The reason I think free writing is better than meditation, especially for those of us who constantly slip from the practice, is that it includes solid grips on slippery thoughts. The act of typing serves as a hand rail on our thoughts, and occupies a certain part of the brain that generally gets restless and looks for something to do, because it’s already doing something: typing.
Disabling that restless squirrel in your brain is the reason why activities like walking, showering, doing the dishes, gardening, etc., are all such great activities for stirring up creative thoughts.
“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” ~Robert H Schuller
I have tried for so long to build a meditation habit. Seriously, it’s been one of my biggest goals for more than a decade.
And I’ve tried really hard. I’ve read books, I’ve taken classes, I’ve made accountability charts, I’ve set SMART goals; I’ve done it all.
Sometimes, I’ll fall into a good rhythm, and I might make it onto my mat three or four days in a row. Then sometimes, three whole months will go by without me managing to do it at all.
So what gives? Why can’t I make it happen? What am I doing wrong, after ten years of trying?
I decided to dig deeper into what was happening inside my poor little monkey mind that might be hindering my progress.
It took me by surprise when I realized that no matter what my practice has actually looked like over the years, whether I’d been totally diligent or utterly neglectful, there had been one constant the entire time: I’ve always felt like I needed to be the best at meditation.
Yep, that’s the phrase that actually popped into my mind, word for word, when I tried to unpack what was going on: the best at meditation.
I know what you’re thinking: What does that even mean? How can you be “the best” at something like meditation?
And let me tell you, I know how dumb it sounds. Meditation, by its very nature, is about not having attachment to such things as results or outcomes. I mean, it’s about being in the moment, not about getting an A+ rating or a bunch of gold-stars.
And yet I felt like I needed to be awesome at it. To be better than others. To bypass beginner status and immediately step into the category of “expert.”
I kept getting this image in my head: me, perched perfectly still in lotus position, the dawn sunshine on my face, wind blowing gently in my beautifully beachy hair, my outfit crisp and white, and my face a perfect vision of peace and tranquility.
(Never mind that I am not a morning person, that the lotus position gives me pins and needles, that my hair is more bushy than beachy, and that I don’t even own any crisp white clothes.)
When I dug deeper, I realized there was a follow-on thought from my attachment to this vision and my need for achievement: If I couldn’t be awesome at meditation, if I couldn’t achieve perfection… there was no point.
That was my unconscious thought pattern.
Which was why I always aimed for ridiculously long sessions; if I didn’t have a full thirty minutes to devote to it, what was the point?
It was why I was so disappointed if my mind wandered; if I didn’t give an A+ performance, what was the point?
It is why I’d feel like a failure if I didn’t do it first thing in the morning (even though my late-night work sessions made that completely impractical); if I hadn’t done a dawn session, what was the point?
And it was why I would get so down on myself if I missed a single day; if I couldn’t keep a perfect score card, what on earth was the point?
All in all, it’s no wonder I haven’t been able to make this habit stick. At every step of the journey, I’ve been psyching myself out of making any progress by expecting supreme, utter perfection.
In the past, this type of thinking has reared its head in other areas of my life too: if I can’t go to the gym for at least a full hour, there’s no point, right?
If I can’t eat 100 percent healthy for the rest of the week, I may as well write the next few days off, yeah?
And if I can’t fit in a long, uninterrupted stretch of writing time, there’s no point pulling out my notebook at all, amiright?!
Thankfully, over the years I’ve become aware of these perfectionist tendencies, and have developed a few mental strategies and ninja tricks to overcome them. (Don’t have time for a full gym session? Do half an hour of power yoga in the lounge room instead. Revolutionary, huh?)
But it’s taken me oh-so-long to realize that I was also doing it in my meditation practice; that I was letting my pursuit of perfection hold me back from inner peace.
Now that I know, I’m trying to let go of all expectations on myself when it comes to gettin’ my Zen on. In fact, my meditation sessions these days have been pared right back to the simplest, most achievable, most non-perfect thing I could think of.
Want to know what that looks like? (Prepare yourself for the profoundness!)
Two minutes of meditation, every one or two days.
And, if I haven’t managed to pull it off during the day, I do it in the shower at night, just before I go to bed (yep, standing there, suds and all, with not a lotus position in sight).
It’s minimal, it’s manageable, and it’s achievable. It’s also effective for quieting my monkey mind and giving me the tiny pockets of peace and stillness I crave so much.
I’m now on my fourth week of this new approach, and I’m happy to report that by releasing my expectations of perfection. In fact, by embracing the fact that I am going to mess up, and by giving myself some wiggle room and a short-cut to get around it, I’ve actually been more mindful in the past month than I’ve been for a really long time.
And I’ve definitely ended up with more time spent on the mat through these little baby steps than when I was aiming for giant, dramatic leaps.
It’s been an eye-opening lesson, and one that I’m very grateful for.
So now I want to ask you, dear one, are you letting perfection hold you back from achieving something you really want?
Could you cut yourself a break and aim for “okay” instead of “awesome”? It might sound counterintuitive in our culture of comparison and perfection, but the results might just take you by surprise.
Now I really need to stop listening to “Uptown Funk” and start getting ready for work! (Side note to all my FitBit buddies: chair-dancing to Bruno Mars gave me 291 steps on my FitBit). Here is the link for my Montessori blog – it is a collection of articles and videos I have found. Yes, I am a digital hoarder!
WHAT IS 40 BAGS IN 40 DAYS?
40 bags in 40 days is a forty day period in the spring (coinciding with the 40 days of Lent) where you declutter one area a day.
The goal is one bag a day but you can have more or less. The 2015 challenge officially goes from Wednesday, February 18th to Saturday, April 4th. Sundays are your day off.
But you don’t need to wait for the official challenge, you can start whenever!
7. We like to write things out.
Writing is easier than talking for us sometimes. Email is the best because it helps us get the thoughts out of our heads without being interrupted. Thinking about giving us a call? Try a text or email instead.
15 Things That Introverts Would Never Tell You
I love ayurveda, the 5,000 year old system of Indian mind-body spirit medicine. In fact, I love it so much I wrote an entire book about it. Yet I hadn’t had a dose of ayurvedic cleansing for many years and was yearning for some of its deep pampering treatments.
Would I have to trek over to India or Sri Lanka to get my abhyanga and shirodhara fix? It seemed not. I could fly to Saltzburg and be at Schloss Pichlarn less than two hours later. No jet lag, no sirree.
Saltzburg? The Austrian mountains seem an unlikely venue for exotic ayurveda but, in fact, it’s not as strange as it sounds. Ayurveda became very popular in Germany and Austria in the 90s and there is a wide choice of ayurvedic spas in these most firmly western countries.
Schloss Pichlarn has been developed around an old castle (complete with turrets)…
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Spas have become so commonplace now that it’s unusual to find a smart hotel that doesn’t have one. The word spa has become synonymous with pampering, with elaborate ‘rituals’ and esoteric beauty treatments. But it wasn’t always so. The original spas were built with serious healing in mind. They were usually sited in places with natural springs where people would ‘take the waters’ – drinking or bathing in water rich in minerals, or being daubed with its mud. Far from being ‘feelgood’ places, they were often quite draconian in their treatments. I clearly remember enduring all kinds of torture (including freezing showers and being wrapped in wet bandages) at Tyringham Hall, an erstwhile naturopathic spa. There was no concept of picking and choosing your treatments – you were given what the doctor thought you needed, no more, no less.
Now we’re seeing a move back to this more focused therapeutic…
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