When I was taking her class last October, Julie Peters mentioned that she was in the midst of a personal 40-Day Meditation Challenge. Her commitment was to practice meditating for 11 minutes every day for 40 days. I had been negotiating a daily meditation practice for a few years, but I hadn’t ever thought to approach it in such a structured and succinct way – and I was sold!
With the craziness of the holiday season looming, I decided to take on a 61-Day Meditation Challenge. Each day in November and December, I committed to 15 minutes of meditation practice. The challenge wasn’t always easy, but I made it through without missing a day. And, the noticeable impact of this committed practice inspired me to go bigger.
Starting January 1, 2011, as a New Years commitment, I took on a 365-Day Meditation Challenge. I set out to practice meditation for 15 minutes every day for the entire year. And, I stuck to this commitment, no matter how much I didn’t want to or didn’t feel like I had time to, until April 30.
I had followed through with my commit to practice meditation for 180 days in a row – and then, I missed a day. April 30 was an intense, emotional and draining day, and I completely forgot to sit for 15 minutes. I realized the next morning that I had missed a day for the first time since November 1.
Missing a day felt a lot less tragic than I imagined it would. I moved through it with compassion, and I stayed grounded in knowing that the significance of a 365-Day Challenge is not the perfect completion of it, but the day-to-day lessons of the journey. And, missing a day has turned into one of the most powerful lessons of the experience thus far.
Since missing a day, I have noticed a shift in my relationship with the practice. When I feel resistance towards fitting the 15 minute sit into my day, there is a new voice that joins in to support the resistance. This voice offers that missing a day isn’t really that big of a deal or that I’ve done some other sort of practice during the day that makes up for skipping 15 minutes of sitting. This voice was not present before April 30.
Since missing one day, I have found the commitment noticeably harder to keep, and I have missed two additional days since then.
I have learned that unfaltering commitment is unquestionably easier to maintain than faltering commitment. In other words, once a commitment has been broken it is infinitely harder to stay committed, and a common expression capturing this idea is “Once a cheater, always a cheater.”
While the expression is usually used within the context of a committed romantic relationship, it can be taken to a much more global level: once you cheat on a commitment that you have made (to yourself or someone else), it will become significantly more challenging not to cheat on that commitment again.
Whether it is one day of meditation, one kiss, one cookie or one day not going to the gym, I have learned the answer to the question: What difference does one make?
And the answer is all the difference in the world.
When you break a commitment, it is broken – and it takes a great deal more strength and will power to fully recommit.
So with this post begins my 210-Day Meditation Challenge!