Having been intrigued by the Venerable Nick Keomahavong’s morning routine, it’s only a small step to wondering what’s the deal with a Buddhinst Monk’s evening routine.
Similar to morning routine, most evening routines are focused on increasing productivity the next day. But the Monk’s purpose is to bring the mind back home to stillness and mindfulness.
Because when you’re preparing to sleep, your body is there, but often your mind is somewhere else. In an argument, or reliving a bad experience from last week, or hanging out for your vacation next month. This routine is about bringing your mind back into your body and the present moment, and to stillness.
Have a Cut-off Time (e.g., take a shower)
This is about making a clear differentiation between the world at large, and the time you spend at retreat, which is most often your home. Monks generally shower at 5.30 pm, and as they wash their bodies, it’s a signal to wash away, and let go of the cares of the day. Then you can turn off your thinking mind, and focus on the present. Rather then doing it when you get into bed.
Evening Chanting and Meditation
Whereas in the morning, they take advantage of stillness of sleep to focus, in the evening they leverage the chanting to calm and slow and settle the brain. Which flows into the meditation, and trying to get even deeper into the stillness.
Sharing Loving Kindness and Dedicating Merits to the Deceased
Having chanted and meditated into a state of purity, the next phase is to share loving kindness. Start with yourself, because that’s easiest, and cover yourself with pure, clean energy. Like a bubble of loving kindness, which helps you to let go of any residual anger, hatred or resentment. Then you can cover the people around you in your home with your bubble, then your city, your country and the world.
After that, you can take all the good feelings from the day, or the good karma if you like, and dedicate it to those you love who have passed away. A bit like lighting candles or praying for them.
I really like this one – in the morning you take care of the living with acts of genrosity, and in the evening, take care of the dead by sharing your karma.
On a related note, when I was very ill, before the transplant, I used to dedicate my suffering for the benefit of others. Which at least gave purpose to what otherwise seemed useless.
Take some time to think about the day that passed. What good did you do? How was your meditation? What did you give to others?
Then consider what did not go well. How did you struggle? What can you learn and change about yourself? How can you do better?
Make sure that you remain neutral and non-judgemental in your reflections. The point is to get to know yourself better, and to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Don’t overthink it!
Sleep in a Sea of Merit
When you go to sleep thinking about your problems, and trying to fix them, you wake up thinking about them as well. So as you prepare for bed, think about all the good you did and reconnect with that feeling of pride. You’re not planning to be proud, but to remember the feeling, and cover yourself with it like a blanket. Then make it thicker by thinking about your week, your month and the year.
In this way, you will sleep well, and feel fresh and ready to go in the morning.