Truth be told, I have dabbled in meditation for a (significant) number of years, with varying degrees of commitment and skill.   Focusing on the 28-Day Challenge not only served to solidify a few (key) aspects of my practice, but it gave me pause to (re)investigate and reflect upon that which I’d previously checked off on my list of  “things to consider.”  But here I am in the last week of the challenge, and I am both reflecting back over these 28 days, and thinking forward as to how and where this experience will fit and blend into the regular challenges of every-day life.

Two glaring things come to mind:

  1. My commitment to getting out of bed at 5:20 – be it leaping, bounding, rolling, cursing – has been an incredibly powerful tool to bring to my practice.  It was the first thing I committed to as I read Real Happiness, and it serves well.  Having my meditation nook set up and the alarm programmed did not meet me like I expected; I had anticipated feeling like it was another January 4th after I’d made a New Year’s Resolution to go to the gym every day before work.  That neither panned out very well nor for too long, but it also felt bad, and like punishment.  But at 5:20 a.m. all I have to do is make it to my mediation bench (which is about 2 feet from the foot of my bed).  I don’t need to quiet anyone: kids, husband, pets, neighbors are all still asleep.  I don’t need to set the ambiance: all is dark and brisk.  I don’t need to put on a special outfit (I keep a shawl on my bench) other than my sleeping clothes.  I don’t need to find my glasses, as it is both dark and my eyes will be shut (or nearly so) anyway.  Once I’ve made the move, the hardest part seems over.  That is not to say that each morning offers me a comfortable, mindful experience; AU CONTRAIRE!  My mind wanders.  I sometimes lean uncomfortably in one direction.  I create lists and lists and lists of lists.  I connect to stories I am telling and forget that they are but stories, not me.  But the time flies.  I never sense that my actual timer might be broken, or that I need to end my session early, or that I am in too much discomfort to continue.  At some point, usually when it seems too soon, my alarm-gong ends my session.  Some days I can go back to bed.  Some days I am ready to bound off into what may come next.  Some days I feel exhausted still.  But every day feels ready.  I don’t know how to further expand upon that, other than to say that at 6 a.m. when I complete my sitting, I feel just that – ready.
  2. Along the same lines, I have detected a blurring of my sense of time during this challenge.  Mind you, none of this is felt in a good-vs.-bad way, but just noticed.  Maybe that “just noticing” is part of the point of this challenge/practice.  But as I would write these weekly (sometimes more frequent) posts, my writing seemed like it was talking about longer and more significant time frames than the actual number of days.  What I mean to say is that when I was writing/practicing/reflecting upon lovingkindness, for example, in my practice and life,  relative to this challenge it was merely a matter of days.  But in my estimation and connection to life, it felt like weeks, maybe months, in terms of my view/implementation of it, and certainly in terms of my observations of possible connected outcomes and side effects.   So is that estranged view of the physics of the passage of time a matter of lovingkindness and how it may inform patterns in life, or a matter of mindfulness and how it is momentarily (and hopefully increasingly so) informing an actual sense of time?  I don’t know, but I realize the presence of this blurred view and how it disengages me from the habit of letting time pass and not knowing where it’s gone.

So here we are, approaching the end of the 28-Day Meditation Challenge.  In this time there have been several passages in Real Happiness that I highlighted and for which I wrote notes in the margin, I thought about, and tried to remember when most needed.  I would have to say that more of those thoughts have vanished than have remained.  But my timing for my scheduled daily practice feels more firm than in the past, than when I started this month’s challenge, and even more so than a week ago.  And that week ago seems like much more than a week ago, and my practice seems much more stable – both literally and figuratively – than a month’s challenge could provide.  I move forward, grateful for this opportunity to participate openly in this challenge and share my experiences as they’ve unfolded from said challenge.  I move forward looking at 5:20 a.m. not as the time to wake up thanks to my alarm, but as the time when I can start again; within that invitation is a grace and humility that makes the challenge of maintaining a practice less rife with obstacles than open to nuanced possibilities.   I move forward thinking about time quite differently (see nuanced possibilities above).  Time to get up; time for the gong; time for me; time well spent; time saved; time passing; time lost.   In a word, as I identify with “ready” at the end of my 5:20 a.m. practice, I identify with “arbitrary” when I consider time in this context.  This openness and skill to view and accept things more as they seem to be (ready and arbitrary), rather than as I’ve just always accepted them (required and fixed), may be the greatest outcome of this challenge.

As we all move onward, I wish you blessings on your practice and peace upon the Earth.