Almost all meditation traditions recommend early morning – between 3 am and 6 am – as the best time to meditate. We look at why this is a great time for meditation and what is the second-best option.
The preferred time to meditate is in the morning before you get going for the day and get caught up in all the taskinessss of the day.
Recommended Morning Routine
Here’s a recommended morning routine. First thing, wake up so you’ve given yourself enough time, at least an hour, to check social media, get angered about some obscure issue you barely care about. Start posting and arguing with total strangers online. Be sure to get your body into a full-blown agitation so you’re completely distracted and unable to give any attention to those you love and the important work you have to do for your own wellbeing.
Oh wait, sorry. I’m going through my notes.
Oh, my mistake. That’s what’s, how not to start your morning. Okay. Let’s start over.
Bettter Morning Routine
Well, getting up early is still a good idea to relax, to take it slow, to make meditation an important part of your morning, to allow yourself the freedom to not rush through things.
Here’s what I do.
I wake up, number one task done.
I brush my teeth and then immediately after that I drink a glass of water. This is the most significant thing you will do your whole day. Even if you don’t meditate, just drink that glass of water. That’s really important. It’s a way of getting your body hydrated from not having had anything all night.
I feel the water just sort of fills me with energy. It fills me with an aliveness andwakes me up a little bit. It’s like I’m telling my body, all right, let’s do this. Let’s start the dayf.
After the glass of water, I take a shower.
I wash away any lingering negative feelings from the previous day. It gives me the attitude we’re going to begin this day a new. I have another 24 hours to conquer my world, not the world, but my world.
And then after showering, I get into some comfortable clothing. That’s a signal to me and to my body. I’m going to be meditating.
I know a lot of people will go work out at the gym or do yoga as their first real activity of the day, and that is super healthy and beneficial. If that’s your style, go for it. I highly recommend it.
I personally like to meditate before I leave the sanctuary of my house and I’ll usually do yoga at home after meditation or sometime later in the day. I love going to the gym to workout. But I like to do that in the evenings. You need to decide what works for you, your personality and your schedule.
Putting on comfortable clothes after showering does double duty. If I want to have a yoga session immediately after meditation, it’s there. It’s available for me.
Okay, so we’re wearing nice comfortable clothing.
Nourish Your Body with Fruit
The next step is to check on your tummy. Is it growling From not being fed overnight?
Mine usually is, which is why I start my morning with fruit.
I usually cut up some nice in-season full of flavor fruit and have that to break my fast of the night. That’s right. I breakfast on fruit.
Then I go to my meditation cushion and meditate.
I’ve already washed away the thoughts from the previous day. I’ve quenched my overnight thirst. I’ve settled my stomach with delicious fruit, and I have enough time left so I don’t feel rushed. I’ve given myself the perfect conditions to have a satisfying meditation.
Amrit Vela – The Early Morning – The Time of Nectar
Growing up in an Indian household, I was taught about how powerful the early morning hours are. These are the hours between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM and in the culture that I grew up in, those hours are called Amrit Vela. Amrit means nectar and vela means time.
It’s referring to the fact that this time, this quiet early morning time, is the time of nectar. And if you’ve ever been up during that time and done anything meditative or spiritual, it really does feel like that. It feels like a deeply spiritual time when it’s easy to connect with those unseen forces.
Now, I myself personally don’t believe in anything divine or spiritual or supernatural, but that time still is special to me. There’s a quietude to it.
It’s a low activity time of day. You might be one of the very few people awake trying to connect with a deeper sense of quiet and stillness within you.
Most Indian meditation communities and spiritual communities advocate for this time, the amrit vela, between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM.
Starting in my twenties for about 15 years, I got up at 3:00 AM every morning so I could be meditating by 4:00 AM and it was delightful. It was the most precious and effective meditation time I ever experienced.
How to Handle Night as Day and Day as Night
As I got older, life happened to me. Added work and family responsibilities.
There was a time for five years when I worked night shift. My night was day, my day was night. My sleeping was confused and my mind was a mess. I still meditated every day during that time, but it was a strange, untimely, unsynchronized with the rhythms of the world, type of existence.
