Every practice starts as a single attempt at better.
I have been meditating every day for 222 days straight. Yes, I’m counting. Why? Because it took my more than 5 years to do it.
Before this feels like a nagging for you to meditate more, I’ll stop and say it’s not. This is about letting go of perfect.
I have tried and failed for years to get a consistent practice to stick. I’ve spent days forcing zen into my life when I wasn’t ready to make it happen. When I worked as a learning and development specialist for a large Canadian brand, I was so stressed out all the time, the last thing I thought I had time for was (what I could only understand at the time to be) nothing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to start and keep a consistent practice. Whether it’s meditation, having regular check-ins at work, running, and managing our busy-ness, a practice starts with a desire to do something differently in your life – for the better. It’s not about being perfect at it.
One of my favourite people in the world, a dear friend and client, sent me this quote recently that really resonated with me, thinking about the development of a practice:
We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. There’s no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Any practice you do everyday didn’t start as a full-on thing. The longest consistent practice many of us have is brushing our teeth, and even that didn’t happen overnight. My mom could tell you lots of stories about my sisters and I sneaking off to bed with peach fuzz on our candy-coated teeth.
Most of us don’t even consider teeth brushing as a practice. It’s something we do, just because, that’s what we do. But there’s nothing genetic or natural about it. It’s something we do everyday without much thought or, more specifically, consideration of not doing it. It’s a practice that stuck because we were encouraged, we didn’t get caught up in falling off the wagon, and we tried and tried again. I’ll bet you won’t leave your house now without a good scrub of those pearly whites!
What if that thing you want to do consistently became a reality? For a long time I wanted to find the illusive “work/life balance.” I wanted to be in control of my choices so that I could choose to leave work on time without feeling guilty. So that I wouldn’t feel like a failure if someone didn’t like my idea. For me, that came through meditation. It wasn’t until I let go of trying to be perfect at it that the practice stuck. I could just be in the experience without any expectations of what it could or should be.
When we grasp for perfection we lose site of what matters.
When we are able to let go of trying to be perfect, when we stop beating ourselves up for falling off the wagon, we open to the experience of being here. A human being with a desire to do something differently for the better.