For centuries monks have practiced daily meditations, prayers, and sacramental rituals.
The daily rituals of meditation, chanting, and prayer of the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) Monks’ included:
5:30 – 6:30 A.M. Arise, private meditation
7:00 – 8:00 A.M. Group meditation in Monks’ Chapel
12:00 – 12:30 P.M. Meditation, group or private
6:00 – 7:00 P.M. Group Meditation in the Monks’ Chapel
9:00 – 10:00 P.M. Before bed, private meditation
To summarize, the time SRF monks’ spent in meditation, chanting, and prayer:
4½ hours daily
1,643 hours annually (1y x 365d x 4.5h)
30% of the monks’ waking hours are spent in these daily rituals.
More often than not, an SRF monk’s meditation resulted in nothing extraordinary. Practice of sacred rituals could easily turn into mindless, dull routine–when a monk neglected his spiritual “duty” or lacked self-surrender. Restlessness, anxiety, aches and pains of the body and mind, drowsiness, sleep, and daydreams were frequently the monks default experience during rituals. A monk learned to discipline his body, mind, and emotions. Or, a monk harshly judged himself, felt guilt, and slid into self-shame.
A monk could spend days, weeks, and years in meditation only to feel he’s made no progress whatsoever. Or, that his practices were getting worse instead of better. During these times a monk’s faith in god and his will to stay in the monastery was severely tested. Some traditions called these spiritual tests the ‘dark night of the soul’. An aspirant could feel totally lost and completely discouraged. (In the privacy of my room, I often lay myself prostrate on the floor before a makeshift altar on my dresser, and begged with god and guru to save me from myself. The only way out of my ‘dark night’, I was taught and thought, was the way through: surrender, faith to the divine). Monks are human.
Occasionally, though, a monk’s meditations would flow effortlessly into a deep state of awareness: his thoughts, breath, feelings–everything–ceased to exist. Momentary experiences of stillness, bliss, or nirvana. During these rare moments he received “proof” of god or rewards for his spiritual efforts. Though our sacred rituals were supposed to be conducted as pure offerings to god, given without attachment or desire to get anything back. Feelings of peace and bliss were attributed to efforts from meditation. Negative thoughts and feelings to our egos. To persevere for 4½ hours everyday for years, required occasional “signs and wonders”. Our spiritual investments had to pay off in “miracles” and salvation. Had to.
For more about the power of daily rituals listen to Accidental Creative: The Dailies
Questions for readers: Do you think sacred daily rituals are helpful or harmful? Do you have any examples in your life?