It’s a total cliché, but the hardest part of anything really is showing up and starting. Whether it’s the gym, meditation cushion, or a class, once I’m there, I might as well have done it already. I’ve been thinking of this since it came up in the meditation class I’ve been taking the last few weeks at my local Shambhala Center, in regard to establishing a daily meditation practice. One of the responses that came out of that was that you just have to do it. You’re supposed to be challenging yourself, so of course, you’ll want to avoid it sometimes.
There’s a lot of fear and anxiety for people around getting to know your mind and dealing with emotions that come up, but once you’ve made it to the cushion, you’ve already succeeded. I’ve put off meditating lots of times in the past, but I’ve never gone running from the cushion once I’ve started.
It’s the same with working out or starting a challenging project at work. Once I start, all I have to do is not stop. I’ve heard that as humans we’re so programmed against discomfort that our bodies react with a fear response, like a super low-level version of getting chased by a tiger. Making your body do things it doesn’t want to, or intentionally facing your inner demons definitely quality as “uncomfortable.” The problem for me – as with many things – is that I’m yet to internalize this fully. I know it intellectually, but I still manage to put off working out for a week here and there, even though I always am happy I did it once it’s over.
The only thing I’ve found that seems to help is to keep going and try to establish what I want to do as a habit. Meditation has started to become that for me. I used to go for a few days, stop and start over, but once I got over the initial few weeks of doing it every day, it became a lot easier. Right now I’m coming up on fifty days straight. Not exactly enlightened yet, but making progress. I need to figure out how to apply this lesson to other parts of my life.