My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
Realizing that I was drifting and not cultivating the virtues in myself that I value – compassion, right speech, integrity – I decided to restart what had been my routine for several years. Like a garden choked with weeds, I’d allowed other concerns to crowd out what I believe is most valuable for any human being.
Wealth, fame, comfort are not as important as self-awareness and living an ethical life. Selling oneself to the highest bidder in the marketplace through a thousand and one “shortcuts” in the workplace, in the supermarket, with friends and family is a disease that has been in societies for centuries. Though it seems to be reaching a new crescendo in the current era of celebrity worship.
No-one can know what may happen to us in the world – but we can manage how we respond. Cultivating wise responses, intelligent and compassionate responses is, for me, the most important reason for spiritual practice. Yes, to become a better person! So now I’m beginning and ending my day with prostrations, meditation and chanting. My own practice follows Buddhist tradition, but I think there’s tremendous value for anyone in beginning and ending the day with a brief time of quiet and some form of reflection, prayer or reading to aid reflection. The prostrations work for me because I’m a very physical person and working off that energy in front of a representation of ideals greater than myself (Buddha statue on an altar) is more constructive than working out in a gym looking at myself in the mirror.
Of course, people find different methods that work for them. It doesn’t have to be meditation, though it’s an extraordinarily powerful way of calming mind and body. When teaching or leading meditation I’ve always called it “a colourless, odourless gas” that reaches into all parts of a person’s life. Other people find prayer can have a similar effect.
There’s some flexibility in my routine so that even when the full practice of prstrations, meditation and chanting is not possible, I will at least be doing practice every day rather than breaking the routine.
Pulling myself out of bed to do 108 prostrations can be a real effort each morning, but once done, the day seems properly framed. The evening practice is a welcome bookend to the day that encourages recollection before sleep.
5.50 am – wake
6 am – 108 prostrations, meditation for about 20 minutes (until candles go out), read Heart Sutra, read Bodhisattva Vow. 3 prostrations.
(If time is very short, then 36 or even just 3 prostrations and the Bodhisattva Vow.)
around 9pm – 3 prostrations, meditation for 30 minutes (until the full candles burn out), recite the Great Compassion Dharani, read the Bodhisattva Vow. 3 prostrations. Read at least one chapter of my assigned book.
(If for any reason, the time is very late, then 3 prostrations and read the Bodhisattva Vow.)