What difference does a day make?

Living Yoga Meditation Yoga

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!

Photo by Chris Yakimov @ www.doucy.net

The Metaphor of the Nose

Yoga

“Until we are challenged, we don’t know how deeply our practice has gone.”
 
Earlier this week, I posted this quote by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche on Facebook and Twitter, and, perhaps not so coincidently, this morning I had the opportunity experience its truth in my own life.
 
Once a week, I teach an early morning yoga class at a law firm in Gastown, and I usually give myself at least 45 minutes for the commute.  As I was settling into bed last night, I realized that I had set my alarm for the time I normally leave – not the time to get up! Relieved that I had caught my mistake, I adjusted the alarm time on my phone and settled in for some much needed sleep.
 
I woke up a few times through the night, and as I woke for what would end up being the final time, I found myself feeling particularly alert and rested.   Strange, I thought – given how early my alarm was supposed to go, I should check my watch. 
 
You guessed it – it was 10 minutes before I was supposed to start teaching!  I had failed to re-set my alarm.
 
I jumped out of bed, and as I hurried around getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and gathering everything I take with me to teach, I was making phone calls and sending texts trying to get in touch with someone from the firm.  I hadn’t made contact with anyone by the time I was ready to run out the door, so I just decided to head out in case they still wanted to do a later class. 
 
Less than a minute into my journey, one of the people from the firm called to say that they were happy to do a slightly later class. 
 
Phew!
 
Relieved that a later class worked, I settled into my commute to Gastown, and in that settling, I noticed the shift in how I had responded.
 
In the past, if I had made a mistake like not setting my alarm, my mind would have taken off – questioning how I could have been so stupid, how could I have dropped this ball? And, without an answer, I would have kept the questioning thoughts coming until I felt about as small as the ball I had actually dropped.  
 
This morning, however, something was different. There was more ease, more acceptance. I still rushed around getting ready to run out the door, I was still very apologetic to everyone at the firm, but I offered myself the same understanding I would have afforded others in the same situation. 
 
I even laughed thinking to myself that the universe – in all its wisdom – must have been conspiring for me to get some more much-needed sleep!
 
What is perhaps most important to note about my experience is that I’ve only come to recognize my pattern of persistent self-scolding through its fading away. In the past, I couldn’t see how hard I was on myself because I had never known any easier way.
 
Earlier this fall, I taught a series of classes on “The Metaphor of the Nose,” which is a title I used to refer to the fact that the nose is constantly obstructing our peripheral vision, but we are so accustomed to it that we actually have to work to see it. 
 
I offer that it is very much the same with our habits and patterns that obstruct ease and joy in our lives. They are not easy to see, because, in most cases, they have been there for as long as we can remember. And, as we work so hard to find happiness in our lives, it seems almost counter-intuitive to think that we would be doing things that keep us from what we are seeking. But, I am putting forward – to myself as much as others – that maybe we are actually the only people that can obstruct the joy and ease that we seek, because ultimately, it is not a matter of seeking – but, rather, a matter of seeing.