I’m on day 9 of 100 in my quest to making meditation an integral part of my daily routine. At just shy of 10%, I have already learned a lot that will inform the next 90. I’m going to walk through what I’m planning to draw upon, from most concrete to most abstract.
1. Tools matter.
There’s this famous Audre Lorde quote that gets tossed around a lot in the social justice activism spaces I occupy: “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
Folks generally take it to mean that you can’t undo a harmful system using components that support that harmful system, or by working within that system.
There are lots and lots of debates about that quote, and you can read them (or we could get into them another time), but for now it’s the second part of the quote that I am appealing to (the part that is often omitted): “They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
It’s this idea, that the master’s tools may temporarily allow us to be him at his own game, that I’ve found to be particularly salient this past week. Indeed, I’ve managed to turn just about every thing in my life that led me to mindlessness into a tool to help me practice mindfulness.
My phone was the biggest offender, and has become my greatest accomplice. Before bed each night, I’ve been charging my phone in another room, and opening my Calm app prior to putting it to sleep. That means that, upon waking, I can’t just roll over and check my phone; I have to get up and go to the kitchen (forcing myself to break one part of my bad habit). Then, when I open my phone to habitually check some red numbers, I’m instead greeted by the sound of gentle rainfall and a polite request to meditate. Knowing this is a goal of mine, and something I always appreciate, it’s hard not to take it up on its offer.
And my bicycle has become a surprise accomplice. I love riding my bicycle, and I often see it as an escape, as much as a form of transportation. This past week, I noticed a mental habit that I fall into on my bike: I tend to spend the whole ride planning. I’ll plan a book chapter I want to write, a new comedy bit I might perform, how I’ll start a meeting or conversation — planning something. It’s terrible! Instead of appreciate the ride, the wind, or the beautiful city I live in — or at least just taking a break from work — I habitually turn my bicycle into a little mobile office. Well, after day 2 or 3 that changed, and I now have about a week of riding meditations under my belt, and I couldn’t be happier.
Thanks to my phone, I have a consistent morning meditation practice (that replaces my first-thing News and Email Binge). And thanks to my bike, I get three or four mindfulness breaks later in the day while getting some exercise.
These were both tools that previously cultivated mindlessness, distraction, and stress (and my phone still does, to some degree — I’m a work in progress), that are now stalwart pillars supporting my new meditation habit.
2. People Matter.
You know all those quotes about the people you surround yourself with? They’ve popped into my mind a lot recently. I know that I allow other people to dictate my mood more than I’d like, and that my mood often commandeers my ability to be mindful. And I’ve been hyper aware of how much the people in my life can build bridges or roadblocks on the path to healthy life changes.
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I’ve received a lot of support from folks on Facebook and Twitter through direct messages in response to me announcing my goal to build a daily meditation habit. This was great, and I think played a lot into affirming my commitment in the first few days.
And I’ve also had people express, either directly or indirectly, discouragement. Sometimes verbally (either through their own dismissal of mindfulness and meditation, or through their dismissal of my mindfulness), and sometimes through their actions (ditto).
For me, maintaining this habit isn’t going to be about only surrounding myself with people who support my mindfulness habit, and cutting the other folks out (nope, nope, nope). It is, however, going to be important for me to recognize those different influences, and do what I can to make space for the encouragement and support, while allowing the discouragement to pass (like a cloud passing through a clear blue sky, one might say).
3. Something Bigger Matters.
Finally, knowing that, on some level, this habit matters — and that it’s something big — is crucial to me supporting it. That something big, for me, is imagining myself in a life where I have calm and clarity on-demand, regardless of what’s happening outside of me. Knowing that I will be able to create from that place of calm.
Every day I meditate I feel better, both in that day, and as an already-noticed cumulative effect. And that’s a great motivation in that day, or in that moment.
It’s this Something Bigger that is going to connect all those moments for me, and keep me going on this when it’s not easy, or fresh, or new; or when I’m busy on the road, flying city to city; or when I feel so tired, or so stressed, that the idea of sitting without a distraction is daunting.
My life gets chaotic (whose doesn’t). I invite a lot of challenge, that I sometimes get the better of, and that sometimes gets the better of me. So let me tell you: the idea of finding calm even amidst the chaos, and knowing that is always there, in my back pocket when I need it… that’s something big for me.