Start again and again and again

Normally, I sit in meditation for twenty minutes first thing every morning. But sometimes my schedule gets interrupted. I love to travel and when I travel any schedule I’ve managed to establish slips away into the ether. Over the course of a recent two-week trip, I only managed to meditate three times. Upon my return, somewhere between the jet lag and the laundry, I misplaced my meditation practice. Halfway through my day, I'd be sitting in a meeting or working on a project and realize I had forgotten to meditate. 

I've been meditating most days for the past six years. I require time to sit quietly in a mode of being as nonproductive as possible or my nerves frizzle and frazzle, my focus becomes unfocused and I worry about distraction to the point of distraction. Two weeks out of the country and this carefully cultivated habit turned about as precarious as the Cavs grabbing the number one seed in the NBA eastern conference.(Hey guys, maybe a little more focus? Just a suggestion.) 

My conscious mind had completely blipped out on my established practice and as it turns out, my anxieties were patiently lying in wait for just such an opportunity. Sly little things, those. Please don't misunderstand. It's not at all the case that when I keep up with a disciplined daily meditation schedule I experience no anxiety. There are still plenty of thoughts and emotions available to torment me, but I have more patience available to deal with all my exasperating qualities. So I consider it quite an achievement that even though I wasn’t meditating as often as I require, I noticed the subtle shifts in my levels of anxiety and restlessness and jittery discomforts of all kinds. I acknowledged these uncomfortablenesses without trying to ignore them or worse, bury them in some deep dark place I hoped never to excavate. Instead, I opened up a space between me and my uncomfortable feelings.

Think of it as redirection. I disidentified myself with the idea of me as failed meditator. Just because I thought of myself as someone who fell off the meditation wagon did not happen to be (as thoughts often are not) true.

I managed to sit myself down and try once again to find my breath and some stillness. I started my meditation practice over again.

Here's what I know about practicing meditation that you may not know. It doesn't matter how many times you start again. To notice when you've gone astray and gently come back is a metaphor for the entire practice. Sitting in meditation is about noticing when you're not meditating and beginning again. And again.

Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is. It teaches the heart to be more accommodating, not by beating it into submission, but by making it clear that accommodation is a gratifying choice.
— Sylvia Boorstein, Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There