Monday, November 28, 2016

promises promises

i love the results a consistent meditation practice brings. but for a while i lost my practice.  as in i think it wandered off while i was shopping, and no amount of PA system calling could place it.

ok clearly it didn't wander off.  but that's what it felt like.  it surely wasn't my fault that i lost it. i had been waking up early to meditate every morning for 6 months straight.  i made an international trip to sydney and continued the practice, despite the irregular hours and erratic schedule while there.  upon arriving back in nyc, though, my sleep was the most disrupted it had ever been, and my meditation practice got lost in the jumble.  for the following 6 months, i meditated irregularly: a couple of times a week, when it was most convenient.

mostly, i beat myself up for not meditating.  mornings that i woke up later than intended were begun with a rush to get brekky and a thought that i'd ruined my meditation plan. i would silently feel bad about this, think about the things i could be accomplishing if i had meditated and had a clear slate to work from, and then grumpily go about getting out the door.

despite knowing how the daily meditation practice helped me, i felt like there was some mental block keeping me from re-engaging with the practice. a couple of weeks ago i attended a coaching call with elena and laurie from the handel group on keeping promises. when laurie asked for examples of promises we were having trouble keeping, i mentioned this lost meditation.

elena and laurie talked about how feeling bad is a diversion.  when it comes to making and keeping promises, engaging in the promised behavior provides you with personal integrity.  if you don’t do the behavior and then feel bad about it, you obscure the fact that you didn’t do the behavior.  so what’s happening is you’re listening to the other voice that provides you with an excuse.

this means that every morning i woke up without meditating and then silently yelled at myself up for not doing so, my mind felt like i had taken care of the problem.  i was actually giving myself more of an excuse to continue NOT meditating.  

you have to quiet that excuse voice by giving yourself a consequence when you don't engage in the promised behavior.  if you don’t do the promised behavior, you have to follow through by doing the consequence. this consequence replaces the voice that gives you an excuse.

although i've worked with the handel method before, i was skeptical that simply setting a consequence would magically find my wandering meditation practice.  but, i set a consequence: if i did not wake up early and meditate for 20 minutes, i would not be allowed to watch internet tv before bed.  (what i like about that consequence is that it is also providing me with a second opportunity for meditation if i miss the morning.)

i set the consequence and instantly i was back on track: my missing practice showed up. and it has been showing up every day for the past 12 days.  i told my mom about this, and she said "you must really like to watch tv at night!" i laughed, because i suppose i do, but that's not actually what happened here.  for example, when my alarm goes off, i don't think "i better get up and meditate so i can watch tv tonight!" i don't think at all, really.  i just do it.

this is an example of personal integrity: of wanting to keep that promise to myself.  of showing myself i CAN keep the promise.  of becoming dependent on myself.

the coolest part of that is that it is SUPER EASY. showing yourself that you can keep these promises to yourself gives you faith in yourself. and that faith keeps multiplying.

go ahead, try it.  maybe you could care less about where your meditation practice is.  but maybe you beat yourself up about delaying email replies, about not flossing, or about choosing a sugary drink over water.  choose one of those little things that has been driving you nuts, make yourself some promises promises... and then keep them.

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