Continuity of practice is the secret of success. Another word for that is consistency. Consistent practice brings success. I’ve read a lot, and seen in my own experience, of artists, especially writers, who say that their success comes from showing up at the desk every day to write. It is the showing up that counts. They make sure they’re there for the activity. This means showing up at the meditation cushion being ready to meditate, if that’s what you want to have as your consistent practice.
In the month of September, I made it my goal to write every day. At least a little. I did, and my writing voice is that much stronger because of it. It was my consistency that brought the inspiration to write more and developed through practice, the strength in the practice. Now, I am still writing for this blog, but I’m not promising myself that I’ll do it every day. Instead, I’m making sure I don’t do it every day, while I focus on other things. The consistency in breaks is just as crucial as the consistency of practice.
Breaks allow us to re-focus and reflect. As Alan Watts puts it nicely, “We need those pauses.” If in music you didn’t have any pauses, you wouldn’t have the music. The space is what makes it. Otherwise you’d have an on-going sound that would either get annoying after a while or you’d become insensitive to it. In doing anything for a while, you may develop habits. In reviewing my writings, I noticed some similar things that I stuck to. Ways of writing as well as topics that I kept going back to. Attachments. We rely on them. We’re addicted to them. Our breaks give us the space to notice them, to reflect upon them. Being aware, we can move on.
The binge theory, which I’m more and more a fan of, is to do something efficiently and consistently for a time, and then drop it. Take up something else, and take a sufficient break from the previous activity you were doing. If I had chosen to keep my occasional writing practice going instead of focusing intensely on it for a month, I wouldn’t be that much better. It’s just like how you have to do a ten day course in Vipassana. Three days wouldn’t be enough to get any proper work done. You have to binge it.
So whatever habits you may be aware of at this moment, do something to change them. If you want to get better at something, but have only dabbled in it on a rare occasion, make it a goal to do it consistently. Do at least a little bit every day for a month. If your meditation is stagnant, change it up. Drop it for a day or two, or choose a week and make sure you do them no matter what. Do three a day for one week, like you would when serving a course. Keep your focus steady on something for a while and then let it go for a good amount of time. When you come back to it it’ll be stronger than ever. It’ll be muscle memory. A sankhara of a good habit. You’ll notice the difference.