And during the times when I was doing night shift, because I didn’t want to accidentally fall asleep while meditating before the start of my night shift, I would wake up, get ready, get everything together, including my overnight food for work, and then after everything was ready, I would drive to work 45 minutes early and sit in the car and meditate in the parking lot.
I figured if I’m in the parking lot, I don’t have to worry about being late. All I have to do is walk into the building and I’m at work. It gave me the freedom to meditate with ease without having the pressure of possibly being late for work.
I appreciate some of us can’t wake up at 3:00 AM to start meditating during the time of amrit vela. We all have different schedules and different lives. You have to do what’s right for you.
Honouring Your Schedule
Many of the meditation retreats I go on still have the option of a 4 am meditation. Sometimes I go to it, sometimes I don’t. It depends on how I want the rest of my day to go and also the rest of my week to go. Because when you shift sleeping times, it knocks you out for a few days.
If you are in a position to get up at 3:00 am and start meditating by 4:00, I highly recommend it. It truly is the time of nectar. A special stillness permeates the air and you can meditate without worrying about having to be anywhere in the next few minutes or even in the next hour. I find a free-flowing meditation comes out of it.
I’m no longer in the position of being able to get up that early. I have to be awake and clear-headed for the entire day, but upon retirement, I will definitely return to that schedule.
Leaving Enough Time for Morning Tasks
Nowadays, my preferred time to start my meditation is 6:30 AM. That gives me about an hour of non-worry time before I have to get to other worldly tasks. I try to begin the rest of my day around 8:00 AM.
Obviously, if your regular meditation is five minutes or 20 minutes, you need less lead time before getting to the other tasks of the day and you can begin your meditation sit later.
As always, consistency is more important in meditation than length. It’s more important than where you sit. It’s more important than when you sit. Start for however long and whenever long, you can meditate regularly and try to make that a daily habit.
Having said that first thing in the morning, and also one of the wind-down activities for the night are the two most preferred times to meditate.
Taking Advantage of Meditative Moments
Whether we meditate in the morning or not, we can still take moments of opportunity throughout the day to meditate. Every moment of meditation helps build the momentum for the next moment of meditation.
If you can’t meditate in the morning, you might have infants or toddlers or parents or pets. Or a really early morning job or other responsibilities that need to be addressed in the morning. That’s fine. It’s important to attend to your worldly responsibilities. It’s very healthy and it’s important.
But it’s also important to attend to your own wellbeing.
You can attend to your other responsibilities so much better when you give yourself the gift of self-care. When you give yourself the gift of building a strong foundation of well-being inside yourself. Once that happens, all those other things that need being done, you can do them much better.
Find a few minutes here or there at a regular time, if possible. At an irregular time, if that’s the only option.
Every moment of meditation builds momentum towards the next moment.
So when should we meditate? If you’ve listened to other episodes of meditation questions, You’re probably sensing a theme. I encourage a really practical approach to meditation.
I love meditation and I want you to love meditation too.
I don’t want anyone to see meditation as another task they have to get to. I don’t want meditation to be something guilt-inducing or creating the feelings, “I should have meditated” or “Oh, I missed my meditation, it’s not for me” or “I’m not meditating the right way or at the right time.”
We should try to bring a sense of joy and lightness to our meditation.
We should have the feeling as if it’s a delightful meal someone who truly loves us has prepared for us to enjoy.
So to answer the question of when we should meditate, we should meditate whenever it’s most practical for us.
But having said that, it’s okay to inconvenience yourself and get up a little earlier. If you can do it, do it at 3:00 AM. I did that for years and I loved it.
The Second Best Time to Meditate
If you’re not able to meditate during the amrit vela, the time of nectar, the second best time to meditate is when you will actually meditate.
That might be that in the morning or during lunch breaks or in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping or in the parking lot at work before it starts (that’s what I did for years) or in the kitchen while waiting for the water to boil for your morning tea or in the backyard as you’re raking leaves. Just taking a moment in between the raking to enjoy the fresh crispness of an autumn day.
Whenever you have an opportunity, take that opportunity.
When should we meditate?
We should meditate whenever we’re most likely to sit and meditate every day. That’s the best time to meditate.
The next best time to meditate?
It’s every OTHER moment of our life.