Watching My Mind for 225 Days Straight (or The Daily Personal Soap Opera)

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Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and/leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the/thieves of time.

(from Joy Harjo’spoem, For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet, in her collection Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings)

I’ve been watching my mind for the last 225+ days straight. Despite the immense human feast, I have agreed to be present on the cushion at least once a day. The thieves of time are held at bay, even if only for ten minutes. This is the longest meditation streak of my life by a long shot. My last and only other streak was 100 days after my father died in 2015. The experience has been a wild ride in which nothing much happens.

To begin with, I originally set a goal to meditate ten days straight. Ten extended to thirty and now … well you know where I’m at. Daily meditation invited itself to become my annual challenge for 2019. (Last year was no-shopping.)

Has it made a difference? Tricky question.  Here are a few oh-so-that’s-how-that-works gleanings:

  1. Any change in condition I feel can never be anything but temporary. As often as the world proves this point, I still want control. Even as I try to control, I am aware of how illusory my efforts are, which means I’m a little bit less likely to freak out when I lose control.
  2. The stronger my attachment to any bit of transformation, the harder it is to hang on to the shift. Oh look, I’m so Zen today. What the f?&*%??! This plane delay is ruining my life.
  3. My mindfulness practice is a cycle of failure-try-again-failure-try-again.
  4. The practice is the outcome. The only object of meditation is to notice my thoughts. Not to rid my mind of all thoughts. Not to empty my head. Not to float on a cloud of joyful nothingness. To notice. To notice that I am noticing. To unclench judgments that arise as I notice. Meditation is teaching me to notice and (crucially) without judgment to continue noticing better. I have begun to understand that this is non-attachment. Sounds easy. So hard.
  5. When I experience the truth of non-attachment, even if only for a breath, the release from suffering that I feel is holy; in the sensation of ultimate wholeness. Non-attachment allows me to glimpse how each moment (especially those I’m not enjoying) are complete and real and perfect, in all their imperfections.
  6. Non-attachment is the ultimate flow. A state in which I am deeply engaged andI let go of outcome. Relaxed andgoing for it with all I’ve got.
  7. When I am in flow, I can be my best. But (!) best may not mean rich, famous or a large social media following. Best may not mean American-style high productivity. For example, being so busy/productive that I don’t have time to eat a meal and instead eat an energy/protein bar. Best is about being, more than doing; about personal excellence and purpose. Equals fulfillment.
  8. I will forget or doubt every one of these seven previous insights and I will re-discover their truths. Again. And again. Oh right, and again.

I see this poster on the wall at Mindful Harlem, when I go for Wednesday night community meditation and dharma talk. It reminds me why I engage in this cycle of re-learning:

Watch your thoughts for they become words

Watch your words for they become actions

Watch your actions for they become habits

Watch your habits for they become character

Watch your character for it becomes destiny

Every one of us has our own quest for meaning and purpose. We seek flow. We long to fulfill our destiny.

Our challenge? –To be in flow is super scary, because to engage deeply, to give something everything we’ve got, is to risk (life, limb, financial resources, but mostly failure and humiliation).

A few more words from Joy Harjo (yes, I’m in the midst of reading her poems and keep finding such rich nuggets): What a wild dilemma, how to make it to the stars, on a highway slick with fear—

How indeed? –One day at a time. Ten minutes here. Ten minutes there. Noticing. Letting be. With every fiber.

On the slick highway between thought and destiny there are a lot of opportunities to get life right, if we take the time to watch for them.


Further musings on meditation:

What Happens When I Meditate On Fear

How To Build A Meditation Practice: The Little Fish and The Fisherman

A Glimpse Behind The Veil: Coming To Terms With Our Connectedness

How To Make The Most of Your Life: The Old Man and The Three Young Men

Nine Nifty Things I Noticed in 150 Straight Days (and counting) of Meditation

The Interior Design Benefits of Meditating


This piece originally appeared in Medium.



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