You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
~Mary Oliver (excerpt from Wild Geese)
I missed meditating one day this past week and wasn't quite sure how to handle it. This Journey of the Heart project is about the impact of 40 straight weeks of daily meditation -- not eight-and-a-half weeks, minus a day, and then thirty-one-and-a-half more. It never occured to me I might have to deal with this.
Immediately upon waking the next day, I noticed something was missing. It wasn't that I knew it was the meditation at first, but I could feel that something wasn't quite right. Like how it feels to wake up and realize you forgot to floss your teeth the night before. Meditation has become that kind of a daily habit for me, something I do almost without thinking -- that part is good. But what to do when a day slips by and I forget? If it were just flossing my teeth, I'd just pick up where I left off the next day...just start again. But this is different, isn't it? To me, this project is a big deal. It's important.
In the past, I would have seen missing a day of any sort of commitment as a failure. Perhaps I would have panicked, gotten all whipped up about what I thought missing a day "meant" about me, about the commitment as a whole and my inability to keep it and seriously considered throwing the whole project -- the "baby" if you will -- out with the bathwater.
This time around, I found it interesting. I wondered if maybe there might be something to learn from it -- this is a journey of discovery, after all. How was it that I went through a whole day without carving out the time as I had successfully done every day for more than eight weeks? What made this particular day so different?
What I recognized was that this is the first holiday season for as long as I can remember that I'm actually engaged. I don't feel overwhelmed. I'm not bracing myself in rapt anticipation of the next few weeks being over so I can get on with my life. As it is, the tree is decorated, the presents wrapped, the cookies baked -- not because I have to, as in years past, but because I want to.
Something is different, and it doesn't seem to be anything I've done. Other than meditate every day for the past "almost" nine weeks. I have the energy to be out in the world without feeling the need to sequester myself later in order to recharge from it. It's as if I am now equipped with an inner buffer, a layer of insulation that is helping me maintain my focus, patience and a connection with a level of peacefulness that allows me to be satisfied more with the way of things and stressed-out less.
The truth is, I don't know why I missed my meditation that day -- other than the fact that I was engrossed in an uninterrupted day with my family settling into the holiday spirit, decorating our home, and taking the time to enjoy it. Sure, I could have had half a mind off wondering when I was going to steal away and get my meditation in. But perhaps being single-mindedly focused on the present moment is a bit of meditation in action. Or maybe it just slipped my mind.
I'll admit, it feels like a fine line. Is meditation something I now only need to do when I feel like it? When I think of it? Or worse, is it a "should" just because of this project? Of course not. But do I need to be militant about it? What good does it do to come from the mindset of "I made a commitment to meditate every day and I failed to hold up my end of the bargain. How will I make up for it?" What about the days when I meditate more than once? Do I get extra credit for those days? No. And yet when I miss a day I have to scratch eight weeks of progress and start over?
More than ever, I'm sure this project isn't about developing discipline or learning to be better about following the rules or making good on my commitments. In fact, it has become painfully clear to me how ruled my life has been by rules -- self-imposed as much as anything -- and that I am not here to repent. Or be good. Or be perfect.
What I'm realizing through my daily meditation -- and in this case, without it -- is what I am here for: to take myself lighter, to laugh more, and to allow myself the softness and ease to love what I love...and am tickled to find the item on the top of that list of loves gets to be me. I have to believe this is why we're all here.
So, I missed a day. The world will not end. The sun will rise again tomorrow. And my project of self-discovery will happily, and more joyfully, go on.//