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”!
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.