I, like perhaps you too, have a number of resolutions that were lifted up on the wave of energy cresting and launching us into the new year. Some of mine included engaging in daily meditation, eating a silent meal once or twice a week and enjoying a daily mindful morning “sense” walk to open my senses to the world around me. But the one that resonated most strongly for me was to write more. My intention then, and now, is to write regularly as a practice to cultivate my attention to the world around me and within me. Writing to slow down and build my attention by exploring a singular aspect of the experience I’m living right now.
And now it’s mid-January and I am sitting down to write. Two weeks in, I begin. Why did it take two weeks? It appears that I may have perfected the art of procrastination. My artful avoidance lures me away from my practice with its beguiling seduction of being productive elsewhere. I can make soup for supper now! Maybe I’ll call my mother to say hello. I should pick up around the house a little. Wouldn’t those pillows look better over on the couch than on that chair? What about the summer plans for the kids? Oops, forgot my vitamins. Or, the big one…. I should check my email… and then maybe see what’s going on on my social media……
Sounds just like a meditation practice, doesn’t it? Just when we are settled in to begin to attend to our breath, our mind starts up its shenanigans. Jumping from this little reminder to that brilliant idea, the mind is so entertaining. Practice is noticing and calling the mind back. Like calling our favorite puppy back from its wandering, we call our mind back to learn to sit. And when it runs off again, we gently call it back. Being aware and beginning again IS practice. Not that blissful state we all imagine is happening to those serene-looking yogis in magazine photos. One of my teachers imagines it as a practice of mental “push-ups”. We notice the distraction and bring the mind back, another mental push-up. THIS is the practice, noticing, bringing the mind back and focusing again — on the breath or the candle or the counting or the mantra you are using… “Breathing in, I calm my body….. Breathing out, I smile…”
Practice is beginning. Again, and again. With kindness and a gentle spirit, practice is taking baby steps to begin, and begin again. We just need to start. We take the seed thought of intention and work with it. Whatever your practice, it needn’t be ideal to begin. It’s practice! The meditation practice that in our minds is a peaceful, uninterrupted twenty minutes on a beautiful meditation cushion can start as three minutes sitting on our kitchen chair or in bed before we rise, or even three breaths standing at the door before we walk out into our day. The “sense walk” that would take me around the block enjoying nature can be sitting for a few moments in a sunny window and pausing to feel the sun shining in, feel my feet on the floor, feel my body at rest, smell the subtle aroma of plants nearby, sip my morning coffee and open my eyes to enjoy the colors and shapes and light in the room around me. Simple. Tomorrow, we begin again. And again. Until that day when the 20 minute sit or the walk around the block happens.
And so my writing practice begins. Today, I take the baby step of sitting down to write. I suspend for this moment the expectations of writing the perfect post and focus on exploring one thing. I focus on beginning. I set a small notebook nearby to record that compelling, seductive idea that might otherwise pull me away but that for now can wait and I return to my practice. I keep returning, keeping the focus and taking the next step. The soup will have to wait.