A couple of ideas for this week’s column fell through, so I thought about skipping it.
But there’s another reason I wanted to avoid writing: My meditation practice hasn’t been going well in the past month, and that’s difficult for me to admit.
As I’ve written before, it’s been easier for me to implement daily mindfulness practices into my routine. And I want to be proud of that accomplishment in itself because it has created a marked difference in my mindset, and thus my life.
For example, when I’m anxious about something in the future, I more easily bring myself to the present moment. I appreciate it and disconnect from everything except what I’m doing. It’s a wonderful thing to learn.
But, despite that, I’ve been remiss in my daily meditation practice, in which I sit mostly in silence, but with some verbal guidance from an app or teacher. For a couple of years, I’ve been successful in meditating at least two or three times a week. But at the beginning of the year, I made the goal to do it daily-even if it was only for 10 minutes.
The benefits of this dedicated, focused quiet time in which you train your brain to concentrate on being in each second are countless, and I’ve written a lot about it, so I won’t repeat myself. (You can click here, here and here for more.)
But over the past month, I’ve failed at my goal. This week, I meditated only once. And so I find myself in a shame spiral, which is the antithesis of mindfulness and meditation, which includes practicing equanimity and self-compassion.
I didn’t want to admit that I’ve been struggling to keep up the habit. But as my other ideas fell through, I felt the urge to be honest and frank about it.
It would be a disservice to myself, readers and the essence of the practices for me to deny that it can be difficult.
Like with any habit, I am sure it gets easier if you make it a daily practice that you maintain over years with little deviation.
But I think we all fall out of healthy habits at times.
Am I the only one who lets things slip? Am I alone in feeling self-contempt, disappointment and sadness when it happens?
I don’t think so, and I do know that our egos have a lot to do with these feelings. The ego feeds on negative emotions. Feeling bad can subconsciously make us feel good.
“The ego does not want an end to its ‘problems,’ because they are part of its identity,” according to Eckhart Tolle. “If no one will listen to my sad story, I can tell it to myself in my head over and over and feel sorry for myself, and so have an identity as someone who is being treated unfairly by life or other people, fate or God. It gives definition to my self-image, makes me into someone, and that is all that matters to the ego.”
Well, I’m not going to let my ego trick me into that. Although I have been quietly berating myself for not being my best or meeting my goal, I’ve also found that doing so hasn’t made me any more likely to achieve it.
Is it rational for me to go around telling myself (or listening to my ego) about how I’m a failure without doing anything to change it? No. Is it respectable for me to write about these topics and not admit when I’ve slipped? No.
So what’s important is to realize that it’s OK to get distracted; it’s human to err.
When we meditate and practice mindfulness, we are working to reprogram what we’ve known our entire lives, which is no small feat.
In the practice of meditation, we are taught not to judge ourselves when our minds wander. We simply note it and refocus. The starting over again and again is the practice.
I’ve been trying to adopt similar methods in my entire life, which is a series of victories and setbacks.
I know in theory that getting attached to the highs and lows of life isn’t productive. We can’t put too much stock in the ebbs and flows of existence or we’ll be manic, anxiety-ridden basket cases. (I bet sometimes our minds feel like that, but we’re all well-versed at hiding it.)
I was reluctant to admit that I’ve been unsuccessful so far in reaching my goal because I was ashamed.
But admitting all this isn’t a weakness; it is imperative to my growth process and, I hope, helpful to anyone else who is struggling, whether with a meditation practice or another challenge.
I am confident that I will get back in a habit that makes me feel more satisfied and content.
And I’m working to overcome fruitless feelings of guilt and shame when expectations and reality don’t align.
Because expectations often don’t align with reality, that’s life. So dealing with these emotions in the context of mindfulness and meditation can only help me improve when other disappointments and obstacles arise.
That’s part of the beauty of these practices-they equip us to more gracefully maneuver the tightrope walk of life.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.