If you're like me, the older you get, the less likely you are to make New Year's resolutions. But consider adopting wisdom practices from several of the world's religious traditions that might help revitalize your resolution regimen in 2005.
Hinduism: Resolve to spend at least five minutes daily in silence to reconnect with your spiritual center. Hindus call it finding the Divine within. Jews might call it looking for the Shekhinah or divine spark within each person, while Christians would speak of getting in touch with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The ideal way to do this is in a quiet place -- a chapel, garden or meditation room -- but it can be accomplished while walking from the parking lot to work or while waiting for the bus.
Buddhism: Resolve to seek a greater measure of serenity or peace of heart by letting go of negative attachments -- frustration over minor disappointments, hurt feelings resulting from minor snubs or extreme annoyance at another driver who cuts you off. In retrospect we realize that these are inconsequential matters. The Buddhist wisdom is to see this from the start and temper the natural feelings of frustration.
Judaism: Resolve to perform each week an action, no matter how modest, that you think will make the world better, more just. Write a letter or e-mail that protests a decision of government or big business that you feel is unfair to a group or an individual. Send a donation to an aid organization to assist the hundreds of millions of sick or hungry human beings around the planet. The terrible Indonesian tsunami should motivate everyone to respond with monetary or material donations right now.
Christianity: Resolve to forgive someone who has seriously offended you. Continuing to hate someone who has wronged you will drag you down emotionally. Even if you have lost contact with the offending person, forgive him or her in your soul. This doesn't obviate the need in some cases to demand restitution, for example through the court system, but it releases you from the burden of anger.
Islam: Resolve to pass up lunch once a month and give the money saved to a charity to which you don't normally contribute. Muslims fast from sunup to sundown for a lunar month as a way of reverencing Allah (God) and becoming more aware of their dependence on the food God provides.
The Baha'i Faith: Resolve to try to understand and be more respectful of a religious denomination whose teachings or practices you consider incomplete, unusual or even false. Protestants, for example, find Roman Catholic teaching about the pope or the Virgin Mary to be off the mark; Jews have trouble comprehending the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity; many evangelical Christians consider Muhammad a false prophet. But how many of these people have ever taken the time to study the teachings of the religious other? And respect for those of different faiths is called for by the Golden Rule that exists in all of them, and is especially valued by Baha'i faithful.
Native American: Resolve to begin recycling a product you've been throwing out -- newspapers, plastic bags, computer components. And start reverencing the natural world by planting a tree, bush or garden. Native peoples see the Earth as a living entity that must be cared for daily. Start caring.
It is, of course, true that any one of the religions just surveyed may contain in some respects the inspiring wisdom of the others. Still, there are distinctive practices that we associate with one particular faith -- such as those highlighted here -- that remind us of virtues overlooked or neglected within our own religious or spiritual tradition.
The world is rich in cultures that have ennobled us with their music, art, architecture and literature. Might not the same be true of the world's religious traditions? We can be inspired by Italian opera without becoming Italian. Can we not be inspired by insights from another religious path without converting to that faith?
Page created on 1/6/2006 8:32:43 AM
Last edited 1/6/2006 8:32:43 AM