After my long tirade from yesterday, I find this quote in my mailbox (yes, it’s from five days ago —- procrastination is a biggie for me, okay? Yeesh.)
"When people ask me how to get a home meditation practice started, here is what I tell them: the practice begins the night before. Before you go to sleep, set the alarm for half an hour earlier than usual and say to yourself: “Tomorrow morning I am going to get up to sit. I want to do this, and it is going to be pleasant and helpful.” Hold that thought in your mind. Then, as you are falling asleep, say this: “Am I actually going to wake up early and meditate?” And answer yourself: “Yes, I am.” And then question yourself again: “Really?” Take this seriously. Think a little more and answer yourself honestly. If the answer is, “Yes, really,” then you will get up. You are serious about it. But if the answer is, “No, I have to admit that I am probably going to reset the alarm and turn over to get that delicious extra half hour of sleep,” then save yourself the trouble. Reset the alarm now and don’t even try to get up.
This little exercise may sound silly, but it is very important. It addresses the main difficulty we have with self-discipline: we are ambivalent. We both do and don’t want to do what we think we want to do in our own best interests. We find it difficult to take our good intentions seriously, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives. We have confusion at our core about whether we are capable of confronting ourselves at the deepest possible human level—maybe if we do we will find ourselves to be unworthy, trivial people. Since we imagine that meditation promises a self-confrontation at this level, we are deeply ambivalent. “
Norman Fischer in A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers, page 9
Okay so to answer myself on the question of how to maintain discipline:
To set the intention to meditate and building up the habit of following through, to remember why I meditate, that I want to help others with all the wisdom and compassion my buddha nature is capable of, and to reflect on the fact that I may not be here to meditate tomorrow. To bring in balance: if I know I am tired, don’t set the alarm for too early, thus setting myself up for failure.
The full post, for those not thinking “tldr”:
From the Hot Buddha, Cold Buddha article:
* Why do I meditate? i.e. the intention is important. It seems to help me to reflect on this intention whilst in the hypnogogic (that state just before falling asleep) the night before. Setting the intention is also important before every meditation - what am I about to do? Why? I can vaguely remember Heather telling us that this helps with maintaining the practise. I also find it helps to reset the intention every three minutes when doing three-minute-meditation sessions. What am I about to do? Why?
In the article she talks about clarity - to be sure why am I practising today, as this focuses the energy.
"With your energy more focused, I predict you will enjoy your practice more-and thus, over time your resistance will decrease."
* Not resisting the resistance. “What we resist, persists.” Irony much? From the article “we observe our resistance to practice and then choose to act anyway”. Bringing mindfulness into the whole process. Remembering that meditation is not to generate a nice feeling, but to pay intimate attention to the whole of my experience without judgement. Feeling the resistance but not letting it rule. To paraphrase “When you choose to practice, you have already reached many of the goals of yoga.”
* But somehow there’s a caveat: “understanding the difference between acknowledgment and acceptance.” I’ve never really thought about it this way. Can I acknowledge my internal environment? “I can choose my actions and let go of the fruits of my labors, becoming deliciously lost in the process.”
* “And I can remind myself that no path through life can be free of difficulty. Rather than trying to avoid difficulty, I can choose which challenge I want: the challenge of change and its growth or the challenge of remaining where I already am. Would I rather face the difficulties that might arise in my practice or the difficulties of remaining in resistance and living without the positive effects of my practice?”
And advice from Overcoming Laziness Through Diligence:
* Maybe it has to do with my attitude towards discipline: “Joyful perseverance or diligence is not a physical thing, it’s a state of mind. It is a state of mind that takes joy in virtue; a state of mind that really happily engages in positive activity – that is diligence. It’s a state of mind that happily engages in the positive activity of the other five perfections such as generosity, patience, right conduct, meditation, wisdom. Diligence is the engine that makes them move forward. It’s the wind that makes them grow.”
* She talks about three types of laziness: “First we need to be able to recognise the conditions that stop us from doing what it is we are trying to do. Why is it that we aren’t diligent and practising joyfully 24 hours a day in all our waking hours when that is what we really want to do? We totally agree with that whole idea but somehow it seems as if something is holding us back – and that’s those three types of laziness. They are described as the laziness of idleness; the laziness of a tendency towards unwholesome activity or negative habits; and the laziness of defeatism, putting oneself down.”
1. Idleness: I think this is the one I have - the laziness of constantly putting things off. And it permeates through more than my meditation practise, this is true in my entire life! Okay so the antidote is…
"reflect on impermanence, to remember that we don’t know how long we will be around."
I’ve spent my 77 hours on this topic! But perhaps that wasn’t enough? I could add it to my hypnogogic resolution: If I don’t practise first thing in the morning, who knows how the day will go? I could lose my health, my wealth, the luxury of practising.
2. Unwholesome tendencies, negativity: and the antidote to this is…
"recognise that the Dharma is a source of joy, a real source of joy."
Only through the Buddha’s path can we ever achieve the true, lasting happiness.
3. Defeatism. Urgh this path is too long. I can’t do this. So why bother practising? I think I suffer from this in some other areas of my life, like in my art. Ah this is too hard, the results suck, why bother starting? In art, I’ve been trying to focus on the process of art-making, attempting to remove my preconceived ideas of a result. But according to Lama Zangmo, the antidote to defeatism is…
"the Buddha said that everybody has Buddha Nature – the tiniest animal, the smallest insect has Buddha Nature, has this potential. So we all are capable. If we apply ourselves in the right way we can achieve whatever we put our mind to."
These are the three attitudes to cultivate in response to the three types of laziness. There are also four forces that we can actively work on to increase diligence:
1. Aspiration: The more interested we are in Buddhism, the better our practise will be. This is like taking refuge, and in a way is what the whole first article was about.
2. Self-confidence: “a kind of courage, a kind of determination that we need to bring something to completion.” I can do with this! She says that when I don’t finish a project, I create a habit of not finishing projects. And this increases the laziness of defeatism. Consider the fact that I have a stack of boxes, each box containing an unfinished art project. Okay so how to increase self-confidence? “We should cultivate this self confidence in three areas: self confidence in terms of the action; self confidence in terms of our ability; and self-confidence in terms of dealing with the obstacles or the negative emotions that arise. So when we put our minds on something we need to decide that we are going to do this. We need to tell ourselves that we won’t give up, and we won’t give in to negative emotions; we can change, we can give up negativity, we can change for the better.” Basically, every time I set the intention to meditate in the morning, and I don’t follow through, I set up the habit of failing. Confidence and courage!
3. Joyfulness: “we should be steady and simply be joyful that we are practicing and we are engaging on the spiritual path” like focussing on the process. There’s always a simple joy in the process.
4. Relinquishment: or maybe balance. “learn to let go when it is the right time to let go. For example if we are very ill, or we have some sort of big obstacle, maybe sometimes we do need to put things aside for a period of time. Then we can always make the determination that we will continue at a later stage. We won’t completely give up but we are recognising that in the current situation it is better to resume at a later time. We don’t need to be obsessive! We should be balanced. Relinquishment is also an attitude of never feeling we have done enough”