On May 31, 2013, I sat to meditate for the first time.
I know the date because I had spent weeks in the run-up to sitting preparing to sit by reading a book of short essays on meditation, The Art of Just Sitting.
I remember that because I ordered that book, along with Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, the night after I gave my TEDx Talk, the only talk I walked away from feeling more anxiety after than before, thanks to a mid-talk brain glitch. Somehow – I don’t know how – I knew that what was happening to me, what was twisting my guts, was related to perfectionism.
Somehow – I don’t know how – I believed that meditation would be part of the key to addressing the perfectionism.
But I was scared or intimidated or something like that. And so I made a deal with myself: Each morning, I’d go up to the comfy green chair in my office, the one that preceded me in my childhood home, and I’d read a little about meditation. And when the book was done, I’d have carved out the time to then meditate during.
It worked. After about six weeks, I had gotten through the book 15 minutes at a time and then I started meditating for 15 minutes at a time.
And that’s more or less what I did for the next handful of years.
Get up, sit down, meditate.
It didn’t erase my perfectionism but it did something, a something that’s sort of like looking at a dim constellation like the Pleiades where you have to look to the side to see it; trying to witness it directly makes it disappear.
What also happened was life – big life like new career life and divorce life and moving life and then moving again and again; eventually, it was partnering with Theresa life and finding new vision and routines and, in the mix, my daily meditation practice dropped off.
I’d return to the cushion here and there; like riding a bike, it was something I could always return to, even if it felt rusty or awkward, even if I felt sheepish for dropping into meditation instead of being a regular.
Of the many lessons of 10+ years of coaching, though, is that the road of human habits is one paved in not doing the habit. Again and again and again, we don’t do the thing. And then sometimes, we do.
Or, as Maude says in Harold & Maude, “Consistency isn’t really a human trait.”
That I had fallen off the habit was mighty human of me, I’m saying.
Still, a part of me wanted to return to regular meditation, even while a more influential part of me blocked the way. I would occasionally create a plan that would quickly fall to the wayside; I would talk to a friend with a meditation habit and see if their modeling could motivate me but, alas, meditation isn’t contagious.
…right at the end of 2023, Jo Cooper, creator of the beautiful weekly email Mindful News, told me about a meditation group she attends each Wednesday and I attended on December 27th.
And on December 28th, I woke up, went to my office, and sat on my cushion.
And on December 29th.
And the 30th.
And every day since.
What was the magic that got me back to my practice after so many years of wishing to?
Maybe the story Jo told me about her experience of meditation was just that powerful. (It was.)
Maybe it was just kinda time. (Maybe.)
Maybe this is just life, this messy, ever-changing thing that we wish to be tidier and more predictable and easier than it actually is or will be.
Here’s the thing: It feels good to be back in my practice. Like, really good.
And I still have perfectionist tendencies that make my human life harder than it needs to be.
And I still have all the yammering Innerlings saying all manner of nasty and loving things.
And I’ll still die eventually, hopefully not any time soon but who knows.
And all of those would have been true had I never touched my cushion again.
Which is to say, whatever habit you’re not doing, whether meditation or movement or what-have-you, the not doing is an invitation for compassion for your whole, messy humanness. Look at you being so human!
The wanting to do is, perhaps, an invitation for creativity and curiosity and to lean into the web of interconnection where, who knows, maybe you’ll also find your unexpected mix of time, place, willingness, and a friend already in the practice.
Which is also to say, no blend of practices or life hacks or perfect spatulas will make our lives perfect or change the inevitability of our mortality, but they might, just maybe, help us breathe a little easier along the way.