I love the quiet morning hour before dawn. My first Zazen experience in Japan, almost 15 years ago, was joining the “Gyouten Zazenkai” (暁天座禅会, Dawn Zazen Gathering) at Engakuji-Temple in Kita-Kamakura.
After one hour train-ride from Tokyo entering the Butsu-den (仏殿) in the surrounding nature’s cold air at dark night, and leaving the hall in early dawn after two rounds of Zazen and Sutra chanting is a very unique experience.
I remember one special morning in December, when after Zazen everything was covered with snow, and the whole Engakuji was reflecting the early morning light in a beautiful soft white. Instead of immediately leaving the Temple after Zazen, I traded in a severe scolding from the Monk at the gate for some time wandering around in the silent beauty.
Still today, I enjoy doing Zazen at dawn whenever possible. Starting a busy day with an hour of silent activity means great freedom, and it makes an enormous difference compared to rushing out of bed last second just to reach office in time.