The most interesting and unique thing about the Weekly Wake-Up Challenge of 2013 is that it consists entirely of things we should be doing every day, all the time. That’s it. Are you up for that? Dare you accept the challenge to stand up and do what you’re supposed to be doing anyway?
What if I told you the challenge only requires us to observe these elements for just one day out of every week?
You may be thinking that I’m a daffy wizard spouting out snicker-inducing stoner paradoxes while writing late at night, but I’m actually not messing around, here. I personally cannot read my own list of suggestions below without thinking it’s somewhat pathetic to consider any of these no-brainer line items of life to be a “challenge.” Yet, long and ongoing experience–experience at life, not at being a wizard–teaches me, if I’m willing to listen, that I simply and consistently fall short of my own stated principles. Even when it comes to the most basic of aspiration ideals, I have a remarkable rate of failure. Of course, I am by no means a model to set the standard for good behavior, and I’m sure that many find it quite possible to live a higher and more awake life than I am thus far capable of doing. Still, I observe freely, as I always have, and I firmly believe that a solid majority of the total population of my world experiences difficulties at least similar to mine.
But the only way to strengthen a muscle is to exercise it, and if you’re exercising it intentionally and for the purpose of strengthening it, you focus and accelerate the process. My proposal–my challenge–is for us to “work out” together just one day per week, practicing and building until we can spend that entire day each week living fully awake. Still think one day per week sounds too easy? Fine, let’s find out. If we rock this challenge and knock out a day a week like it’s nothing, I’ll up it to two days. If sufficiently goaded, I can take it all the way up to seven days (although no further than that).
The structure of the challenge suggestions is designed to accommodate people of all styles and every shade of belief or nonbelief system. There is no requisite religious aspects even hidden or implied to worry an earnest atheist. There are no pagan or heretical overtones to exclude Christians. All that is required is a desire to wake up more and live a greater proportion of our lives in a widely awake state. If that sounds boring, easy, or stupid, you probably will not have very much fun with this challenge. Everyone else, hop on the bus. The thing is, these suggestions aren’t guidelines at all. All I’m really doing here is telling you what I’ll be doing. If you’ve got a better idea for spending a day woken up, by all means pursue it–and also consider sharing it with me, for I want to hear it. If you like some of my suggestions but want to skip others, do it. If you want to steal some from me but add some of your own, your challenge is just as valid as mine is.
Since I haven’t said it yet, I’ll reveal it now–I’m talking about Tuesday. Why? Firstly, it must be a week day, because the challenge really is meaningless if it never encounters the difficulties of day-to-die life. Plus churches and synagogues totally own the weekends. Fridays are too complicated as we transition out of the week. Thursdays are busy and pretty good because the week is almost over. Wednesdays mark the half-way point through the week, and if we plant our challenge there, right in the center, we run the risk of it becoming primarily associated with the rhythm of the week rather than the rhythm of the day and the furtherance of wakefulness. And Mondays…Mondays are often derided, but the way the rest from the weekend meets the rush of the new work week–good or bad–is like a head-on collision and the days often pass in a blur. Tuesday is none of those things. Tuesday is very rarely described as any kind of anything in particular. That is why we are claiming Tuesday for our own.
So, here below are the initial suggestions I am offering, the basic framework of my own personal plan for wakefulness. Should you decide to join me in this challenge, or even if you want to stare in morbid curiosity as though at a bad car crash on the highway, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for miscellaneous resources, potentially helpful reminders, and participatory collective sharing all day on Tuesday, every Tuesday.
- 5×5: The Pause Button – I challenge myself to pause and recognize the true state of affairs, eyes open, five separate times each Tuesday (early morning, noon, early afternoon, late afternoon, and night). Though the times don’t correspond, this might remind you of the five daily prayers of Islam, but in truth the division of the day into five symbolic segments which are then symbolically observed in some way dates back several millennia before Mohammad, at least all the way back to the ancient and mysterious civilization of Khemit (the ones who built the pyramids in the land we now call “Egypt”).
What you do with your pause is entirely up to you. No one is telling you to pray or engage in a particular ritual of any kind. The suggestion is merely to pause, to recognize the phase of the day, to recall that this is a day, and to breathe it all in consciously before proceeding. If serving no other purpose, the 5×5 can remind against our often downplayed forgetfulness that it is, in fact, Unity Tuesday, and we’re awake. Especially in the initial weeks of the challenge, continual reminders are going to be key to success.
- Eating on Purpose – I challenge myself to share a pre-planned evening meal (however simple it may prove to be) with family or roommates or loved ones at a table in the absence of all televisions and electronic devices each Tuesday. At each Tuesday Supper, something should be said in recognition, gratitude, or acknowledgement of the food and/or the companionship.
- Good Neighbor Policy – the difference between residing in a “development” and living in a community boils down to kindness and mutual aid between neighbors. Look, I know I should always be kind, but sometimes my frustrations and weaknesses and perceived limits get in my way. I know I should always be available to help those around me, but maybe I sometimes forget to listen for anyone telling me they’re in need. We’re all in this together, it’s just up to us to act like it. On Tuesdays, I challenge myself to remember that.
- The Olympic Spirit – as was the tradition with the original Greek Olympics, I challenge myself to refuse to engage in combat on Tuesdays. It is better if I can settle my disputes and conflicts, but I also know that any issues that can’t be dispensed with easily can certainly wait until Wednesday before they resume.
- Mp3 Mysticism – at some point on each Tuesday, I challenge myself to listen to at least one song that I consider in my soul to be holy. The goal is not simply to play the song, to have it in the background in order to complete the ritual, but to actually stop what I am doing and listen to it in order to remember without fantasy that heaven truly is all around us at all times, lurking behind the thinnest of curtains.
- Revolutionary Surrender – even if I hate it, even if I believe it to be unimportant and meaningless, I challenge myself to approach the day’s work each Tuesday as if it were itself a sacred duty demanding the best of my abilities. I know that work, in the end, is no less sacred an activity than any other if we do it with our eyes open, all appearances to the contrary. Our work can be embraced without allowing it to swallow us, without allowing it to define or shackle us. There is no slacking, for me, on Unity Tuesday.
- Spirit Flex – each Tuesday, two times spread anywhere throughout the day and night, I challenge myself to direct my thoughts to concrete spiritual matters in ways I normally wouldn’t–be they found in the mindful reading of sacred texts, in simple meditation, or in the free expression of whatever emerges from the highest aspect of my conscious creative mind.
- Light Virus – this last suggestion may be a catch-all, but this year I challenge myself on each Tuesday to not only emit light but specifically to give off an infectious form of cosmic light. Light banishes the shadows, influencing the totality of our environment. Fake smiles beget real smiles, and real smiles beget more of the same. Laughter breeds more laughter. If you can’t laugh at yourself and your life and your day, you aren’t really awake. When you open your eyes, you see how hilarious so many things are. And when you laugh about these things, or about anything else, you lighten not only your own load, but that of all those who share in the joke and even those bystanders who simply hear or feel its byproducts.
And that’s the Weekly Wake-Up Challenge of 2013, all laid out. It may now finally be Thursday, but several days remain before our first test run at this. I also would like to get into slightly greater detail regarding the background of the phases of the day prior to Tuesday. Besides that, what do you think? Are you up for the challenge? Do you like the premise of the challenge but hate my ideas? Let me know. And happy new year.