Having not meditated (except once for 5 min) for about 2 weeks, I just meditated for 20 minutes, focusing on my breath, noticing when I was distracted or lost in thought, and doing my best to return to focusing on my breath without judging myself or wondering too much if I was “meditating right”.
As I’ve just finished this meditation, I’ve noticed I do not feel as (uncontrollably) impulsive. I feel compelled to do things (get up and play with the cat who was meowing, write down a plan for the week, cook, go on a walk, clean, a bunch of things that came to mind throughout the meditation). However, I feel there is this gap again between feeling compelled to do something and actually doing it. That gap is a moment to choose how to proceed. One of the greatest benefits of meditation can be creating that space of awareness when we feel compelled to do something, and having more time/ability to choose how to proceed — developing a greater ability to respond, rather than react. For example, choosing how to respond to someone who’s irritating you, rather than simply snapping at them, or deciding what to do in a frightening situation, rather than reacting with panic. After this meditation, I noticed that I had not noticed how small this space of awareness had become for me, and I was acting far more impulsively.
I feel calmer, less out of control and less like I have to do …everything that comes to mind. I don’t feel so much like whatever I choose will have negative effects, either, so in a sense, I suppose there’s a gap between my thoughts and whether I end up believe my thoughts or not. For example, I may think exercising is good, but also maybe it’ll mess up my day because I’ll be tired. And when do I shower? Now? What if I want to exercise? Do I just shower more than once? Without a little more space to realize once more that thoughts are not facts, it can be hard to decide what to do, and easy to end up doing nothing. After meditating today, these things and thoughts seem less overpowering and overwhelming.
What does all this have to do with the title of this post? The chapter titled “Not Practicing is Practicing” from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go. There You Are discusses the instructiveness of not meditating for a while. The main idea I’ve taken from that chapter is that when we don’t do something for a while — in this case meditate — when we do finally start again, we can see the impact meditation has on us, be it our daily lives, the feeling we have after a meditation, etc. We are able to see with somewhat fresh eyes the benefits we may have been taking for granted, or stopped realizing were even from the practice of meditation.
“Forgetting or neglecting to be mindful can teach you a lot more than just being mindful all the time.” Applying the same principle to yoga, “…every time you come back to yoga practice, you see the effect of not having done it for a while.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn in Wherever You Go, There You Are
So, I urge you, whether the activity be meditation or something else, to keep this in mind if you pick back up a habit you lost the rhythm of or if you’re still struggling to get back into that habit. Either way, it can be instructional. And remember, you can always start again now. Or now. And even right now.