Here at Black Zen we talk a lot about meditation and sing its praises from the rooftops because of the profound difference it has made in our lives. We meditate because doing so allows us to look underneath the surface of situations and uncover habits, mindsets and limiting beliefs that may be holding us back. The practice helps us clear our mental closet to see clearly and navigate our lives with more thoughtfulness and intention. Knowing this about us, people often ask, "How do you maintain a meditation practice while attending to all of the requirements and demands of running the organization?" Our answer to that is somewhat surprising, and that is, it depends on the day! Sometimes we’re able to fall into silence fairly easily. Other days, the noise created by our own mental distractions is similar to a dog chasing its tail and we're lucky if we even get a minute or two of stillness while on the mat.
A commitment to our practice is what gets us through those really distracted days. Even if we don’t meditate for the amount of time we’d like to or if we don’t “feel it” in a particular sit, that doesn’t mean the time wasn’t well spent or that we’re not making progress in deepening our practice. As meditators, our foundation in the practice constantly grows and changes over time. We recognize that in certain seasons of our lives, our meditations will be deep and other times our sits may be shallow. There are periods when we will master consistency and other times when we’re lucky if we get in 5 minutes a day. It's important to remember that our practice will shift over time and that’s okay. In fact, it’s normal and a part of personal growth. Every day is a new day, and if today’s sit sucked, there’s always tomorrow to try it again! The key is consistency. Even 5 minutes is better than nothing. A phrase we consistently apply to our meditation practice that illustrates this point:
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good!
The other way we maintain a meditation practice is by making sure we have a balance between setting aside time to meditate and finding time to enjoy other experiences. If we ever start to take things too seriously, life has a way of reminding us to lighten up. Just this week, I was reminded of this lesson and the importance of balance by my brother. I was in the middle of working hard on the Black Zen website and was hyper-focused. During the middle of an important train of thought, my brother sent a text. My initial reaction was annoyance at the sound of the incoming message. First thought, “Who is bothering me at work right now?!” and the second thought, "I DO NOT have time for this distraction." Like most people too connected to their gadgets, I couldn’t muster the patience to wait and view the text at a more convenient time. So yep, I opened it and I'm glad I did.
The message was a hilarious meme about something we'd talked about earlier in the week, and it made me laugh for a good twenty minutes. All work was forgotten. The practice of being mindful all the time was dismissed. I just sat and laughed for twenty minutes straight, and I have to say, trying to incorporate a "meditation mind" in that instance would have completely ruined the experience. Trying to decipher if this content was beneficial to my growth, or blah, blah, blah would have stolen what the content provided – a break. It was a break from being constrained by always looking through a spiritual lens. In that moment it was necessary to just be able to laugh at the wonderful and absurd creations of someone with a lot of time on their hands and the ability to delight through like-minded humor.
All this is to say, sometimes it's great to watch our thoughts and keep our inner dialogue in check, but it is also 100% okay to turn it off every now and again. In striving to live a spiritually successful life, it would be a mistake to miss out on the surprising day to day moments of our experience. Everything, even meditation and striving for personal growth, requires balance.
Since it’s unlikely that the world will suddenly stop being so distracting, it’s helpful to keep this context in mind when thinking about a meditation practice. In the instance with my brother's message, I found that I can be annoyed about getting texts while trying to work or I can enjoy what is presented to me and just laugh. Technically, engaging in the moment is mindfulness at its most basic level anyway, so #winning.