Every January I look forward to a silent meditation retreat and every February for the Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. Both opportunities really help me to refocus and recommit to my personal practice. I am indebted to Sharon for her teaching which made the practice accessible to me and to her challenge which helped me find the motivation and support to establish a more regular meditation practice several years ago.
I appreciate that there is no guilt about whether you sit or don’t. “You can always begin again.” Whether you start with just a few minutes every day for 28 days or practice several times each week working up to a daily practice by the end of the challenge, it’s entirely up to you. There’s nothing to prove to anyone. The real benefit of the challenge isn’t bragging rights. There is a cumulative effect of regular practice that helps us to befriend our experiences and establish a quiet center that sustains us on and off the cushion.
Practicing with so many other people during the challenge, with a local meditation group, or with friends online provides a motivation, accountability, and support which are vital to establishing new healthy habits in our lives. When I first began meditation, my online sangha would “check in” with each other when we practiced to invite others to practice with us, but something much more happened as a result. Friendships emerged out of vulnerability and honesty of the struggles and insights that arose in our practice. We realized that others also faced the same racing thoughts, uncomfortable posture, and sleepiness that we felt doomed as unfit meditators. Recognizing that this is just part of the practice helped to cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others, as well as to develop humor and a more light-hearted approach to our monkey minds and stiff bodies.
I invite you to take the challenge with many others this month to deepen your own practice this month, to breathe, to let go, and to begin again.