2017 here we come! I decided tonight to make a revitalization plan for the first few days of the new year: hope to intersperse some of the practices of this plan throughout my days here on planet earth, for 2017 and for life while I’ve got it.
My plan is solidly fortified in wisdom for the ages, and before sketching it out, a shout out is in order to Dale at the Ancient Wisdom Project, the young man who, like many of us, sees a lot of modern wisdom as lacking the integral, holistic, and comprehensive offerings that humanity’s well established religious traditions contain.
After finishing the Navy, Dale began to search for meaning and purpose, dabbling for some time in various self-help and psychology books, before realizing they inadequately served his needs. His project documents how he practiced several well-known religious traditions for 30 days each, trying the best he could to follow their prescriptive practices for a better life. He’s done a good job to get at the depth of what these religions offer; at least I can say that of his 30 day Islamic exploration, which so far is the only one I’ve read with full attention.
My plan draws on Islam and mindfulness with breathing, especially as I learned it a decade ago in Thailand, at an absolutely wonderful mediation retreat called Suan Mokkh, (Garden of Liberation).
So the first thing to say is that 2017 will begin as I continue on working at my job, and it’s part of the plan to do well in this part of my day. We get a break from teaching classes for a few weeks, and I’m thrilled to say that I’ll be getting paid during the break to read short stories, as I’ll be teaching and later heading a reading course.
Now on to the more mind-body-spirit part of the plan: I call it a revitalization plan because I seek to revitalize and commit more to what I’ve already been practicing for years now, but sometimes have slacked on and neglected.
The only firm routine of the plan revolves around the five daily Islamic prayers, which I will find myself doing solo or with the congregation. Of course this is an Islamic obligation, so it’s nothing new for me in the plan; but lately I haven’t been as disciplined and centered and congregational as I should be about the praying, so hopefully pushing myself to do so in January will set me off on the right path for the rest of my life. Along with this goes Qur’anic studies: both recitation in Arabic and studying English translation and scholarly interpretation.
Praying and studying Qur’an have particular benefits in the wee hours of the morning. Prophet Mohammad advised Muslims to pray in the middle of the night, a special prayer called Tahajud. This time of night can be especially tranquil, a chance for deep prayer, reflection, and clarity. At the Thai monastery it was lights out at 9 and we were out of our concrete beds by 4 in the morning. Clearly the early morning has a treasure trove of spiritual nourishment for those willing to rise and shine that early. Which leads me to the point that there is one part of modern life that is a real drag: getting late to bed. I know that people feel most free and relaxed after the sun goes down. I know many people these days get out of work later, so the parties and meaningful social activities start later in the night. But pay heed to the ancient wisdom here folks, there are grand fulfillments to be found when you start your day in a spiritual way before sunrise, and enjoy getting a chance to see the sunrise.
That’s the plan, centered on Islam and mediation, steadying on at my job, and having extra time for family and community. Of course it will be great to also enjoy some books, music, and movies; Carry on swimming, jogging, lifting; Get in some dancing; mystical poetry; a leisurely stroll; a good laugh with wife, son, cats, and friends.