In the darkness before dawn, in the quiet hour before people rise out of bed, before I begin work, and before the sun rises over the hill and wakes the birds to sing, I walk outdoors and listen to the delicious sounds of the woods. Nature feeds my heart.

The trees glisten with last night’s rain. I hear the soft plick of water as it drops off branches onto the moist earth, and the gurgling of rivulets as they tickle down the hill to the river. Mist rises from the cool shadows and drifts low over the meadow.

What surprises will show up today?

What moments of transcendence will there be?

What inspiring words will I hear?

Stars fade away as night gives way to the pink, orange, and yellow of the rising sun. Feelings of longing, belief, and hope fill my body and unite to surge with unspeakable joy. The sky deepens into cobalt blue, and birds rise into the air with slow, sure strokes, flying toward the unknowable presence.

What sharing of hearts will there be today?

How will I become more caring of people’s suffering?

How will I love others in ways that I didn’t expect?

In the presence of this earthly silence, I open myself to nature. I am attentive to this moment. Watching. Listening. I open to whatever the universe wants to share with me today.

I unbind my mind to listen to others with compassion instead of judgment. I open my heart to their needs. I ready my hands to do the work of justice.

In the darkness before dawn, all things feel possible.

For more information on using meditation to quell anxiety, go here.


Mark Liebenow’s work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and named a notable essay by Best American Essays 2012. His account of hiking in Yosemite to deal with grief, Mountains of Light, was published by the University of Nebraska Press.


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