Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Ya Noor–The Sacred Light Before Dawn

I woke up at five a.m. one recent morning, in part because I’d gone to bed at ten (an unusually early hour for me, unfortunately), but also because the window shade was beating against the bedroom window pane, making a lovely soft tapping noise in the billowing wind. Enjoying the noise, I listened deeper and heard a hard rain commence. Then I realized that the rain was coming IN. How could it be? Only a few days earlier it had rained in hard on the other side of the house. But there the moisture was, as I jumped out of bed and put my hand down on the wooden sill.

We live in a two-story limestone townhouse built around 1910, and every time I touch the sills, I feel as though I’m connecting with all the people who have opened and shut the windows before me.


Wide awake now, I walked briskly to my 11-year-old son’s room, figuring that it must be raining in there too. Sure enough, water was beginning to sweep in on the wind. His room seemed moist and misty, and he was curled up in a ball on his twin mattress under a light coverlet, the heavier one having fallen to the floor. He looked chilly, so I tucked him back in. He uttered a little huffle and then a sigh.

Cold. Getting colder. This is when I realized that Indian summer had really left us, and that true autumn had come in earnest.

I am the guardian of my household. Perhaps you are too. Everyone seems to rest easier than I do. Is it a burden and responsibility that I take on, as a mother? (Nope, fathers sometimes assume this role.) The prevailing stay-at-home parent? (Maybe.) The more fretful one? (Oh, I don’t know.) I’m just UP a lot, and listening, and have been up and listening since the day we brought my older son Joe home eleven-and-a-half years ago. But while being house guardian comes with its many hassles, there are many, many gifts too.


Because we are up, we get to see more.

As I crawled back into bed, I could see that it was coming on dawn. The sky was less navy blue, and getting lighter, but was still far from bright. Also, it was still raining.

This is the light that Sufis say is most sacred. It’s the perfect light that envelops the earth before the real light of dawn. This holy pre-light is so subtle, you have to stare at it for awhile before you recognize that day is definitely coming, but the sun is still a good thirty minutes away.

When I spent six days in silence this past summer on a hill top at the Sufi retreat center Abode of the Message, near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I learned that “Ya Noor” is the appropriate mantra to chant at this moment.

Ya Nooooooooooor. You say it very softly and gratefully as the night light ripens into day. It is the holy light upon which everything else good that comes after is nurtured. And I am always happy when I happen to be up to witness it.

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