Checking in

A couple of weeks ago, I watched an interview with Muslim sociologist Susan Carland, who teaches gender studies, politics and sociology at Monash University down in our wonderful southern capital Melbourne.

I love listening to Carland because she's smart and sane and always manages to make me think about life in a new way.

In this particular interview, with Mia Freedman for her Sky News show Mamamia (on which I am a regular panellist), Carland talked in part about her faith and what it means to her.

"There's five daily prayers," said Carland, "which is like a good realignment. Five times a day you realign yourself to your purpose and your belief, what you're trying to do in this world, where am I going, am I being the best person I can be ... am I being the best mother I can be to my kids am I being the best friend I can be? Really trying to reflect on what am I doing," she said.

That's a very brief snippet from a long and interesting interview, but it made me wonder how many times in my day I "realign" myself, check in with my higher purpose as to whether I'm on course?

I realised it's a rare thing. If it even happens at all, it's quite haphazard in its scheduling, and when I do do it, it tends to be when I'm running or swimming (and I ain't been doing much of that lately).

I don't know if you ever catch yourself thinking "I really must sit down and work out where I'm going, decide what I want to do about this or that" and then, well ... I dunno, time slips away and a week later you find yourself thinking the very same thing.

Carland's calm demeanour and the lovely way she speaks about her faith made me kind of envious of those five prayer times and wonder what sort of person I'd be if I did this kind of daily self-reflection (and didn't booze).

I've attempted it at different stages of my life with Vipassana, having completed four 10-day retreats over the years, then continued the practice when I got home, meditating for an hour in the morning and night.


I know I was a much more serene person during those times but I always seemed to lose the path, have a beer, then a few more, and before I knew it I'd stopped meditating altogether.

Nowadays, I know when I walk somewhere and try to reflect on notions of import, it can get be difficult not to run from the silence and dial someone on my mobile.

Then a cute girl will jog by, or there'll be a billboard leering at me, advertisements leaping from windows and buses and ... where was I? Oh yeah, notions of import.

Vipassana teaches you pretty much the opposite of this, to ignore intellectualising and empty your mind of all thought and just concentrate on the sensations in your body.

Before you know it, answers sprout from your unconscious.

I'm sure this is pretty much the way daily prayer works, but maybe that's not your style; it's hitting golf balls, or walking your dog or swimming laps that provides you with the soil upon which to cast the day's seeds.

So tell us, grasshopper?

How do you check in with yourself?

Do you even bother?