I am a fan of creating routines, schedules and lists to keep me on track. The most popular self-improvement rhetoric will not debate the secret to sustaining anything worthwhile, from exercising to writing to a meditation practice: schedule it and commit to sticking to the schedule. My partner often enjoys reflecting on the accomplishments or of the week/month/season and setting goals for the next. We both see the benefits of maintaining a regular routine with our son. I would hardly know what day of the week or month it was if not for my daily planner and dry erase board demarcating tasks and appointments. I plan meals and shop for the whole month preempting 4pm weekday panic and time-consuming runs to the grocery store.
The problem with all of this, with timetables and calendars and routines, is that as much as I still cling desperately to the idea that the right one will somehow make my life flow, that I will hit the steady stride in which all compartments of my life are running smoothly and progressing at equal pace it still is just feeding me the illusion of efficiency (read: control) and self-satisfaction for that sweet moment until I see, for the 740th time, that it just doesn’t accurately translate realistically to my daily life.
There is stopping and starting, putting out mini fires, shifting focus, changing the plan, rescheduling, flailing, remembering shit just in time, waking and drifting, thrashing around and often a state like self-imposed attention deficient disorder. Clearly, there is another lesson altogether here. To my great diffidence, it has to do with surrendering the vision of the well-oiled machine. Instead I learn and re-learn the art of setting my intention. My intention is something completely separate from a to-do list which I also create – and then instantly abandon my attachment to outcome (ahem.)
In my sitting practice, mental tension and strain is my indication that I am still “doing”. When my life begins to feel like an endless task list and things to check off, I notice that sometimes that energy can carries over by default to my practice: one more thing to accomplish. When I catch myself, I try to smile.
I gently remind myself that in this moment, nothing is required.
There is no “getting it right”. Here exists no judgment, no comparison, no inadequacy, no pushing toward a finish line. There is no pressure to be “good enough”. Any tension or strain of effort is the reminder that I am creating a battle where none exists. Little by little, I can sink into myself, be peeled away and fully present, if only for a few moments! Before I am distracted and begin again, drawing myself back and finding the place of effortless effort. I am not seeking to transcend my surroundings but to fully touch and sense all that is happening inside and out. I feel lingering achiness or stiffness of joints, I feel the warmth from the wood stove, I notice my discomfort left over from a conversation the day prior or some anxious anticipation about the pending day’s events. Without chasing these thoughts or building stories about them, I acknowledge my emotions and stop short at critique and allow my mind to return again to the present.
I hear the sounds my son makes shuffling his toys around, making a request for something out of reach, or interrupting me to sit on my lap and show me something he’s found.
And I realized what a gift my child was giving me to learn this whole new way of practicing stillness.
My practice is not seamless. This is excellent discipline for my day which is also never seamless, but always starting over.
In this moment
I just am
Breathing, alive, still, vibrating
I just am
Whole, with all that I need
Nothing to fix or do
To be more
Than just what I am.