Sadhana: Best Time to Meditate

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You know you should be meditating, right? You tell yourself you’ll start this weekend. There are reminders all around you. Your Instagram feed is awash with long-haired women with zen faces and hands neatly positioned in prayer pose, and you either want to roll your eyes or you look at them like exotic animals from a foreign land you don’t know how to get to. The concept of meditation is pulling at you, and you may be trying to push it away.

I studied the physiologic benefits of meditation for years before I was convinced that it was as powerful an intervention as nutrition, movement, and detox, if not more powerful. The Benson-Henry Institute has been amassing before and after studies for 4 decades. I knew all of this and yet I too didn’t commit to a daily practice.

But then, I began to develop a sense of inauthenticity in my recommendation of the intervention to patients, despite rationalizing that they needed to meditate and I just should meditate. We make a lot of excuses in order to keep ourselves from changing.

It wasn’t until my mentor, Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, died suddenly that out of sheer desperation, agony, and grief I got on my knees and began. Because I had already been drawn to the kundalini community, I knew that my efforts would be amplified if I pulled my weary self out of bed before dawn. They call it “sadhana,” or daily practice, but there is a strong recommendation for it to occur in the Amrit Vela or the ambrosial hours of the morning. In fact, I observed that there wasn’t a kundalini teacher who didn’t swear by the existential forklift that sadhana represents.

So that’s what I committed to. I set my alarm for 5:30am and I vowed not to change it, no matter what. It was two months before my entire outlook on life, relationship to my own body, and spiritual dynamism in the world completely changed. I was literally rewired in those two months. I went from a controlling, hypervigilant, stress-addict to someone who knows deeply what it is to feel calm at the center of it all. I no longer experience stress because I feel, inside me, that everything is ok.

And I’m not alone.

Daily practitioners sit in humble awe at how their lives begin to take on a magic carpet ride effect – people and information delivered to them in perfect synchronicity. Opportunities surfacing effortlessly. Radiant health, and access to a feeling of being in the flow of their lives rather than hanging on by their fingernails.

Here’s what my beloved patient, Ali had to say about it:

“Could you also let Dr. Brogan know I have been doing the kundalini protocol she recommended to me in the morning for two days at 5:30 and it has helped immensely. My heart is so full of gratitude for her (and you) and while I know I have a lot of healing and work to do for the first time in my life I feel empowered to heal myself and not at the mercy of a doctor or a drug.”

And this was just after two days!

Here’s why I ask my patients to do pre-dawn meditation every single day if they are ready for growth, healing, and transformation:

  • Wake at the Right Time: We were meant to awaken in the dark. Contrary to the assumption that we naturally rouse with the light, if you consistently go to bed before 10pm (essential for healing!), you will begin to naturally wake up around 5am or even a bit earlier. In my research, I have learned that the coldest time of the night is about 40 minutes before dawn, and that this is when our ancestors (and modern day aboriginal people) commenced morning rituals. Connect to your ancient toolkit for self-mastery.
  • Early Empowerment: If you start your day this way, you’ve already won even before you leave the house. You have set your intention to be your highest self, to push through resistance, to reclaim balance. You can carry this in your pocket all day like a precious gem. It will become an irresistible impulse over time. I promise.
  • Rewire Your System: When we open our eyes in the morning, we should, quite literally, begin weeping with awe and joy that we get to have one more day on this magical planet in this mysterious life adventure. Instead, our minds, like a lighthouse, search for what we have to freak out about. Undo this freak out, even in a few minutes, and send a different signal to your nervous and endocrine systems. Our stress hormone, cortisol, rises between 4-6am. If you can be in an intentionally meditative state during that window, you set the template for your reactivity for the rest of the day.
  • Accelerate Your Healing: Once you let go of your fear and your familiar relationship to your illness and you believe that you are ready to heal and transform, you will. We can’t command the timeline, however, there are tools for acceleration. In my opinion, kundalini yoga is one of the most powerful ones, and all the more powerful pre-dawn.
  • It Can Be Quick and Easy: Because you can start with just 3 minutes. Literally. Here’s what one Vital Mind Resetter had to say:

How to make the one decision that can change everything:

  • WARM UPS are optional, but there are a number of simple movements that support your body’s preparedness for the meditative state. Here are some examples.
  • CREATE SPACE for your practice. Use a special mat or blanket. Light a candle or burn some sage. Anoint yourself with an essential oil.
  • GO TO BED before 10pm. Stop doing work late into the night (this was a hard one for me but my productivity has sky-rocketed since I stopped working at night!) and stop watching TV. Just go.to.bed.
  • SET YOUR ALARM for no later than 6am. No snoozing. Sit up in bed right when it goes off. It hurts. I know. But it’s really only for about 5 minutes, and then you will ease into your practice, and feel the quiet peace of being awake when no one else is.
  • TUNE IN in kundalini yoga, we protect and fortify our practice through a mantra – Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo – which calls on a chain of mastery before us to connect to our own inner creative force. It goes like this.
  • MEDITATE with a 3-11 minute kriya or meditation, ideally one that you will commit to for 40 days. There are thousands of these online, but here is one example of a favorite of mine that can be done for 3 minutes, and one for 11 minutes. You can progress to doing full kundalini yoga sets like those featured on Golden Bridge Global Village (my favorite is called Kriya for Awakening to Your Ten Bodies), but start small and commit to daily practice first.
  • CLOSE with one “long Sat Nam” (which means, loosely, truth is my identity) with your hands in prayer pose.

This experience can be as short as 3 minutes or as long as 2.5 hours, but it’s in the daily commitment that your mind, body, and spirit get a message of safety. Everyone has three minutes to change their life. If you can’t carve out the three minutes, then it’s worth exploring what you are getting out of being stuck where you are. Does it feel familiar, whereas healing feels scary? Does your diagnosis make your struggle seem real? What if you were to shed it? Is your illness a means of connecting to others? These are deep, real issues, and I believe passionately in identifying where, how, and why we are getting in our own way. There are no judgments, no right and wrong, simply insights and awareness. Sometimes observing is the first step to change. The second step is choosing to commit, and that step is repeated every single day as you move closer to your most authentic self, and to the freedom and joy you know in your heart is possible.

Recommended reading:

Sacred Therapies

Meditation as Medicine

The Kundalini Yoga Experience: Bringing Body, Mind, and Spirit Together

KRIYA: Yoga Sets, Meditations & Classic Kriyas

Praana, Praanee, Praanayam

Rebirthing: Breath, Vitality, Strength

I Am a Woman: Creative, Sacred & Invincible Essential Kriyas for Women in the Aquarian Age

Invincible Living

Three Minute Start

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More