True Confessions – “Falling Off The Meditation Wagon”
When I began writing about Sandy Hook, I really had no idea where that writing would go. It has not been my practice to write here about current events, particularly ones as loaded as mental health policy and gun control. But I believed that we were losing contact with what really mattered, in responding to the New Town massacre. What you witnessed in that series of posts, which began on January 3, 2013 and continued through last week, was my personal exploration of what I believe matters. I won’t bother to repeat any of it. But I will confess that I felt a great deal of responsibility in preparing each post and, candidly, I’m a bit exhausted by the undertaking. I am pleased with the positive responses that I have received to my posts and to the Daily Journal articles derived from the posts. But,then, I found myself featured in the February issue of the ABA Journal in an article on contemplative practice in the law at a time when I had fallen off the meditation bandwagon.
When you establish a meditation practice, it really isn’t about time commitment. I’ve gone for many months on as little as 15 minutes a day of meditation, first thing in the morning –Â following my morning ablutions, before dressing for work. I can spend more than 15 minutes a day surfing the net or culling out junk e-mail. So, falling off the wagon is not about too little time.Â I’ve done this before and it always seems to happen the same way. I wake up with my head spinning on the day’s activities and obligations. I think that there may be some advantage to â€śgetting right to work.â€ť So I get into the office, give over my meditation time to clearing my desk or scrolling through e-mail, only to find that I get down to business at the usual time. How that gives me any sense of gratification, I don’t know. But a couple of days later, I’ll do it again. It doesn’t take long for a few exceptions to break a good practice habit. And this time, as in the past, I had good excuses. When my youngest daughter moved home a couple of months ago, we moved all sorts of boxes into the meditation room. They have remained there. I hate clutter and I don’t have time to figure out where the clutter should next migrate, to free up the space in which I used to meditate. And, the economy has gotten much better. There are more business demands on my time than in recent months. Plus, we have the new dog, Frisko, who will seek my attention and wake up the house, if I don’t get out immediately. See how it goes?
The funny thing about maintaining a meditation practice is that the openness, calmness, and presence, which you have built up over the months does not dissipate overnight. So, you can skip a week, or two, or even three, without noticing any material change in your being. In fact, a month or two later, you still may notice no change. That is not, of course, because change hasn’t occurred. It is because you are beginning to lose your awareness of it.
I need my meditation practice. I have fallen off the wagon before. I know that in 2 or 3 months I will begin to hit all those familiar walls, which got me to meditation in the first place. Ironically, this slide from my practice occurred shortly before Becky Gillespie, the Chicago-based writer of the ABA Journal article, conducted her interview of me. In the course of the interview, which morphed into a broader conversation, I confessed to Becky that my practice currently was suffering and that she should feel free to disclose that fact to her readers. She chose not to.
But I thought that the pressure I had felt throughout January, in writing about Sandy Hook, might have been different if my practice had been solid. I had been noticing consistent tightness in my neck and shoulders. When I probed my shoulder muscles, I found my once familiar “walnutsâ€ť of tissue rebuilding. I have had more trouble pursuing a single line of thought, without distraction. I had started caring too much about pleasing my readers, over getting to “my truth.” And, now I was featured in a major national journal as something that I currently was not.
So, this afternoon, I sat on my the cushion. I would like to tell you that it was 15 minutes of delicious silence, following my breath. It was nothing of the sort. It probably took me 5 minutes to remember that I was there to follow my breath and not plan out my agenda for the rest of the afternoon. It was Sunday afternoon, after all. I could let that agenda go for 15 minutes.
When I get up tomorrow, shave and shower, I will head to my cluttered meditation room. I can probably do it so that I get to my San Francisco desk at the same time. It may not make a difference tomorrow. But, if I keep it up, it will by Friday. And then, I can send out the ABA Journal article without feeling like a total hypocrite.