A friend of mine started her meditation practice about a year ago. She started small, just a few minutes a day and had great consistency for probably 6 months or more. After a little hiccup, she started up again this spring. Then in the summer she upped her time to somewhere around 30 minutes. The first time she spoke to me about it she was so thrilled! Things were shifting in the practice. Things were new and different and exciting. She felt she just might be able to enjoy it and really get into meditating.
And then. It just stopped. Something shifted and she absolutely cannot make it to her seat.
When I spoke to her shortly after the meditation stopped she sounded so dejected. She seemed entirely down on herself and strung out about it. Judging herself and her stopping.
I listened intently and reminded her that we all have fits and starts with everything, especially when we're working on incorporating a new habit into our lives. Even really great habits, probably because they're so good for us, are challenging to maintain as we get started. I'm not sure where she is on things now.
But I've been thinking about it as I watch myself, my students, and my friends struggle with maintaining consistency in our practices over time.
Did you ever see Cirque du Soleil? If you've ever caught them live or on TV you might have witnessed something pretty remarkable, a missed trick, a mistake. While it's kind of remarkable that they miss the trick - it seems to be an incredibly well oiled machine, but human obviously - what I find even more remarkable is how the performers don't even miss a beat before attempting again, and even again if needed. Usually by the 3rd attempt they've gotten it down and the show moves on. No judgement, no fear, no stopping along the way to hem-and-haw, b*tch and moan... none of that, just doing it again.
Ha, maybe it's the yoda concept: Either do or do not, there is no try.
I think we could stand to take a little bit of a Cirque approach to our practices. Certainly life makes practice challenging at times (inner life or outer life), and so practices drop off. I'm not particularly worried about that. I'm much more interested in how quickly I can pick myself back up, do a triple flip and land back on my feet. No judgement about time lost along the way. The longer we dwell in the misery of "I stopped practicing" and "I should practice today" the more mired down we become.
If instead we focus on how to pick ourselves back up and assess what we really truly want to include in our lives, the practice may just have the chance to truly take root and become a deeply important part of our daily (or near daily) lives.