Meditation: Week Three (Belated)

I completed Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge about a month ago. As I chronicled in two earlier posts, it was an affirming, useful, challenging and compelling exercise. I debunked my personal myth about meditation, proving to myself that I could do it and, more than that, experiencing the benefits of holding a guiding thought with me throughout a given day. If you start your day, for example, with the suggestion to “offer a gift to everyone you meet” it changes your interactions in a fundamental way.

Having said that, I’m sitting here a month later wondering why I didn’t make it to day 22. As I suggested might happen, once I “met the challenge” my commitment to the practice dropped off immediately. I had nothing left to prove. I simply stopped.

So, in the spirit of honest reflection bordering on self-criticism I have a few questions:

1. If it takes 21 days to form a new habit why didn’t that happen here? (Come to think of it I’ve also heard that it takes 28 days to form a new habit so maybe my experiment is useful in resolving that question)

2. Did my need for variety overwhelm my need for contemplative practice? My intention for day 22 was to go back to the beginning of the series and just start over again. It made sense as an idea because clearly I wasn’t going to soak up every nuance and every word of every session the first time around. In practice however it was a useful reason to avoid continuation. I could have rented, borrowed or purchased another series but that didn’t dawn on me at the time. Curious.

3. Did I just need the structure during a very unstructured time? Deepak was a sure companion through most of the first month of my transition to a new professional life. Now that this new life is starting to take some shape has he become one of those situational rather than life-long friends?

4. Is there something I don’t want to sit with? Maybe I didn’t like being responsible to “bring a gift to every one I meet” especially considering that I’m not very gracious with myself when I fail to do things that I’m “supposed to do.” Why keep doing something that makes you feel bad, especially when the “bad” thing is supposed to make you feel good?

5. Do I just not want to? Maybe, just maybe, I’m so conditioned to be a “doer” – to be in motion; to be in action; to trust the tangible results of measurable activities (like exercise) – that I need more than 21 days to believe there are other ways (sitting quietly, being present and breathing? Really?) to achieve health and well-being.

What I know for sure is this: my patterns are consistent regardless of the circumstances. And, they were years (YEARS) in the making. Since I’ve been learning about, managing and adjusting those patterns for most of my life, I know well enough that three weeks of a basic meditation practice isn’t going to make much of a dent.

Anybody have a three-year meditation series I can borrow?

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