90 Day Commit-to-Sit: Week 1 - Settling In

In case you are unfamiliar, this is the first 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.

I think the first week of any new practice is a difficult one.  This week was no different, but I am happy to report that I completed all 4 days of sitting this week.  It was particularly hard, because two of those days I was out of town.  This traditionally disrupts my routines, as I am staying in someone else’s home, not really on my own schedule, and just generally out of my comfort zone.  What made this time different for me, and led to my success, was two-fold; one, I felt accountable to you – I said that I was going to write on this experience, and I really felt like I should try to not crumble to the first obstacle that came my way.  Two, I didn’t let myself rationalize or talk myself out of it.  I am really good at coming up with all the excuses for why I don’t/can’t follow through on commitments.  This time (maybe it was because of the practice) I caught that inner dialogue, identified what was happening, and simply told myself that when I could find some time before bed (I was chatting late into the evening with my hosts), it would be fine to sleep a little bit less so that I could stick to my guns.  I short, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to talk myself out of my commitment.

In terms of length, the program doesn’t specify any predetermined amount of time.  Though I have had a practice of sitting on and off, I opted for a goal of 10 mins of meditation.  For me, this is a pretty attainable amount of time, and it set me up for the highest chance of success (if my life gets crazy, I would even be ok with 5 min).  If this is your first go at meditation, choose a time that works for you.  1 min is better than nothing at all.  As I see it, if I want to overshoot that goal, great! But I don’t want to find myself in a situation where I am feeling like I let myself down if I don’t sit for 30 min every day.

I found the excerpts that come with each daily email to be really nice.  Focusing on a specific feeling or thought is a little outside of my comfort zone; I usually practice with a focus on the breath only.  These emails usually suggest a specific focal point, and I tried to stick to that.  Here is the excerpt this week that most resonated with me:

I encourage you. Please enjoy this wonderful life together.  Appreciate the world of just this! There is nothing extra. Genuinely appreciate your life as the most precious treasure and take good care of it.

I read this right after scanning through news headlines on my phone.  As I am sure you can imagine, there is a disproportionate amount of negative versus positive news.  I find it quite easy to get bogged down in all that negativity, so to have this gentle reminder to come back to this moment, feel myself in my space, listen to my body breathe, and practice appreciation, allowed me to let the news of the world melt away – making room for silence, calm and genuine appreciation.

I think that is enough for this week, though I am looking forward to what the next several months brings.  If you have any questions of comments, please reply below, or email me and I would be happy to talk about your questions, experiences, or reflections.

Be well, friends.