Today in the magical seconds before sunrise, I see snow, tiny specks. The sky hangs with gray, my inner atmosphere gray, too, fatigued.

The alarm buzzed. I moaned, tempted to roll over, hit the snooze button and sleep. But I have begun to watch, welcome and wonder at the miracle of daybreak.I throw off the duvet, straggle out of bed and walk in nature or shuffle to my east-facing windows.

The Earth-awakening moments do not always grant me fun. Yet moments change, everything fresh and renewed in each instant, like all of life, impermanent. Yesterday first-light’s blaze of pinks and golds morphed into white haze then azure skies. Today, monochromatic dullness will fade when ready, just as feelings come and go. We can learn from sunrise.

I started for no real reason and often mumble, “Ugh. I don-wanna.” In any practice, we can land lonely outside our comfort zone, our thank-you-very-much coziness. We push-pull, even if it’s good for us. So why start when a part of us would do anything other than the practice we’ve promised ourselves?

For the creativeness in it, maybe, or to step out of a rut and onto more solid ground, to say “no” to old patterns and “yes” to new inquiries, or to gain its riches. Hard to maintain and easy to quit, deliberate routines, chosen on purpose, can grace us with strength and self-care.

I’ve adopted diet and exercise practices, timed or word-counted writing every day, and 15-minute yoga sessions. I’ve hated and loved them all; and they have taught me patience and resolve. We grow through practice. We see broader horizons. We receive surprises and invitations.

The slow birth of a new day has gifted me with antidotes to hurry and aligns me with nature’s timing. I now allow cycles to unfold as they do, some days sunny, others cloudy, like emotions.

When we commit to a practice, we’d best get curious: “How do I get up the guts and grit to show up even when – especially when – I don’t want to? What would it be like to …?”

Simple. But regular practice doesn’t promise “easy.” Like dominoes, old patterns must topple. I turn off Netflix earlier, bed-burrow at a sane evening hour, skip late-night popcorn. All good, all so that today, in the dark, when it’s 2 degrees outside, I can breathe in the stirring world and start my day by stopping.

Today, the colorless world is not pleasant, though snowflakes drop peacefully and softly. Inspired, I inhale that exterior into my interior. Breathing out, I feel any tightness release as if I’m playing with one of those snow globes, often called Calm Jars. Kids make them, shake them, then exhale as bits of glitter glide to the bottom of their creation, teaching them that they can let their muscles fall like snow.

We repeat our practices, day after day, because as dancer and choreographer Martha Graham wrote, “In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes … a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.”

Practice is a dance of “keep on keepin’ on.” Mine choreographs the truth for me, in Thoreau’s words, “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.”

Falmouth author Susan Lebel Young is a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. She can be reached at [email protected] or at www.susanlebelyoung.com.