Last weekend I paused as I was going out the door. I had spent the day with my girlfriend and she was curled up on the couch watching television. It looked really comfy. But I had committed to seeing a close friend of mine that night for drinks. “Why?” I thought, “Why am I going out?”
This is not the first time I contemplated my intention for going out on a Saturday night. When I was seventeen, I ran off to a Buddhist abbey in Nova Scotia for the summer, shaving my head and taking the monastic robes, precepts, the whole shebang. Shortly thereafter, I came back to my senior year of high school very "religious" (read: tightly wound and opinionated). Upon entering college a year later, I drifted back toward the other extreme (read: I was very good at keg stands). What I discovered is that it's very hard to balance staying up until 4 AM partying with waking up at 6 AM to meditate.
So over the course of those college years, I gradually learned to find my personal middle way between these extremes, allowing myself to party a bit with friends, but making sure it didn’t impinge on my meditation practice.
One of the most important things that helped me during that time, and that continues to help me now, is contemplating my intention for partying. If I know I am going to go out on the town on a given evening, I will often sit down for a moment beforehand, and meditate on a simple question: “Why?”
I invite you to engage this simple practice before you go out on a Friday night (or on whatever night you are going out). Start by taking a relaxed yet dignified posture. If you’re sitting down, place both feet firmly on the ground, and if you’re standing, bend your knees slightly. Feel the connection to the earth below you. Then elongate upward through your spine. If it’s helpful, you can imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you straight up. Relax the muscles in your shoulders and back. You can close your eyes or keep them open, resting them between two and four feet ahead of you on the ground. Once your body feels settled, you can begin the practice: