A great awakening

Starting the day right–relaxed and unrushed–makes all the difference. That’s the lesson I reluctantly learned from my boyfriend.


Mandy Burrell | October 2004 issue

My partner is a teddy bear of a guy. He’s squeezably soft, more than a little fuzzy and he truly loves to cuddle. We live together, which means that every morning I get to witness The Rise of the Slumbering Bear. I’ll admit, the first couple (hundred) times I found myself in the presence of this curious ritual, I failed to afford it the proper reverence.

Thing is, when a slumbering bear rises, it doesn’t do so with the grace of, say, a swan or a butterfly. Lip-smacking is involved and sometimes errant saliva. Seemingly involuntary bellows accompany mighty bouts of stretching. These actions may persist for up to six snooze cycles of the alarm clock, but eventually the bear—er, my boyfriend—makes his way from the bed to the living room couch, where the ritual continues.

I used to believe that this change of location signified he was awake. Now I know better. Belly itching, eye rubbing and unintelligible grumbling characterize the couch phase, which, incidentally, can last longer than the snooze cycle phase. Indeed, the final Awakening likely won’t occur for at least another hour, after a shower and some coffee.

Until I came to appreciate the sublime grandeur of The Rise of the Slumbering Bear , its excruciating slowness irritated me. By the time my boyfriend was finally ready to join the world, I had run three or four miles, done a load of laundry, packed my lunch, washed the dishes and sent out a few e-mails.

It took a good, long time before I realized the best solution to our start-of-the-day incompatibility was slowing down my own morning. This was only after I failed, of course, in trying to hurry up his. Clearly, screwing up the first moments of his day wouldn’t fix mine, which meant I needed to find a way to improve them myself. The first thing was to figure out what was amiss with my own mornings. Unlike my boyfriend, I pop up, fully awake, thoughts racing. I once dreamed a lot, but more and more it seemed I spent my nights focused on things-to-do, personal concerns and future plans.

A friend suggested I try a ten-minute morning meditation. I’ve found meditation helpful several times before in my life and was sure this would do the trick. But unfortunately, rolling straight from a restless night’s sleep into a self-induced state of perfect calm left me wanting to crawl back into bed—right about the time when I really needed to hop in the shower and greet the day.

On one hand, meditating didn’t work. On the other, it helped me realize that to improve my morning, I’d need to start with my evening. I now spend half an hour really and truly getting ready for bed. I turn off the computer. I read something that’s upbeat and unrelated to work, while sipping a mug of caffeine-free tea or warm glass of milk. By the time I wash my face and brush my teeth, the warmth in my belly starts to travel to my brain and I feel relaxed.

The most important change I’ve made is to say my nightly prayers again, just like I did when I was a child. After all, what is prayer but signing over that mental list of things-to-do, personal concerns and future plans to someone or something eminently more qualified to deal with them than me? Talk about taking a load off. With my worries literally laid to rest, I sleep noticeably better. I knew I made a breakthrough when I started to recall my dreams again.

Only then did I turn my attention back to the mornings. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew I could take a couple of pointers from my partner. There’s something really empowering, for instance, about hitting that snooze button once or twice before surrendering to the day. And it feels awesome to stretch first thing in the morning. (They don’t call it a sun salutation in yoga for nothing.) Five minutes is all it takes to coax my muscles into a happy place and I’m ready for my morning run, which I cherish as my alone-time most days. A type-A neatnik, I’ve made a huge effort to cut back on morning chores. I think about it like this: It’s doubtful that the world’s happiest people welcome the day by digging into a mound of dirty dishes or taking out the trash. So why should I?

My new slower mornings have had a ripple effect on my entire day. Instead of charging out like a horse from the gates, most days I stroll out with a wink and a smile. And the Slumbering Bear? He’s happier, too. How can I tell? Every once in awhile, instead of a grumble, I get a discernable “I love you”—even before the coffee.

Taken and adapted with kind permission from Conscious Choice (August 2004), which has brought fresh views on politics, culture, healthy living and everyday enlightenment to readers in Chicago for 15 years. It is the original magazine of the Dragonfly group of natural living monthlies, now published in five North American cities (www.dragonfly.com). More information: Conscious Choice, 920 N. Franklin St. Suite 202, Chicago, IL 60610, United States, www.consciouschoice.com.

