Thank you for the encouraging comments on my post yesterday! Much appreciated!
The other part of this thought is the realization that I pile too much practice on myself. I tend to do this and it is insidious. I feel that daily practice is very important. However, I can only do so much in a day! So I tend to have too many things I aspire to do in a day and then it stresses me out.
A small example of this occurs within my meditation practice. So the very baseline goal is to meditate everyday for at least 10 minutes. However, somewhere along the way I added different types of meditation practice three days a week. Then I added reading a particular sutra every night before I got to bed. Etc. I have all of these things that I “have to do.” Stripping all of this away for a few weeks has made me realize that I am too hard on myself! I have reset my meditation practice and an going to just focus on 10 minutes almost everyday (because lets face it, I don’t get to it every single day.)
I do this with everything. Running. Drawing. Anything in which I have developed a practice. This is something for me to work on. I am not sure how to fix this, but realizing it is probably a step in the right direction.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, maybe doing what is right in front of me at this very moment is perfect. Maybe I don’t have to aspire to anything. Maybe just eating this big salad and reading this book is enough.
So today is the day where I am supposed to look ahead and talk about the things I want for the upcoming year. And I am tempted to do this because I have a lot of things that I want to strive for. If I am not anything else, I am a serial striver. I like to have things (ok, let’s call them goals) to work toward.
But this morning I had a kind of epiphany. I was sitting here, feeling bad from the drinking and the sugar overdose from last night as I ate a piece of cake and piece of pizza for breakfast. As I noticed the layer of plaque on my teeth I started to beat myself up a little bit for not brushing my teeth before I went to bed. I thought about how much that one small act, brushing my teeth before going to bed, affects me and my self worth. It’s kind of weird actually, how one small thing can affect me in such a big way. Last weekend I woke up in the middle of the night and layed in bed, worried about a number of things (as one does). I realized, as I was laying there, that I hadn’t brushed my teeth the night before (I fell asleep on the couch and was too lazy and tired to take that extra step). I decided to get up and brush my teeth. When I went back to bed I immediately felt more relaxed and I fell back asleep pretty quickly. I am not sure what this was all about but I realize that this small thing really makes a big difference in my well being.
So what if, instead of having these huge lofty resolutions (lose 15 pounds, eat healthier, go to the gym, etc), what if my one resolution this year is to brush my teeth every night before I go to bed?
I then thought about my meditation practice and my “goal” of meditating everyday for 10 minutes. This is a resolution but in my mind I see it as “lofty.” But what if meditating everyday is not seen as lofty and is seen as a more mundane activity, like brushing my teeth? It seems like meditation should be as mundane as brushing my teeth. It should be that simple. Maybe this year I will look at it that way.
So anyway, this is what I am looking at as i go into the next year. I like Jim Grey‘s (from Down The Road) way of looking at the new year too and I am going to think about the three themes he is going to focus on.
Happy New Year, dear readers! Best wishes for 2016!
Yesterday I went to my third-ever all day meditation retreat. I have to admit, I was little anxious about going a few days before I went. And if I was being really honest with myself, I was a little cranky about going. The thought of spending an entire day doing nothing but sitting and breathing and not talking to anyone sounded excruciatingly boring. I could think of a million other things I wanted to do. I could think of a million things I probably should otherwise be doing on one of my days of the weekend.
But I went because I knew that I needed to go.
I practice Buddhism in the Sōtō Zen tradition, which focuses on zazen (sitting meditation). And this is what we did for most of the day. We sat for 20 minutes, and then we would do something else to break up the zazen, like walking meditation, or work practice (cleaning, gardening, etc). We had a formal lunch, and we even did a form of meditation called Mondo (which is really cool). These extra things broke up the day in-between periods of sitting. We were not to speak to each other the entire day unless it was to give very brief instructions during the periods between zazen.
It seems weird to not talk to other people, almost rude actually. However, once you are in this kind of setting you realize that you can communicate with other beings without words. No I don’t mean telepathic mind-meld. I am just saying that words are only one way we communicate. Maybe we don’t need to constantly be speaking to one another. It’s ok to explore not speaking to other humans who are in the same room with you. You know?
The first 20 minutes of meditation first thing in the morning I almost panicked because I sat there, bored and wondered if this is what I was going to be dealing with all day. Not a great way to start things off.
But then my mind settled and I fell into a groove of watching my breath and my thoughts.
At some point in the afternoon I realized that I was, very much, enjoying the silence. My life is full of chatter and noise. I work in a public library and noise comes at me from so many directions. And I am an introvert – so this chatter tends to tire me out. I have gotten used to living with this constant chatter that I don’t even notice it anymore. Until it isn’t there. So I was really grateful for the lack of chatter yesterday. It allowed me to really follow what was going on inside my head, and it allowed me to put some space around all of the thoughts so I could watch them arise and fall as they drifted through my mind.
Interesting thing that happened: all of those things that I felt like “I should otherwise be doing” didn’t matter at the end of the day. And they still don’t matter.
Things for me, lately, have been overwhelming. I am going through some stress and, unfortunately, I don’t do stress very well. I have recently learned that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Actually, this is something that I’ve known about myself all of my life, I am just finding out that there is a name for it. And that I’m not alone (which is great!). But more on this in another blog post. What I want to talk about today is happiness.
I am finding myself lately trying to fit into that box that society calls “normal.” Frankly, I am not really sure what that is. In my head I think it is being happy. Society says that we should be happy. That if we aren’t happy something is wrong with us. I find myself falling easily into this thought groove. Then someone or something comes along and reminds me that happiness isn’t the be all and end all.
There is something very freeing about this thought. I don’t have to always be happy. Wow. That takes a load off. There is a lot of pressure and work in being happy all of the time.
I think for me the best thing is to focus on what is right in front of me at any given moment. I can do that. Sometimes, anything beyond the given moment can be overwhelming. Today is one of those days. Today I need to just focus on what is right in front of me.
I find that when I do that I can be content. Content is good. In many ways I think I’d rather be content than happy.