Today I’ve been contemplating practice, as Sunday, my day of rest, begins with me moving through my whole set, ending around noon. As I have mentioned before, my primary practices are:
- Word (reading and writing them)
- Meditation (shamata style)
- Yoga (asana, typically hatha style)
- Dog (hanging out with them in nature, talking a walk or hike being one of the main ways this is accomplished)
This morning started with half a cup of coffee and half an hour of writing.
Then, Eric and I took the dogs on a long walk.
After that, I went to my Sunday morning yoga class.
And finally, I went to the Shambhala Meditation Center and spent an hour in both sitting and walking meditation, ending with a series of chants.
When Eric and I were getting ready to take the dogs on a walk this morning, he was brushing their teeth. This was a difficult habit for us to form. There were probably 2-4 years of real effort towards getting it to stick. One or the both of us would try and do pretty well for about two weeks, then months would pass before it would happen again. And it’s not like the boys mind, in fact, they love the taste of the paste so much, they beg for it when we are in the bathroom with them. We knew it was important, and we love our dogs and want to do what’s best for them, but it still was a struggle to do what we needed to do on a regular basis.
For the past few months, Eric has managed to brush the boys’ teeth every day. It’s been long enough that I think it’s safe to say it has been habituated. He explained this morning that he thinks what made the difference was doing it in the morning right before a walk. Something about trying to do it at night was too much of a struggle–he’d be too tired or lazy, or he’d just forget.
I told him the same thing had happened to me with my meditation practice. Even though it was something I wanted, knew the benefits, when I was trying to fit it into my evening routine, it was just too hard to do it–I’d be too tired or lazy, or I’d just forget. We get up at 4:30 am every morning, so thinking I could go strong all day and then manage to get myself on the cushion after 6 pm was like “a normal person trying to meditate at midnight,” Eric pointed out.
But it was hard to think about adding another thing to my morning routine. Even though I get up so early, I have to get a lot done before getting to work: feed the dogs, write for half an hour, check my email, either walk the dogs or do yoga for 1.5 hours, shower or pack a gym bag and go workout, and make a lunch. But as I struggled with trying to meditate in the evening, I started to notice that there was time in the morning, that there were things I could do the night before, like packing my gym bag, or do less of, like reading all my emails, that would allow me to fit my practice in. So, I did. And it’s worked. I feel much better starting my day that way.
So what I’ve been thinking about today is that even when you know what’s best for you, what you want for yourself, even if you long to make that change or adopt that practice, it can take some time to get it to really stick, to become a habit, an embodied way of being. You might have to struggle for a really long time with old habits, rusty viewpoints, and tired excuses. And yet, if you keep at it, keep trying, you’ll find the place it fits, how to make it functional. As always, it’s important to relax and have a sense of humor about things, and to keep in mind that ultimately, it’s all workable.
Are there practices you struggle with, ways of being you long for? Maybe, just for today, you could forgive yourself for not accomplishing them just yet, let go of an idea you have of being perfect or good, and rest, simply contemplate the notion of that practice or that change, without having to do a single other thing about it–at least for today.