other spiritual practices. It’s the golden hour. The mind is most quiet just before the day begins. And, of course, a still mind is a boon to our meditation practice.
Yogic sages affirm the importance of rising before the sun. That’s because there is more natural energy inherent at the start of the day. We experience more physical strength, better mental clarity, and a more uplifting attitude.
I’ve always been impressed by stories of yogis rising very early to begin their spiritual practices. My Guru practiced during this time, as did his. Gurudev tells us, “Wake up well before dawn; the radiance you acquire from meditation at this time will remain with you throughout the day.”
Sarada Devi rose daily at 3:00 a.m. for her practices. The rest of her day was spent serving her husband, Ramakrishna and his many visitors. Even Jesus Christ, in the midst of his pressing mission, used the early morning for prayer.
“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, he went out and departed to a solitary place; and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35
Benefits of Earlier Meditations
In “The Benefits of Meditation“ I outlined many of meditation’s advantages. These benefits are yours, whether you meditate early, late, or during the day. Even if your meditation practice doesn’t feel like meditation, you still benefit. If the only time you can practice is during the middle of the day, thoughts racing through your mind, you still profit from the practice.
But I’ve discovered additional gifts of predawn practices. The most notable is the lack of distractions. The phone doesn’t ring. Our noisy neighborhood garbage collector hasn’t yet begun his work. It’s too early to walk the dog, and even the birds aren’t singing. It’s dark and quiet. The earlier I start my practice, the fewer distractions there are.
Just before and after I meditate, I also study yogic scriptures. These texts are often terse and deep. Studying early and in conjunction with meditation helps the wisdom of these books take root in my mind. I remember them throughout the day because I read with more focus.
The effects of early meditations seem to last longer throughout the day. An early meditation practice gives me more clarity. I can stay focused longer and make better decisions. Also, it’s easier to increase the length of my meditation time during the Brahma muhūrta. Nature’s energy hasn’t yet drawn me into the day.
What About Night Owls?
I admit to being a morning person. I love the quiet, early darkness. But what about night owls—people who swear by the evening hours? They think more clearly and get more done in the evenings. Night owls can benefit from the latest research on our biological clocks.
Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep specialist, uses the latest research on the human circadian rhythm. In his book The Power of When, he suggests the best timing for many activities based on four chronotypes. Understanding your natural rhythm can help you find the best time for your meditation practice.
Can night owls hope to make use of ideal times to meditate? Although it’s best to meditate before sunrise, the energy of sunset is also very effective. Additionally, the most ideal approach is a consistent schedule. Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, consistency in your practice will produce the best results.
How I Trained Myself for Early Rising
When I first heard the inspiring stories of yogis meditating at 3:00 a.m., I was determined to follow their examples. But setting my alarm clock for that time wasn’t effective. If I hadn’t slept enough, I couldn’t awaken for meditation. Even if I managed to get up and sit, I fell asleep almost instantly.
I needed more sleep. That required going to bed earlier. Since it’s not practical to retire by 7:00 p.m., meditating at 3:00 a.m. wasn’t possible.
Still determined, I resolved to rise as early as possible. I trained myself through tiny increments to awaken earlier until I found the timing that fit my daily schedule and physical needs. It took time and effort, but it was worth it. I now have a solid, satisfying meditation schedule.
Spring’s Promising Opportunity
All nature is affected by the time changes of the seasons. When the days shorten, our energy decreases. It’s natural to slow down and rejuvenate. Then Brahma muhūrta is later, by the clock, and we can meditate later if we wish.
But when spring arrives, the sun begins to rise earlier and set later. Our energy increases. Then we have a chance to overcome the sloth that crept in during the winter.
Now is your opportunity to adopt the Brahma muhūrta as your meditation time. Set your alarm to wake up five minutes earlier each week. When summer is here, you’ll already be enjoying the many benefits of the golden hour of meditation.
Chityānanda has been a disciple of Svāmī Gurupremānanda Sarasvatī since 1975. She teaches meditation and yoga as a spiritual path in Santa Cruz, California.