It is quiet and nearly perfect here in the shed this New Year’s morning, A sliver of early light filters through the door blinds, reflecting off the whiteness of the dusting of snow remaining on the grass, and I hear the faint sound of a bird’s call. I have just completed a meditation session—16 minutes and 37 seconds of soft Tibetan singing bowls from a Spotify playlist with me crosslegged on the floor in my long bicycle pants (sort of like black yoga pants) and a heavy dark blue t-shirt. A candle at my feet. My eyes closed.
The routine is new. Although I have mediated before, or at least tried. When I was the writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac house in Florida a few years ago, I worked at it, thinking Jack’s faint Buddhism beliefs would find me. What I’m embarking on now, I hope, comes from more knowledge, some sort of wisdom. It is part of a three-pronged commitment to those I care most about—my wife, my children, my family. It is not a resolution. Never liked New Year’s resolutions. To me, they are little more than wishes, promises to be broken. A commitment is a plan of action and a contract with one’s world. I want this to be a commitment.
I never liked the timing of the New Years resolution. Yes, a new year seems a good time to take stock, but why not resolve on, say, May 3rd? Or November 13th? If you wish to change something in your life, why must it be January 1st?
Still, I see the connection; I see the tradition. New year; new assessment. So, with that, I have three commitments for 2019.
Meditate. Daily. Ten minutes. At least. In the shed. Early morning. Learn to be in the moment. Breathe. Don’t worry about whether you are “doing it right.” Just do it.
Fast. At least two days a week, I will eat only 500 calories. It’s called interval fasting. This is not a diet. It is a lifestyle commitment. I’ve done a great deal of study on this and a few years ago, stuck to the routine for about a month. I felt great. More energy. Lighter, Stronger. Healthier. There is medical evidence of the benefits of fasting. This is a good and healthy way to do it.
Walk. Daily. Get in my 10,000 steps. Again, I’ve done this before. But it’s not always easy in the winter. This time, I’m really in. Walking is a marvelous way to get your body in motion. It’s also contemplative and puts you out in the world, preferably nature. I’ve walked regularly with my dog, Sam. Even wrote about those walks. It is time now to make walking, a literary tradition of its own, a part of my life.
What does this have to do with writing? I don’t believe I need a commitment to write. Writing to me is like eating, it has to be done for sustenance. Now, I want meditation, interval fasting, and walking to be there alongside it. A routine and a balance to feed a life.
I am now in my early 60s and in the fourth quarter of my life. It’s not a sad or morbid thought, but rather a realistic look at what is before me. I want this time to be everything it can, and I want to be everything I hope to be in these final years, for me and for those I love. So, I will return here to the shed again tomorrow and I will fall into the moment and I will re-commit again and again. For this is what a “resolution” is really about, a soulful pledge to something bigger, something better.
I’ve lifted myself from the floor and sit in the brown club chair in the corner of the shed. The Tibetan singing bowls are silent. On the chair’s arm is a book I’m re-reading—Natural Meditation by Dean Sluyter. In the first chapter he writes that this practice is the act of “relaxing into the rich center of your being.” That’s exactly how I want to see this new commitment, And as for the other two—fasting and walking—well, they will find their place, become the routine in time.
I look forward to it.