Posted by: Daniel Katyl | October 5, 2009

Thoughts from a Thoughtful Weekly Planning Session

I woke up late this morning, and by late I mean I woke later than 9AM. After my brain focuses out of that fuzzy morning state, the first thought I have is, “Wow Dan, when was the last time you slept in till 10?”  The answer has to be at least a month and a half. I know I haven’t since school started, that is certain.  Monday mornings I have no set events: no class, I don’t go into work today, girlfriend is generally busy, friends and roommate are off to work. So what do I think about in my solitary state as I am eating some breakfast? Everything that I need to do in the next 6 1/2 days till my next Monday solitude. I begin plotting out the week one step at a time:

  • This afternoon? School work, class, roommate hang out time, sleep.
  • Tomorrow? Class, schoolwork, class, sleep.
  • Wednesday? Class, work at the CA, school work, class, sleep.
  • Thursday? School work, haircut, food shopping, school work, Bible study, maybe see a friend or two, sleep.
  • Friday? Work at the CA, shower, work at restaurant job serving until late, sleep.
  • Saturday? 8AM Yoga, school work, hang out with some friends and girlfriend, sleep.
  • Sunday? Church, attend friends wedding/reception, hopefully watch a movie with the gf if I do not have any school work, sleep.

Besides squeezing in a little more time with the girlfriend with the random hours I have free here and there, this is the week ahead of me.  After I think about my week and finish my first cup of coffee, I ask myself a key question that involves an important aspect of my personal well being: “where am I in this?” Or maybe a better way of asking this question is: “how am I going to take care of myself in this week?”

Reading that question, you might be wondering what I mean by “taking care of myself”.  Now what I do not mean is if I am eating healthily this week, getting enough sleep, or making sure I shower. Those are things we all need to do as human beings.  What I am referring to is if I am making time for myself: am I allowing myself to take a breath and digest all of the details and events that each day brings? Am I taking breaks where I concentrate on treating my own mental and spiritual well-being?

The truth is that as a seminary student, no matter how I answer these questions today I never seem to fulfill them adequately throughout the week. Those in graduate school (and many in undergrad as well) know what I am referring to.  There is always something to do and work that needs to be done, and instead of taking the break we need, we generally keep on going.  You might look above and see that there is some friends and girlfriend time and think, well is not that his break?  As much as we need friendship and companionship, and as much as we want our friends time to be our break, that cannot be it.  Friends time is not me (or you) time.  DO NOT misinterpret my words, we need our friends and we need time with them, but that cannot be a substitute for some time alone with ourselves.

Being in seminary, the moments I stop giving myself some alone time to meditate and allow all the information of life to sink in is when I begin seeing signs of mental distress: sleeping less, having a harder time expressing my thoughts, feeling more stressed and confused, etc.  Just as our bodies cannot handle physical exercise without adequate down time, our minds need to rest to repair.

So this is how I answer the bold questions above every week, and hope to fulfill the answers over the week as best I can:  every day I give myself 20 minutes of complete silence in order to go over in my head all that I did that day. (I know it sounds simple, but believe me it helps.)  This is done with no noise, no television, no phone, and no distractions. Then once a week, preferably Saturday, I close my blinds, turn off the lights, light a candle and incense, put on some very quiet, non-obtrusive and calm instrumental music, and with this environment all I do is sit, preferably for an hour or two.  For the first thirty minutes I try to not think about anything, and to focus on getting my mind completely clear and open. From there I begin thinking about the beginning of the week, thinking about every event, conversation, and important thought I had.  To close I pray a prayer of thankfulness to God, thanking God for creating me and providing peace to me.

This whole idea of sitting in silence might not be for you, and I respect that, but, but nevertheless I encourage you to try it sometime.  And if you try this and it is not for you, I encourage you to find what is for you. Where can your peace be found?  What can you do for you this week?  We all need time to relax and digest.  Where is that time for you?



  1. Dan,
    I’m in an interesting position right now to hear those words from you. I graduated in May and really haven’t been doing a whole lot, certainly not living the busy life that I led in college similar to the one you outlined. And I have to say it amazed me the other day–after being here for 5 months–I was thinking to myself and realized that I haven’t had this much time to actually think in so long. I used to cherish my yoga at school, but now, with actual months of down time, it’s amazing to realize how much more you can actually listen to yourself without the busyness of the world around you chiming in constantly. I’m realizing new ideas about what makes me happy, how I process information, and where I want to go from here. I suppose I was so busy before, I didn’t even have time to reflect, even if I thought I was. So I applaud your efforts. It’s always better to listen in on yourself, because there’s a whole person under there that we often ignore.

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