THE BLOG

Spiritual Wake-Up for Non-Morning People

01/29/2014 01:39 pm ET | Updated Mar 31, 2014
  • Rabbi Joseph Meszler Rabbi, Temple Sinai, Sharon, MA; Author, Witnesses to the One: the Spiritual History of the Sh'ma (Jewish Lights)

I am not a morning person. I have trouble getting out of bed. I hit the snooze button. I go downstairs, make sure the kids get going and want to crawl back under the covers, or maybe sit somewhere and fall asleep again.

Morning isn't easy for many people. My children, who are growing, are less interested in chatting with me in the car on the way to school then they used to be. Sometimes, as I drop them off, I complete both sides of a conversation out loud just to make myself feel better: "Have a nice day...Yes, Dad, have a nice day...I love you...I love you, too." They usually respond with an eye roll and a "bye" as they shut the car door. Are they learning to imitate my grumpiness?

How different is what the Rabbinic Sages say morning should be: "Greet every day like a lion! Wake the dawn; don't let it wake you!" Well, my lion is the toothless, lazy kind found in the zoo.

How can I be better at waking up to the new day, both physically and spiritually? I have learned that feeding my mind is just as important as feeding my body. The messages I give myself in the morning can set up the mood of the day. If I begin with listening to the morning news about everything wrong with the world, I will be starting my day from a low, negative place. But if I start with a positive message, then that is much better brain-food to digest and get me going.

Using a morning prayer from Jewish tradition helps set the right mood and motivation for me. My favorite morning Hebrew prayer is Modeh Ani -- "I thank you God, Ruler of the Universe, who has returned my soul to me! Great is your faithfulness!" There are a lot of catchy tunes set to these words.

This is where modern technology comes in. I set up Modeh Ani as the song to wake me up on my alarm clock. I also included, after the song, a recording of my children singing morning blessings from the prayer book. (Getting them to do this took some persuading, but eventually they got into it. Now they think it is cool I have recorded them, and like most kids, they like to hear themselves.)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So is a spiritual breakfast. We may want to wake up like a lion, but we have to tame the lion first from negativity. We do this by nourishing not only our bodies but also our minds. Often we need help -- a song or a recording with something hopeful can work. Taking control this way helps me wake the dawn the right way, rather than let it wake me.