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Becoming a rock-solid regular meditator: an update

Photo courtesy of EverydayBalance
Six weeks ago I wrote a post about an attempt I was making to make my meditation practice into a “without fail” daily practice. I’ve tended to skip days here and there, and really wanted to become a rock-solid regular meditator.

The particular approach I was taking hinged on the key element of self-definition. We all carry views about ourselves. These views are often not consciously articulated, but they run very deep and shape our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions.

What I decided to do was to consciously take on the task of redefining myself as a daily (no exceptions!) meditator, by repeating to myself phrases like “I meditate every day. It’s just what I do. It’s who I am.”

The results have been good! With one slip-up (I’ll come to that later) I’ve meditated every day for over two months. I’ve averaged 40 minutes of meditation a day. Some days I’ve managed to meditate twice. My “standard” meditation is 40 minutes, but on a couple of days I’ve only managed 30 minutes and on a couple of very busy days I’ve only managed 15. (Pedantry alert: A couple means “two” by the way. I’m puzzled by how many people think that “a couple” is “a few.” Think of “the happy couple” getting married — that’s two people, not three or four! End pedantry alert)

So it’s gone well. There’s just been that one day that didn’t work out. What’s that about?

Well, dear reader, I forgot! I’d been reciting my affirmation several times a day, sometimes at the start or end of meditation, or when I was lying in bed, but basically whenever the thought popped into my head. Then I was meditating absolutely every day, and after two months or so of this i started to repeat the affirmation less and less often. I guess I thought that I was doing it, so I didn’t need to tell myself to do it. This wasn’t a conscious choice — it just happened. But it turns out that this was a mistake.

Last Saturday I had a crazy busy day where I was looking after the children from first thing in the morning until getting them to bed, with about 90 minutes off during the day, in which space of time I had to get ready for a halloween costume party that I was taking the kids to. I could have meditated during that time, but I was focused on trying to get a work project ready and getting my costume ready (I went as a zombie). And I forgot. I could have meditated after the kids were in bed, but again I forgot.

So there’s a lesson here. I need my “mantra”!

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Another lesson is not to let a failure to achieve “perfection” become an excuse to give up. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I realized I hadn’t meditated the previous day. And to be honest I felt a bit sick, and very disappointed. After all, there was no way to go back in time; no way to restore my track record to its 100% success rate. And a part of me thought, “That’s it, you’ve blown it,” but I decided not to take that voice, or the disappointment, seriously. I fell off the horse; it’s time to get back on. My failure to remember to meditate is just a reminder: I need my mantra! So I’m back to reminding myself, daily: “I meditate every day. It’s just what I do. It’s who I am.”

Despite this minor failure, so far this has been, I think, a very successful way of developing an unshakable habit of meditating daily.

I’m obviously not quite there yet, but it seems obvious I’m making progress. Now I’ve had longer periods of meditating without missing a day, but I don’t think those experiences changed my self-view. I think I saw myself as someone who happened to be having a run of “good luck” with his meditation practice. I don’t think that fundamentally I saw myself as “a person who meditates every day.” And that’s who I want to be.

Because the benefits have been very tangible. I feel happier with myself, having a “no days off” regular meditation practice. And the effects of meditating daily have been excellent. I’m just happier, and at times almost immune from stress, even under very challenging circumstances. It’s almost as if the effects of meditating daily are cumulative, in a way that they’re not when I have days off. So I’m going to keep going with my experiment. Hopefully one day I really will see myself, on a deep level, as someone who meditates, without fail, every day, and I really will be able to let go of that mantra. I won’t need to tell myself I’m a person who meditates every day without fail, because I’ll be that person.

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About Bodhipaksa

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Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001. Bodhipaksa has published many guided meditation CDs and guided meditation MP3s.

He teaches at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. You can follow Bodhipaksa on Twitter, join him on Facebook, or hang out with him on .

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Comments

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Comment from Jenn
Time: November 1, 2012, 11:33 am

Terrific example of tricking yourself for your own good, Bodhipaksa. :)

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Comment from Judith
Time: November 1, 2012, 11:39 am

Thanks for your post. I am trying hard to re-establish meditation as a habit and have enrolled on a weekly Mindfulness and Stress course for 6 weeks to help me in that.
You might recall that I have posted previously about depression/anxiety. I know that we need to ‘just do it’ without hoping it will help anxiety or depression, but I can’t help hoping it will. My migraines are getting more frequent, and I’m certain anxiety is the cause, so I feel it’s essential to redouble my efforts with mindfulness meditation.
Is there any one meditation practice which is best for this? We’ve been given a CD with a Bodyscan meditation on. What is your opinion of this, compared to others such as Mindfulness of the Breath or any other – or doesn’t it matter?
And is it important to stick to one time of day? If you can’t meditate at the same time each day, does it matter? If so, why?

My ability to concentrate and focus has lessened recently so it’s a bit of a struggle, and yesterday a nasty migraine scuppered any hopes of meditating at all, which was disappointing.
Looking forward to hearing your views. Thank you in advance.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 1, 2012, 11:39 am

We lie to ourselves all the time. May as well make them useful lies :)

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Comment from Gotami
Time: November 1, 2012, 11:41 am

great article to remind us we are not the only ones who “practicing” to establish the Practice.
In addition to self-affirmation “I am a meditator”, I find it helpful to mark each day on my wall callendar when I meditate with a big colorful (always the same color – mine is green) cross. Curiously, there develops a slight compultion to keep the row of green crosses uninterrupted. Each gap indicating a day without meditation cause discomfort… just another “prop” that many finds helpful.
May your practice flourish…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 1, 2012, 11:57 am

A chart is a good idea. I use the Insight Meditation timer, which isn’t as graphic, but it does give me stats on how much meditation I’ve done each day. I similarly find this helpful.

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Comment from Jane
Time: November 1, 2012, 12:23 pm

Hi Judith,
you sound very similar to myself a year ago, I hope you enjoy your course, the one i attended started the road to a very different life than the one i have led. I too was confused about meditating and found it so difficult in the early days, i did find guided meditations really helpfull, i started with short ones, please try that as a starting point, and i hope you enjoy and you find peace xx ps. youtube has a vast selection xx

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Comment from Patricia Hughes
Time: November 1, 2012, 5:34 pm

I’ve thought of myself as “someone who meditates regularly” for quite a while now. It doesn’t mean I meditate every day, although that is a goal that I hold. However, it does mean that if I have a run of days when I don’t meditate for various reasons, I don’t give it up completely but, like you, I simply get back on the horse, and don’t listen to the voice saying “That’s it, you’ve blown it,”. I will try upping the ante, start using your mantra and see what changes. Thank you.

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Comment from Julia Crane
Time: November 5, 2012, 11:55 am

Actually, without wishing to be pedantic, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase “a couple of” as “an indefinite small number” ;)

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/couple

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 5, 2012, 12:32 pm

Also without meaning to be pedantic, what you’ve said is not accurate. The OED defines “couple” as:

1. two people or things of the same sort considered together:

2. two people who are married or otherwise closely associated romantically or sexually.

Along with

3. INFORMAL an indefinite small number.

Since the dictionary is descriptive rather than prescriptive, this simply means that informal speech people are not very careful about how they use the word “couple.”

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Pingback from Tactics of Resolution « Dharma Cowgirl
Time: January 1, 2013, 1:21 am

[...] say these words. I can feel my sense of who I am changing.”  From the sound of things at the six-week update, that seemed to work, with only one “slip-up” in over two months.  To me, that sounds [...]

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