I missed two days of sitting last week, and there were good, reasonable excuses for it each time, excuses not worth going into.
Because the real reason I don’t sit, when I don’t, goes deeper than these perfectly reasonable circumstantial issues. The real reason I don’t sit is because sitting can be hard. Not in the physical sense really, or even the boredom of which people sometimes complain.
Sitting can be hard because it reveals truth about me that I don’t always want to see.
That’s why a real meditation practice requires more than a cushion, schedules and good intentions. Real practice requires moral courage and unflinching dedication to knowing those truths about oneself that are unflattering, difficult, even painful.
Of course, that is the point. Unlike “McMindfulness” – as David Loy has called superficial practices – a real life practice is not undertaken to make one more productive at work or reduce anxiety in social situations (which it certainly will do), it is part of the heart’s commitment to living one’s life in an authentic way, aligned with the highest aspirations that we humans can generate: to be compassionate to everyone, to contribute to making life meaningful and happy for all, to being all those things we mean when we say “a good person.”
It’s not an easy commitment to make, and it’s not easy to remember that this is why one practices. That’s why daily vows are a good idea, because they keep that promise fresh in our minds.
And it’s not easy to stick with it day after day, because on the cushion we see clearly all those points of deviation from the path over the past day – and in our life in general. We see clearly all those things we’d rather ignore in our relationships, our work, our living.
So if there’s an excuse not to sit, we take it.
Those days we don’t sit, though, do also show us the value of it, even in ways beyond the increased levels of stress and anxiety we may experience. Because if we get back to the cushion soon enough after the missed session, we may see what it was we were really avoiding.
And that’s real practice.
My post on McMindfullness.
David Loy of BPF on McMindfullness.
My post on solutions that work for everyone.