Can you believe it?
3 days short of a year!
I’d meditated every day for the past 362 days until yesterday when, quite simply, I forgot… I only realised I’d missed a day when my headspace app told me this morning that my current run streak was back to 1!
F**********ck! (I say that mindfully of course)
I was so excited about reaching the 365 milestone too! I had big plans to write the world’s most incredible blog post about it. Explaining with much enthusiasm how I’ve become a fully enlightened Buddhist Monk. Basically a pot bellied version of Yoda who meditates with several beer cans floating around his head.
I was going to say how my mind was so strong, if you could see it, it would have a rippling 6 pack! Instead, I’ll have to settle for the 6 pack of beer that’s crashed to floor in order to overcome this gut-retching failure…
Alas, the amazing feat of having meditated consistently for 365 days straight will have to wait for, well, another 365 days…
Till then perhaps you’d like to hear what 362 days taught me instead…
1. It Doesn’t Matter If You Forget
“Don’t cry over spilt milk.”– Old Proverb
Do you want to know how I actually reacted this morning? To nearly reach this goal – to have come so far only to fall at the final hurdle?
The moment I realised, I wasn’t in slightest bit bothered. I thought I would feel gutted but the truth is I smiled. Actually I laughed! A year ago it would have bothered me to fall short like that. I would have taken the failure to mean I was one. It would have hurt. I’m sure of it. This morning though, I simply laughed and got on with my day.
That was my honest to god reaction!
The truth is, I saw something beautifully poetic about failing to reach this milestone. I saw something even more beautiful about the fact that the reason I failed was because I forgot. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. 365 is just a number. 362 is another. The truth is I’m just as proud. 365 days was just something to shoot for. Which I will again!
Getting up this morning and meditating as if nothing had happened is exactly how I should’ve reacted regardless of having forgotten to mediate the day before. Regardless as to whether I had made 365 days or only 3.
If you fall off the horse get back on it. There’s no point moaning on the floor, or crying over the fact you landed in a pile of shit. Life is about getting back up. Life is about cleaning the shit you will inevitably find yourself covered in at some point (both figuratively and literally). The one missed workout or meditation doesn’t matter. If one day becomes a week, one week then becomes a month, well then, maybe it does. But it’s never one failure that defines us, it’s when you let that one failure become several.
The point is all that really matters when you fall down is that you get back up!
2. Having A Regular Practise Is Key
“Commitment to action creates a pathway in the brain to greater mindfulness, awareness & aliveness.”– Shamash Alidina (Mindfulness for dummies)
Like anything, if you’re series about becoming a long term practitioner, you need to make it a habit. No one forgets to brush their teeth in the morning. In my eyes, meditation shouldn’t be any different. Your mental health is the most important thing in the world – you need to give it the time and attention it deserves. Whether you show up and do just 1 minute or an hour, what matters is that you show up.
I would add the point of a formal meditation practise has nothing to do with finding calm during the practise. What it does is increase the amount of time you remember to practise mindfulness informally throughout the day. As any buddhist monk will tell you there is no difference between mindfulness and meditation given that meditation is the practise of mindfulness. Mindfulness is meant to be a way of life. That’s why making it a habit is so important. The longer term goal (as no Buddhist monk would ever tell you) is to make mindfulness habitual.
3. You Need To Treat It Like A Sacred Act
“The beauty of an action comes not from its having become a habit but from its sensitivity, consciousness, clarity of perception, and accuracy of response.”– sj Anthony De Mello (AWAReness)
There were many days this past year I simply showed and went through the motions. I set my meditation timer and then spent 20 minutes mindlessly wandering about trivial bullshit, no more zen than when I had started. I quickly realised that a regular meditation practise is great, but not if you’re simply going about it to tick a box. You’re not helping yourself.
You need to take it seriously – no distractions (put your phone in a draw or put it in aeroplane mode if using an app) – Go somewhere quiet and sit up straight! That last one is important. I tired all positions – lying meditations are good for body scans – relaxing and helping you to fall asleep but not for focus. For this reason I recommend that your morning practise be done sitting up straight to help you adopt an attitude of unconditional confidence.
One other tip I’d add –set an intention before your practise. The nature of intention influences the quality of the practise. Ask yourself what your intention is before every meditation. Some examples might include the intention to be present. To be at peace with what ever it is you’re feeling. To accept whatever arises – to embrace and really allow yourself to feel what it is you end up feeling. To remain open minded and curious about what certain emotions look and feel like. To be compassionate. To be grateful.
Setting the intention of examining recurring thoughts with compassion, curiosity and acceptance. You can then bring that intention with you as you go about your day. Use it as an anchor to bring you back to present and to remind yourself of the qualities you want to engender.
For me being present with feelings of anxiety – something I’ve struggled with for a long time – has proved extremely useful. To set the intention to be at peace with anxiety, to welcome those feelings into my heart and to remain curious and question, whenever they arise, what might have triggered them.
