This is the third in a series of blog posts aimed at capturing my experience following the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care’s 90 Day Commit-to-Sit challenge. Each day, I have been sent an email that contains an excerpt from Maezumi’s Appreciate Your Life with a brief reflection afterwards. My intention is to share my experience each week to foster discussion, illuminate the process of working on a practice, and reflecting on a excerpt that stuck with me from the week.
Another week has passed, another seven days of sitting, and another string of learning, growing, and slowing down. This week I noticed a few things came up for me: The first was timing. As work and life gets a little bit busier, I am finding that I must be more flexible in the way and time that I approach meditation. I am a creature of habit, at least when I am successful. How this translates to meditation is that I like to sit in the same place, do the same things, and roughly at the same time each night.
Because of this, I must admit, I missed a day of practice this week…
…which is ok.
It is ok because I am learning to practice compassion with myself. To be in this moment and not belabor the past or think about catastrophic futures. I have a tendency to think that if I break a “streak” then all the work before was for nothing. This is just simply not true, and luckily, one of the more memorable excerpts this week speaks to just that idea:
"So mere sitting is not enough. You must reveal this wisdom in the way you live. How can we live this realization? Just living in a realized way is still not enough. We must share it together, with each other. How can we share it best with everybody, so that all of us can live the enlightened life?"
As this reflection indicates, our practice is not simply on the cushion. It is in our actions, how we live with one another, and how we show compassion. I chose to sit twice the following day after I missed my practice, but I also was able to remind myself that I am trying to live the practice as well. In my interactions, I aim to be more present, in my work, I aim for vulnerability and authenticity, and in my self, I aim to show some compassion – to understand that a ‘missed’ day is just that. There is always the opportunity to recommit, sit, and breathe. There is nothing compassionate in beating ourselves up – especially when we are talking about presence and living mindfully.
Another thing that came up for me was an intense desire to return more and more to the cushion.
The more I sit, the more I crave sitting.
I wrote this after wandering over to my meditation space a few days ago in the middle of the day. My space is not fancy: I have a singing bowl, which I use to chime me into and out of practice, I have my cushion, a mat for the cushion to sit on, and some sage. There is something comforting and homey about burning sage, so I find the fragrance in the air a nice addition to my meditation practice. Occasionally, I will just sit on my cushion, morning coffee in hand, and stare out the window – at trees, or snow, or if I am lucky, a passing bird or fox. I think this signifies an important movement in my practice, a bodily recognition of the comfort, balance, and release that the meditation space has created for me. I firmly believe the consistency of practice has led to more of a desire for consistency. It also helps me plant and ground much more effectively when it comes time to sit and be still.
So – the journey continues! As my practice and thoughts evolve, I hope yours do as well. As you move into the next week, remember there are more ways to practice than sitting, and that it never hurts to direct some of your compassion, understanding, and openness to yourself.
Be well, friends.