The summer before last, Sog-tshe Rinpoche was teaching at the Padmasmabhava Meditation Center in Denver. He was talking about how many people today say they don't have time to practice the Dharma. He suggested that people who are really serious about their practice should get up at 3 AM each morning. He told the story of one of His Western lay students who, even with a busy job and family, was able to complete his accumulations and recitations by getting up this early every morning. For several years I had been getting up at 4 AM, but, when I heard Sog-tshe Rinpoche's advice, I immediately took it to heart. Ever since I've been getting up at 3 AM and this has enabled me to do considerably more practice each day for the sake of all sentient beings. I even have my eye on 2 AM, although I haven't quite talked myself into that yet.
Whether one can get up at 3 AM, 4 AM, or 5 AM, one should definitely make an effort to get up as early as possible in order to get in a really good session each morning. You'll be amazed how your practice of the Dharma takes off if you do this. And for those who are worried about negative repercussions to your health, if you spend this time doing sadhana -- really doing sadhana -- you will feel energized by all the merit you are generating and all the blessings you are receiving. In fact, lack of fatigue from practicing the Dharma is an actual sign of success in one's practice. Although worldly people think sleep is a good thing, from a Dharmic point of view, sleep is ignorance. Indulging oneself in sleep increases that ignorance, while decreasing sleep increases clarity and wisdom. In my experience, most highly realized beings sleep very little if at all (unless They are practicing dream yoga). As one such highly realized being, the current Gyalwang Druk, has said:
"Don't talk as much as you want to talk. Don't eat as much as you want to eat. And don't sleep as much as your want to sleep."
Here's the prayer I say each morning as I sit down to do my first session. I don't remember who wrote it or where it comes from. A Google search didn't find it. However, I find very useful to remind myself of why I'm getting up so early and why I'm practicing. I hope it inspires you as much as I does me.
Prayer to Awaken from Ignorance
Oh son of the [noble] Family,
Do not be subdued by the power of ignorance.
Sharpen your diligence and wake up right now.
From beginingless time until now,
You have been sleeping in the state of ignorance.
That’s enough; don’t sleep now.
Engage your body, speech, and mind in virtue.
Don’t you know the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death?
The leisures you have are impermanent. Now’s the time to give rise to diligent practice.
Here and now’s the time to accomplish ever-lasting happiness.
This is not the time to be lazy.
Be mindful of approaching death and complete your accomplishments.
The causes of death are many, and life is short.
If you do not attain the confidence of fearlessness [of the bardo] in this life, Hey you, what’s the use of your life?
Phenomena are selfless, empty, and unconditioned,
Like a magical display, a mirage, a dream, an [optical] illusion,
A city of Gandharvas, an echo,
A reflection of the moon in water,
A hallucination, a water bubble, an apparition, and so on.
All objects of knowledge are just like these 10 metaphors of illusion.
Know that the phenomena of samsara and nirvana are just like this.
Phenomena are by their very nature unborn,
Un-abiding, and unceasing.
They neither come nor go.
Free from characteristics, unfathomable, and inexpressible,
Now’s the time to practice to realize this true meaning.