It’s funny how, every once in a while, if you listen to the subtle messages unfolding around you on a constant basis, you pick up on a pattern of small bits of information that seem to build into something substantial. That happened to me recently on the general topic of effortlessness. Like many would-be adepts, I have a number of daily practices that I fit into various parts of the day. Sometimes they pay off with feelings of increased awareness or energy but, if I were being totally honest, most of the time they feel like drudge-work… a part of the day that occurs more out of habit than anything else… with the basic idea being one of consistency rather than joy.
For example, there are times when I don’t feel like sitting for meditation because I’m tired or because the room is too cold. There are times when I get close to the end of my evening mantra practice and I simply can’t wait until I’m done so I can tick that checkbox and move on to something else. I realized that I was still looking at most of these practices as “something I do” as one stage in a sequence of experiences.
An interesting analogy that crossed my mind is that of dieting. Many people try one diet after another eventually abandoning each one after some “trial period”. I recall reading something a long time ago, when the author was asked what they thought was the “best” diet, and the reply was: “the one you can stick with for the rest of your life”. The idea, of course, is that a diet isn’t something you “do” for a time before doing something else — it’s something you “are” and a reflection of how you’ve chosen to live your life. Once I realized that as a personal truth (as opposed to just parroting the words), my diet settled down into a pattern that I’ve been living with for several years now and that I have no intention of changing because, at this point, it’s simply become a part of who I am.
Our magical practices should work the same way. If you meditate in the morning because it makes you feel better for the rest of the day or because you feel noticeably “off” when you don’t, it’s no longer a matter of: “gee… I’m kinda tired today… I think I’ll skip this for now”. It becomes something you wouldn’t think of not doing because it makes you feel like you’re being yourself — your practice has become something you are rather than something you do.
The same thing happens when we commit to doing something for a given period or a given number of times. If you commit to reciting a specific mantra 300 times before going to bed and you feel yourself getting bored and wanting to quit once you reach 200, then either your chosen practice should be re-evaluated or you should re-evaluate your attitude toward the practice. If it’s really part of who you are, which ideally it should be, then you might find that you feel disappointed when you reach 300 because it means you have to stop.
Now… I’m not claiming to be perfect in this respect and I don’t believe for a moment that I will be immune to these distractions just because I happened to get a glimpse of how they work. The Universe conspires constantly to throw us off our game (or so it seems from our perspective) and it sometimes seems to double-down on the distractions any time we renew out commitment to practice. But we don’t have to become co-conspirators. There will always be things that come up to interrupt our routines — that’s part of living in a chaotic Universe. Just recognize the distraction for what it is… reaffirm that the practice in question is part of who you are (if, in fact, that’s the case… if not, you should think about changing your routine)… and do the best you can under the circumstances.
One case in point for me personally is writing. I’ve always wanted to write on a regular basis and I do occasionally come up with ideas that are so “alive” in my mind that they survive long enough to make it onto paper (or, in this case, pixels). But most of the time I have some excuse why I can’t write now. The thinking is that I’ll have more time later… perhaps during my upcoming vacation or after I retire. But I realized that if I want to consider myself a writer, writing should simply be a part of who I am — not something I do that can be put off indefinitely. So… as an experiment… I’ve decided to write something for this blog at least once a week. If writing is actually part of who I am, I should be able to establish this habit fairly easily (after all, one post per week is a pretty low bar to clear). If I continue to encounter inner resistance to the task, I will seriously consider that perhaps being a writer was something that looked interesting but isn’t really part of who I am. That’s not to say I would never write again — but it’s always possible that my procrastination is a blind for not confronting some other part of who I am that is trying to emerge. We’ll see… stay tuned.