On this blog over the past year or so, I have been discussing various practices and tools that you can implement to take better care of yourself, bring better balance to a busy and noisy life, make more space for you. In this post, I want to go back to setting the foundation of adopting any mindfulness or self-care practice. This foundation is commitment to yourself. How good are you at committing to take care of yourself? What does it take to commit, and what prevents you from making that commitment? While it seems simple, I see very often that it can be the most difficult kind of commitment to make. My students tell me often how much they want to come to class every week, or how much they would like a personal practice, and how often other things take precedence.
Here is my experience. I have a daily meditation practice. I have had a desire for a daily meditation practice since at least 2007, and have taken steps to build that practice ever since then. But it has taken many years to become truly consistent in my daily practice.
I wanted to tell you about this because I have recently realized that this struggle with commitment is subtle, and that it can be tackled one moment at a time. What was stopping me from committing to a daily meditation practice?? -- It wasn't a lack of desire, or a lack of understanding that meditation is good for me. Every time that I did sit to meditate, my whole day was transformed, in small but noticeable ways.
The two key impediments to my commitment were coming from my mind.
First was the "I'm Very Busy" mind tricks. Each time that the moment to meditate came - usually first thing in the morning for me - I would get the overwhelming sense that I had no time. I had to get to work. I had to get to yoga class. I had to respond to this client/boss email that was sitting in my inbox from last night. I had to go talk to my husband or stepchild, respond to a friend, etc. The general gist can be characterized as "everything and everyone else is more important than me and my meditation practice, and I will never catch up if I do not attend to all of those things right now!" In actuality, it was nothing more than my mind trying to trick me into skipping meditation out of fear. The fear that I won't get everything I need to get done done, and ultimately the fear of pushing past the mind boundaries that keep me in my comfort zone, safe. Every single day the mind tempts me with "not now, tomorrow will be better," and these tricks have not stopped. It’s just that I have been watching this dance long enough, so I am well familiar with it now, and I developed tools to deal with it.
The second impediment makes it easier for my mind to subvert my commitment was leaving too much room for decision-making. I am an analytically-minded person. My mind is going most of the time. Given the chance to think and make decisions, my mind will struggle with indecision, and will in the process analyze its way into the excuse of why now is not a good time. What I found is that I need a specific time to meditate, and I need a specific routine for meditation, so that I can just sit and do it, without facing an unsurmountable task of choosing from all the breath and meditation practices that I know each time that I sit. So I have started to design my own meditation routines that I can use for a month at a time, and it's doing me wonders.
Let's Recommit, No Judgment!
If you are struggling with commitment to whatever self-care routine you would like to stick to daily, be it a meditation practice, regular yoga practice, gratitude journaling, or any other practices you've read about here or elsewhere, I would like to help you create and affirm your commitment and get going again. No judgment -- that inner struggle is real, and it's a lifelong journey to overcome it. It takes two steps to make that commitment real.
1. Take decision out of it. What can you do to make it as easy as possible to do your chosen practice? Do you need to fix your meditation practice routine, or maybe you would prefer a guided one? (You can download a guided practice on this website!) Do you need to plan out at the beginning of the week which yoga/fitness classes you will go to, and put them in your calendar? Would it help to schedule your journaling session in your calendar, or write out your prompt for your three gratitudes in your journal the night before? -- Whatever it is, "pre-plan" your practice or habit as much as possible, so all you need to do in the moment is follow the plan without thinking.
2. Recognize and overcome the mind trick, every time. Each time your practice time comes, the mind will play the trick. Let's first notice and accept that. Then, with compassion for your mind's play, just accept it with "I know, you're here, welcome! -- I'm doing it anyway," and just go to that class, or sit to meditate or journal. Here, step 1 will really help. Another effective idea is to make an affirmation to your practice/habit; each time that it is time for your practice, repeat your affirmation, something like "this is my self-care time, I deserve and need it, and I am committed to making it happen."
Go for it, choose your practices, and make your commitment. You will love the benefits!