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A great awakening

Starting the day right–relaxed and unrushed–makes all the difference. That’s the lesson I reluctantly learned from my boyfriend.


Mandy Burrell | October 2004 issue

My partner is a teddy bear of a guy. He’s squeezably soft, more than a little fuzzy and he truly loves to cuddle. We live together, which means that every morning I get to witness The Rise of the Slumbering Bear. I’ll admit, the first couple (hundred) times I found myself in the presence of this curious ritual, I failed to afford it the proper reverence.

Thing is, when a slumbering bear rises, it doesn’t do so with the grace of, say, a swan or a butterfly. Lip-smacking is involved and sometimes errant saliva. Seemingly involuntary bellows accompany mighty bouts of stretching. These actions may persist for up to six snooze cycles of the alarm clock, but eventually the bear—er, my boyfriend—makes his way from the bed to the living room couch, where the ritual continues.

I used to believe that this change of location signified he was awake. Now I know better. Belly itching, eye rubbing and unintelligible grumbling characterize the couch phase, which, incidentally, can last longer than the snooze cycle phase. Indeed, the final Awakening likely won’t occur for at least another hour, after a shower and some coffee.

Until I came to appreciate the sublime grandeur of The Rise of the Slumbering Bear , its excruciating slowness irritated me. By the time my boyfriend was finally ready to join the world, I had run three or four miles, done a load of laundry, packed my lunch, washed the dishes and sent out a few e-mails.

It took a good, long time before I realized the best solution to our start-of-the-day incompatibility was slowing down my own morning. This was only after I failed, of course, in trying to hurry up his. Clearly, screwing up the first moments of his day wouldn’t fix mine, which meant I needed to find a way to improve them myself. The first thing was to figure out what was amiss with my own mornings. Unlike my boyfriend, I pop up, fully awake, thoughts racing. I once dreamed a lot, but more and more it seemed I spent my nights focused on things-to-do, personal concerns and future plans.

A friend suggested I try a ten-minute morning meditation. I’ve found meditation helpful several times before in my life and was sure this would do the trick. But unfortunately, rolling straight from a restless night’s sleep into a self-induced state of perfect calm left me wanting to crawl back into bed—right about the time when I really needed to hop in the shower and greet the day.

On one hand, meditating didn’t work. On the other, it helped me realize that to improve my morning, I’d need to start with my evening. I now spend half an hour really and truly getting ready for bed. I turn off the computer. I read something that’s upbeat and unrelated to work, while sipping a mug of caffeine-free tea or warm glass of milk. By the time I wash my face and brush my teeth, the warmth in my belly starts to travel to my brain and I feel relaxed.

The most important change I’ve made is to say my nightly prayers again, just like I did when I was a child. After all, what is prayer but signing over that mental list of things-to-do, personal concerns and future plans to someone or something eminently more qualified to deal with them than me? Talk about taking a load off. With my worries literally laid to rest, I sleep noticeably better. I knew I made a breakthrough when I started to recall my dreams again.

Only then did I turn my attention back to the mornings. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew I could take a couple of pointers from my partner. There’s something really empowering, for instance, about hitting that snooze button once or twice before surrendering to the day. And it feels awesome to stretch first thing in the morning. (They don’t call it a sun salutation in yoga for nothing.) Five minutes is all it takes to coax my muscles into a happy place and I’m ready for my morning run, which I cherish as my alone-time most days. A type-A neatnik, I’ve made a huge effort to cut back on morning chores. I think about it like this: It’s doubtful that the world’s happiest people welcome the day by digging into a mound of dirty dishes or taking out the trash. So why should I?

My new slower mornings have had a ripple effect on my entire day. Instead of charging out like a horse from the gates, most days I stroll out with a wink and a smile. And the Slumbering Bear? He’s happier, too. How can I tell? Every once in awhile, instead of a grumble, I get a discernable “I love you”—even before the coffee.

Taken and adapted with kind permission from Conscious Choice (August 2004), which has brought fresh views on politics, culture, healthy living and everyday enlightenment to readers in Chicago for 15 years. It is the original magazine of the Dragonfly group of natural living monthlies, now published in five North American cities (www.dragonfly.com). More information: Conscious Choice, 920 N. Franklin St. Suite 202, Chicago, IL 60610, United States, www.consciouschoice.com.

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