Where has my meditation gone?

When you’re trying to build a new habit, and you get distracted, it’s not game over


Meditation was so enjoyable. So why have I stopped doing it?

I was meditating every other day for weeks, and feeling the positive benefits. I was working my way through the Palouse Mindfulness self-guided (free, online) mindfulness based stress reduction course. It’s an eight-week course, and I was taking it very slowly – and suddenly stopped altogether at week 4. But I need to relax, and I miss it.

What happened?

  • Visitors – meant a change of routine, and also the room I was using for meditation was occupied. I knew they were visiting – I should have planned ahead for that.
  • The clocks changed – my daughter started waking up an hour earlier than usual, so I missed the slot I used to put meditation into. I need to find a different slot.
  • The house was turned upside down as we moved all our stuff over from England to Germany – I got distracted by the urgency of sorting out domestic chaos.

Focus, drift, notice, come back

I was doing a habit, and I got distracted. Instead of giving myself a hard time about it, and being disappointed, I just need to come back to it with renewed curiosity.

When you  meditate, your mind wanders off all the time. Jon Kabbat-Zinn, the key thinker behind mindfulness, speaks on the recordings of the guided meditations on the course. One of the most reassuring things he says is this: He says instead of feeling frustration when you realise your mind has wandered, allow yourself a second of congratulation and celebration that you’ve just noticed that you’ve wandered.

Since the aim with meditation is not so much to clear your head of thoughts altogether (you can’t stop your brain working), but rather the process of focusing on breathing, wandering, noticing that your thoughts have come along and led you away, and bringing yourself back, is the whole cycle of meditation.

Coming back

What was my motivation again? Where does it fit into my schedule? What triggers me toddling off to meditate? What am I gaining from it? How do I feel when I’ve done it? Can I prepare the way the night before? Iron out some of the obstacles? Set a little goal to get to Week 8 and complete the course? Read a bit more of the literature and renew my engagement? Do I have any resistance to doing it I need to acknowledge? Can I make my meditation space really appealing?

Of course, I could have been much stricter with my habit. If you really want to make a habit stick, you need to sit down and plan a bit. I probably need to do this right now, since meditation isn’t my only positive habit to have gone a bit West during these few weeks. And there are lots of small and simple actions that can help a habit grip onto your daily routine.

I wish I were on a course. But that would be too easy

I do. I love being on a course and being told what to do by a teacher. Being held to a schedule. It’s an annoying fact of adult life, and living abroad, and being an entrepreneurial type of person, that you have to hold yourself to your own goals.

But in the end, it’s all for me. It’s my responsibility. And it’s me that stands to gain from it. So I’m going to come back right now, and keep going.

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Have you stuck at something despite the disappointment of slipping up in your schedule? Have you had the patience to learn something for the long-term? I’d love to hear from you. Click on the grey dot with a plus sign below the post to open up the comment thread.