4. Practising Informally Throughout The Day Is Most Effective
“The sacred pause helps us reconnect with the present moment. Especially when we are caught up in striving and obsessing and leaning into the future, pausing enables us to reenter the mystery and vitality only found here and now.”– TARA BRACH (Radical acceptacne)
Although I think it’s important to have a regular practise, this shouldn’t be the only time you take for yourself during the day. Meditation doesn’t always have to be scheduled. Sometimes you just need to spend a moment by yourself. Remember meditation is not meant to be about ticking a box like completing a workout or a task! It is a tool to help you as and when you really need it. ‘Meditation is gym for the mind’ and trust me, it needs to get its fat ass in the gym as often as possible!
Taking a time out, particularly when feeling burnout or overwhelmed, is important! If you start to feel stress or other negative emotions/feelings building in your body don’t resist or react to them. Respond to them. It’s a message! The same way something hot causes you to move away – don’t think too much about it – simply accept and respond in a way you know will help with passage of that state. Go for a walk, get some exercise, take a break, play, laugh, talk to someone close, meditate or simply breathe… If you want some more ideas to help cultivate greater mindfulness throughout the day check out this post – 5 Mindfulness Hacks For Beginners.
5. Meditation Is A Practice Of Compassion, Curiosity And Acceptance
“Mindfulness means paying attention on purpose in the present moment, with qualities of compassion, curiosity and acceptance”– Shamash Alidina (MINDFULNESS FOR DUMMIES)
Many people mistakenly think that mindfulness is simply about presence of mind, however that’s only one part of the puzzle. It’s equally important to bring qualities such as compassion and curiosity to the practise of being present. To ask deeper questions – especially of any recurring thoughts you have. By doing this I believe you can uncover insight and from insight genuine change can take place.
It’s important to remember that a desire for change – although this might be why we take up the practise in the first place – is paradoxically a buffer to it. As Carl Rogers once said, “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” If acting from desire alone you won’t achieve the results your’e hoping for. You must start with complete acceptance of your condition as it is right now. That means not having a desire for it to change.
Ultimately the aim is to accept the thoughts and feelings you are having and acknowledge them instead of trying to resist or fight those feelings. Mindfulness is an art in acceptance, which if you think deeply enough about it, is what life is – one giant lesson in acceptance. Acceptance of change and of flow – this is reality. Accepting reality for what it is right now because it can’t be any other way. This is at the heart of what I believe it means to be mindful.
6. A Basic Understanding Of The Mind Helps To Let Go
A basic understanding of the mind helps – to understand our mind is a tool we can use – it isn’t who we are – we are not are thoughts – the mind is simply a vessel that continuously delivers us thoughts based on everything that its been fed. That doesn’t mean your thoughts are accurate – it means the exact opposite.
The vast majority of stuff we are fed and told, the concepts and constructs and expectations of society are largely bullshit – they are just ideas. Your mind is always going to project that stuff to some degree or another and that’s perfectly ok – you should understand and accept that!
But! BUT BUT!!! You should not accept any thoughts as accurate – you should treat them and the beliefs you have with a HUGE amount of scepticism – remain open to the possibility that what you think and believe – that what most people think and believe – is largely bullshit! Because, and I’ve got news for you, it is.
That doesn’t mean you should create an inner dialogue and have a fight with yourself about what you are thinking or currently believe – that only serves to strengthen the thought you are having anyway – what I’m getting at is because of this understanding and insight you should very quickly let go of the VAST majority of your thoughts. Let them pass. Your mind is simply generating ideas continuously – by letting them pass and not fixating on anyone of them – they lose their power of being able to define you! This also allows you to see those thoughts more clearly – for what they are. It’s from looking at them this way that we can gain greater insight that helps to shatter the illusions our clever minds love to make up.
Mindfulness is very much process orientated rather than goal-oriented. It is a way of life, a long term process. It’s point is the journey itself – not the destination. The destination is decided for us anyway – death – which makes the point of being truly present, truly alive for the moment all the more poignant. Thats the whole point!
Ultimately mindfulness is about realising you’re more than just your body, mind and heart. Meditation is something that happens to you. It is an act of non-doing or being. For it to properly work you have to trust in the process. Let go and relax with acceptance of what is right now. Have patience. Have faith. You are not trying to get anywhere with it. Quite the opposite. You are simply allowing things to be with a curious mind and an open heart.
As always thank you so much reading – I hope you found some value in my random ramblings about mindfulness. As you know I welcome ALL thoughts and comments on this blog. I’m always keen to get your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. Do you have any other insights from your practise of mindfulness – any idea or hacks you’d like to share? If so please don’t hesitate to leave a remark below. Wishing you all the very best, AP2 🙏