if you engage it consistently, it will move you towards your goal
Last week I went to a meditation retreat in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina. It was a birthday gift from my wife Rachel that she thoughtfully chose after a few conversations we had about my resistance to take restorative time for myself. I was really looking forward to the trip, and it did not disappoint.
I started meditating just about every day at the end of April 2019 using the Calm app, and it had a significant improvement on my state of mind and ability to process emotions, especially when they came on fast. So I had a respect for the value of meditation and an excitement for what two days of mediation practice would result in.
The meditation retreat was held at the Art of Living Retreat Center, and I would learn Sahaj Samadhi (very roughly translated from Sanskrit to ‘effortless meditation’), a specific form of meditation talk by the Art of Living organization. I didn’t do any research before arriving, so discovering this created a sense of adventure to the experience.
The meditation sessions each lasted around two hours, and for each session, we sat on the floor with a cushion and angled back support, learning for about half the time and meditating for the other half of the time. It was on that cushion where I received an important reminder.
We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Many of our weaknesses are the result of our unwillingness to face them.
One of my weaknesses has been hip mobility.
If you don’t have any issues with hip mobility, then it might be hard to imagine how limiting it can be. If you do have tight hips, then you can empathize. I’ve learned a lot about the issues of hip mobility restrictions through my journey in martial arts. Tight hips mean my kicks are limited, and my jiu-jitsu guard has fewer weapons. It also means that it’s tough to sit cross-legged.
As a grownup, I haven’t done a lot of sitting cross-legged. I haven’t sat much with a single leg crossed in a regular chair. Over the years, my hips have just sort of gotten glued into a few positions that it can move into naturally, and anything outside of those positions causes pain.
I’ve researched a lot of ways to resolve it. Smashing the tight muscles with lacrosse balls, yoga, pilates, etc. And all of it has had some benefit, but I’ve never had a breakthrough.
In meditation class, I was determined to sit cross-legged. So I did. And it hurt quite a bit. I moved in and out of position, re-entering the position when I’d gotten enough relief from the pain.
Among the principles that the meditation course leader taught my cohort were two that I have been thinking about a lot lately.
The first one is discipline. And I felt like I understood discipline pretty well from my journey over the last year. I had developed the discipline to avoid drinking alcohol, meditate, fast, exercise, and do all these things with a high degree of consistency. I saw first hand the benefits of this discipline and knew I had a foundation on which to grow my meditation practice.
The other principle that made me reflect was dispassion. That word didn’t seem to resonate as well with me.
If you look at my website today, one of the main navigation areas is “Passion.” I thought that I wanted to live my life with passion and to do things that I was passionate about. In the moment the course leader is talking, while I’m wrestling with this concept, I’m also wrestling with my hips that feel on fire, wishing they were more flexible.
Thankfully, my new friend and course-mate Richa, asked our leader about dispassion because it didn’t quite resonate with her either. “What if you are ambitious, and you don’t want meditation to eat away at your ambition?”
Our course leader answered, “By dispassion, we mean not attached to outcomes.”
Bam. There it was. Such a colossal clarification of something I’ve been swirling around for the last year. The difference between being results-focused and practice-focused.
This is mindset work, and if you can make this shift, it will make life easier.
A result, or a goal, helps create a direction for us to channel our energy. It is a catalyst, but it is an unstable source of energy. The degree of a goal’s energetic instability is correlated to the distance of your current state from your goal.
Goals or desired results aren’t useless, but they can backfire on you if you focus on them too much. As soon as you set out on your path to reach your goal when you realize how far you are from it, that is painful. If you can’t withstand that pain, you’ll give up.
Practice, on the other hand, simply requires discipline to show up. It doesn’t need you to be anything other than what you already are. It doesn’t imply that you should already be at your goal, or even close to it. It merely requires you to show up.
Practice offers a promise. That promise is that if you engage it consistently, it will move you towards your goal. And if you don’t, you won’t move towards your goal.
Practice is the only way.
How many of us “know” this, but still get hung up on our desired results and goals. This is where dispassion comes in. Once you’ve committed to a goal as a direction in which you want to move, leave it alone. It has served its purpose, which was to catalyze you into movement. From that point forward, it is your practice that needs your focus.
Over the last year, when I’ve spoken to people struggling to develop a meditation practice, it almost always comes down to being results-oriented. They seem to have an idea in their mind about what their meditation practice should be. When thoughts come, they assess that as a failure or a “bad” meditation session. Then they don’t meditate the next day.
I was fortunate to have a therapist who gave me three essential words as I started to meditate: “don’t judge yourself.” Once I embraced those words, I was able to just focus on sitting down every day for 10 minutes and having the experience. It took months, but I started to see a massive difference in my ability to process stress. Funny enough, I don’t even know what my initial goal was, because now all I think about is keeping my commitment to practice.
In meditation, as my hips began to hurt, I removed any desire for them to be more flexible. Instead, I remained in position, accepting them for where they were and what they could do, and simply sent a message to them that we were staying here so they could relax. And you know what, they did.
Each session after that first one, when I sat down, my hips hurt a little less. By the last session, they hardly hurt at all. I’ve increased my meditation practice to two sessions a day, 20 minutes each. That’s a lot more time for my hips to practice being in a position that is healthy for them. And that’s where I need to focus.
Have a grateful day.