Habit


I don’t have much to report today. But I’ve decided to write anyway since my two “top lines” in SLAA are  to mediate and write every day. I’m sure that it’s common to have far more than two top lines, but my life has always consisted of a big list of “shoulds”, so I decided to keep it simple, as there’s less chance of my freaking out that way, and self-sabotaging. My pattern is to impose a lot of rigid rules on myself, and then panic, break them all on purpose, and hate myself for doing so. I’m not quite sure where that comes from, but I’m sure it’s got something to do with my overbearing, over-controlling mother. I feel like I have two people inside me – my mother who’s telling me to do something and me, as a child, who wants to yell – and sometimes does – “Fuck you, mother!”

The biggest challenge for me is not getting to my meditation cushion or to my desk; the challenge for me is believing that there’s a point in writing or meditation if I can’t do it “properly”. Meditating “properly” means sitting down for at least thirty minutes and, ideally, I’d do that twice a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening – but that has yet to happen. I do usually manage to sit for thirty minutes once a day.

When I was twenty-one, I went on a ten-day, silent Vipassana retreat in France, where I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning, and practically meditated the whole way through until 9:00 p.m. I’m not sure I ever want to go on a silent retreat again (actually I didn’t mind the not talking part – although my friends would be astounded given that I’m known for not being able to shut up for more than two seconds – but the no-reading/no-writing rule really got to me!) but I will forever be grateful for my first introduction to mediation and Buddhism. However, the one bad thing about the retreat was that we were told that we needed to continue our practice at home by meditating for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Two hours of mediation a day!? Well, I’m sure this is indeed optimal, but how many people have that kind of time to spare? I managed to keep up the two-hour meditation rule for the first couple of weeks at home, but it became too much after that. A healthier person wouldn’t have beaten themselves up for this slip, and would have simply tried to do what they could, but ever the black-and-white thinker, I couldn’t tolerate such compromise. I either meditated for two hours a day, or I thought “Fuck it!” and did nothing at all. Soon I just stopped meditating altogether.

To be honest, I still don’t really see how meditating for just five minutes a day (if that’s all I can manage) is going to help me at all. But I guess the idea is to just develop a meditation habit, and take it from there. Research shows apparently that if you stick to a new activity for twenty-one days, then you form a habit.

As for writing, my dilemma is very similar to the one I have with meditation. “What is the fucking point of just writing in a blog about the pitiful, little, self-obsessed dramas of your life?” my bitchy mother’s voice asks me. “That’s not going to help you start a career as a freelance writer!”. My bitchy mother is right in a way, of course, as I really would like to do some “real” writing, but I do think it’s important to write here every day. I’m incredibly lonely, and it’s nice to write something and say “Hello, world! I’m here! I have a voice!”. And again, it’s back to the matter of creating a habit. I shouldn’t feel that I can only write something when the muse strikes.

It doesn’t matter how unimportant, uninspired, uninteresting or short a blog post might be, I just need to do it!

Just fucking do it!

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6 thoughts on “Habit

  1. Pandora Viltis April 17, 2013 at 10:59 am Reply

    I can only manage about 15 minutes of meditation, and that’s only after a tough vinyasa yoga class and I’m physically exhausted. My mind is noisy. It’s got my bitchy mother in there too, but I often can drown her out. She’s still there, though. Like she’s burned in my mental DNA.

    I think two top lines are great. It sounds like you at least understand your pattern of rigidity and defiance. Maybe you can come up with a response or yourself if you find either your mother’s voice or the angry child trying to derail what you want for yourself.

    • petrichoric April 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm Reply

      I’m glad that you can drown out your mother. I’m not sure I can, but I’m more and more able to recognize when she’s criticizing me. And self-awareness is half the battle, I suppose.

      Yeah, I guess I do recognize my pattern of rigidity and defiance. But breaking it is easier said than done.

      As regards meditation, I really do hope that you can come on that retreat with me!

  2. Gladys April 17, 2013 at 11:02 am Reply

    I’ve never been able to meditate the way ‘they’ tell you to. My brain wont shut off. I’ve taken to picturing a pool, at a resort the kind of which I could never afford. you know the picture, it’s night and the pool is softly lit – deep blues to aqua blues. A few party lights glitter on the surface. I can hear the gentle waves hitting the beach. A steel drum band plays far down the beach. I’m all alone by (or in, depending) the pool. Or Jacuzzi, whatevs. And I keep repeating the word ‘calm’ to myself. Floating, peaceful, calm.

    I’ve learned to instantly call up that image when I’m in line at Walmart or stuck in traffic.

    MAYBE, in my sad uninformed opinion, the point of any meditating at first is to get calm, and quiet on the inside. So we can hear OUR voices, instead of those of our tormentors. Those voices are always SO LOUD. My ‘pool’ is strictly off limits to anyone but ME. I even imagined locks on the gates and a cone of silence (but the waves and the band get through, it’s my head, I get to work all kinds of dubious magic!).

    I haven’t gotten very far. Just the ‘calm’ part and the visualization. But I do it every night, when I lie down to go to sleep. THAT is 5 minutes I always have, lol. It certainly isn’t classic meditation, but it’s working for me in that I DO get calm. and that is huge. I’m usually a big boiling seafood STEW in my head. I give off a lot of chaotic energy (and I tend to absorb chaotic energy from people around me) so this has been a huge step for me.

    The writing thing – yeah, my blarg is never going to get me any gigs. Maybe the point there is just to write every day? Get used to putting words together, finding your voice.

    I’m full of advice and *points* this morning. I DO realize I have no idea what I’m talking about, if that helps? 🙂

    • petrichoric April 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm Reply

      Hello, Gladys! Actually I think the meditation technique you have created for yourself sounds fabulous! There are so many different types of meditation and I don’t think any one is “right” or “wrong”. If it works for you – as it seems to do – then that’s all that matters really.

  3. arekino April 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm Reply

    Isn’t the point of meditation to sort of take a vacation from your everyday (hourly?) worries? Seems worth it, even if it’s a short vacation.

    • petrichoric April 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm Reply

      Hey there, Arekino. I’m not an expert, but I don’t think a Zen Buddhist would say that the point of meditation is to take a vacation from your thoughts/worries. As far as I can tell, Zen sees meditation as a way to be more aware of the present moment. The thoughts/worries might not go away (although perhaps they get less intense the more experience you have at mediation) but instead you can take a step back from there, and observe them, rather than letting them control you. But, yes, you’re right – even just five minutes of that is better than nothing at all.

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