Ryan Shelton, creator of this blog, wrote in a most recent post, “I want people to feel encouraged and supported in practicing however they can within the limitations of the rest of their lives. I don’t know exactly how to help…”
That struck me. I too, as a writer for this blog, feel the same way. I don’t know what to say that can inspire anyone to practice more and learn the Art of Living, other than truthfully telling the story of how I’m maintaining my own daily practice and how it affects my day to day life. I realized too, that many of us would have different difficulties, and perhaps more difficulties than I now have at maintaining daily sits. I have integrated these daily sits into my life for the most part. It is more of a joy and ease to practice them now. I will impart what wisdom I have in my blog posts here.
For starters, what are some things that have helped me to get to this point of practice where the two day sits are manageable and something I make time for no matter what?
- I did some long term service at the center nearest where I live. This was when I sat my second and third course. I served and sat courses intermittently and it was of great value to instilling the practice within me and understanding the volunteering side of it, which is just as beneficial. I say to many that it is more beneficial to sit one course and serve one, than it is to sit two. Serve if you haven’t. It will help you manage daily sits in your own life.
- Adding one hour timed gong and chanting (S. N. Goenka) ‘music files’ to my I pod to use for daily sittings and group sittings. It’s helped me to switch between using an alarm clock and using chanting or gongs. Keeps it ‘fresh.’
- Hosting potlucks and group sittings every weekend. It is very casual when we host, but we get a good meditation in none the less. It is nice to have the official places for group sits, but it is also nice to have a place for random friends to join and do Annapanna. Many of those who started to come and sit with us have now gone to a 10 day course. The potluck atmosphere is also helpful for talking about Vipassana and encouraging others in their practice. I would also mention that the right friends are important. It is dangerous to hang around fools; who will step on your practice with or without knowing.
- Having a meditation space. I haven’t scheduled my sits at the same time every day, which is recommended in books like ‘A Meditator’s Handbook by Bill Crecelius,’ but I have made a space that I often do my daily sits in. It is a good anchor. Mine’s in my closet. When I’m having a really bad sit, which still happens; I make sure I stay in the closet and just don’t leave until the hour is up. I may not be really meditating all that much, but I’m keeping a strong determination, and the closet doors help so I don’t get distracted and leave.
- Dhamma books and Dhamma talks. I have not read that many from the centers, but the ones I have read have been a great inspiration. I also have found other key things that I feel are inspirations to walking the same path. Some of these things would be: Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV show), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (movie and manga), Studio Ghibli films, Alan Watts, J. Krishnamurti, Mooji etc.
- Switching it up. Doing 3 meditations for one week to solidify your practice a bit. Go to the center for a short term service. Meditate three times for just one day. Do it first thing in the morning. Wait half the day, then do both your sits. Do a two hour sit. All these changes have happened naturally as I’ve developed my practice. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, but it isn’t being equanimous. Play with the practice. Try different things. The first step is the last step. Walk in the direction and you will not fail. I WILL mention that it is not generally easy to meditate last thing before bed, or ON your bed. Sleep is a danger to meditation. Doing it and succeeding against the temptation to sleep is good, but if it’s not working on a regular basis, sit somewhere else.
Another ‘welcoming’ thought is that you will only NOT practice, until you realize you HAVE to practice. The elastic can only stretch so far back before it springs forward. Do what you can with the time you have. Good luck strangers… into the unknown we go.