How Fast Are You Waking Up?

As an early riser, I’ve always been a big fan of the first few hours in the morning. There’s something special about that time, the feeling of freedom, the promised endless possibilities, the unexpected potential waiting to unfold in every beginning…

But, as an early riser, I’ve also struggled with implementing the habit. I wasn’t always fond of waking up early, you know, quite the opposite. In my student years I remember I was at my best between 10PM and 6AM the next day. And I’m not talking about parties, no, things like studying or other creative endeavors, seemed to work better for me during the night. So, when I realized this new schedule will serve me better, I started to adjust. And it took me a few years to make it work.

In the beginning, it was quite hard. The most difficult part wasn’t going to bed early, as many people report, but actually waking up, even when I was going to bed early. There was a certain glue that seemed to keep me tied down, a certain inertia that I couldn’t beat. Sometimes, it took me up to 45 minutes in this strange no-mans-land until I was able to fully wake up.

It wasn’t uncommon to get up, then almost immediately fall into a semi-sleep, dragged down by unfinished dreams. It was like the dream reality was stronger than the waking up reality. I used to call this pulling thing “the dream pipeline”. When I was having trouble waking up, I was saying something like: “the dreams pipeline was strong this morning”. The inflow coming down that pipe was stronger than me, anyway.

It took many, many years of waking up early to realize that the same inertia, the same glue manifests in many other parts of my life -and I’m talking about my waking life here.

You see, the “dream pipeline” is not necessary filled only with dreams that we have while asleep. It may be just filled with habits, expectations, values or perceptions about reality.

And every time we’re on the brink of waking up, of ascending to a new level of consciousness, of awakening, this “dream pipeline” kicks in. Old habits die hard, they say, and it’s true. Familiar places seem to hardly let us go, and our own attachment to previously crafted identities for ourselves is so strong, that we can barely resist the pull.

So, as I was pondering this push and pull, I realized there is a certain metric in the process, one that can be very useful. I called it the “waking up speed”. And I realized that this is something that, in time, can be improved.

Suppose you’re moving to a new country. This is a big change (I know, because I’ve been there). What you are doing can be assimilated with waking up from a certain familiar pattern of activities – living in your old country – to a new pattern of activities. It’s like awakening to a new reality. But, as you are struggling to adjust to this new reality, the “dreams pipeline” from the other place kicks in. And you’re faced with familiar habits that are kicking in, with attachments to various parts of your lifestyle (eating, going out, having fun) that are simply non-existent in this new reality.

So, if your “waking up speed” is reasonably high, you’ll get over faster, you’ll integrate easier. If, on the contrary, you’re waking up slowly, it will be like those 45 minutes in my mornings, in which I was floating in between two worlds. And if your “waking up speed” is really low, it may even be that you’ll eventually be pulled down to the previous “sleepy” period of your life. You’ll say about this: “well, I just couldn’t adapt”.

We, as a species, are going through a process of waking up as I write this. It’s the process of waking up from a one year long, fear-induced sleep, in which we tried to avoid – to the best of our collective knowledge – a danger which, at many points in time, was more imagined than real. Nevertheless, for the last year we’ve been asleep. Airplanes were grounded, trains didn’t move, entire countries were still.

And now we are starting to slowly wake up from that sleep.

Unfortunately, it seems that many of us are still tied down to the “dream pipeline” of the last year. There are attachments to artifacts of perceived safety, like masks, or curfews, that are still strong on the collective thinking.

Make no mistake, sooner or later this sleep will be over. We didn’t come this far by keeping our planes on the ground, our trains immobile, our countries still. We came this far, as a species, by moving, by interacting, by assessing and managing risks correctly. Last year wasn’t the life that we’re supposed to live, it was just a weird, sleepy episode.

How fast are you waking up from it?

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