I’ve been practicing Kung Fu since October. My sifu is a bit rare, as I understand it, in that he absolutely insists that meditation be part of our practice, holds 5-minute meditations before every class, and has weekly 20-minute meditations on Thursday nights following a talk.
Out of my six months of practicing Kung Fu, I’d say I’ve actually done four months. Twice I allowed myself to become tied up with life and excuses and didn’t make it to the dojo for almost a month. This sort of behaviour is one of my stated reasons for starting to practice in the first place – I get ginned up for things and taper off; rinse and repeat.
Last week at meditation class, the topic was regularity and loyalty to practice. I felt the talk was directed at me specifically (30 or more people attend every week, so this is unlikely) and it started to dig at the root of my problem, I think.
This week I was thinking about how to start mediating on my own successfully. I’ve been a regular at the meditation class (when I’ve been active), but I’ve been wholly unsuccessful at meditating on my own. I’ve made half-hearted gambits, trying 3-minute meditations and such, but I could never continue with them. I’d do it once, then forget for several days or “not have time”, then take another stab, and then give up. I was preparing to go in this weekend and ask one of Sifu’s assistants for a really low-ball target that I could hit for meditation. Something just enough to get me started without giving up.
Then, last night, I once again felt like he had prepared a talk to address directly at me. The topic was meditation itself, which, oddly, isn’t much discussed during meditation class. He spent the duration talking about what a meditation schedule should consist of: short (3-5 min.), medium (20-30 min), and long (45+ min) meditations. Medium, he said, are the “bread and butter”: at least once a day EVERY DAY, preferably two; morning is the best time if you can only do one. The short ones are for interspersing throughout your day, maybe three times, at moments when you need it: closing your eyes while waiting in line, sitting in a back room at work, or even locking yourself in a restroom stall. The long meditations are for once a quarter, once a month, or once a week; whatever you can do.
And he was absolutely serious. Dead serious. A “I better not ask for a low-ball from anyone this weekend because holy crap he just told me what’s up” serious. And he drove home the idea of the long meditations being an endurance test for your will power. Of course, I knew that just a “medium” meditation would be such a test for me.
I was up too late last night; I had put off a trip to the grocery store and went to the 24-hour store around 11:30pm, when I should’ve been heading for bed. I knew I would have trouble getting up, but I got it in my head I was going to meditate in the morning. This morning, I sat up with the first noise of my alarm clock and was ready. As someone who typically hits the snooze 5 times, that was a novelty.
I reset the alarm for 20 minutes, and sat.
Then I was too warm.
My sleeves were uncomfortable.
I was too warm again.
My legs were in a bad position.
Back wasn’t straight.
Back started getting really tired.
Then I wanted to jump up and run from the room. I wanted to stop SO BADLY. I had things to do. I WANTED TO YELL and jump up and say “good enough”. I was positively bursting to get up. BURSTING. My mind was screaming to let it go. Screaming. This never happens during a group meditation, but I’m surprised it took even this long to happen on my own – usually I can’t make 5 minutes!
But this time I sat some more. I refused to get up.
Then my legs started to go to sleep so I moved them.
Then I could barely keep my back straight it was so tired, so I quietly scooted back a few inches to the wall.
My mind calmed a little.
And then the alarm went off. I opened my eyes and wanted to hit the snooze alarm so I could meditate longer, but I had to get ready for work!
I find this to be a pattern: if I can stick with it long enough, suddenly it becomes a positive thing. I found myself wishing on Thursday night that I hadn’t missed my opportunity to go to class on Wednesday because now I just plain missed it. Sifu said that’s when you know you’re doing something right: you stop having to meditate and start wanting to meditate. I’m almost there for Kung Fu, but I’m nowhere near it for meditation. I hope I can make it there, though.
When I decided to meditate in the morning, I knew it I needed to do it the next day too. And the next. And keep going… forever. Forever is a long time, but I think that’s the decision I need to keep in mind. I’m not doing it “tomorrow”. I’m doing it. Maybe that’s where I’ve been falling short.