Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Routine

What time is it? (A long-winded examination of daily practice.)

One of my favorite jokes I like to play on myself is pretending that raising kids means “I just don’t have time to practice!” I’ve heard this line from a number of other parents as well, even before I was a parent myself. The fact is, when I was childless, single and virtually carefree I had just as many reasons to battle on the way to the daily cushion. Disabusing oneself of the notion that there just isn’t enough time in the day is maybe Step One in my book.

Yeah, we parents have commitments that extend past our clock-in/clock-out, and those commitments are not easily broken compared to, say, a gym membership. But (speaking for myself only here) there are many gaps in my schedule, and what I fill them with may not always be the best use of my time. I did an experiment a few months ago where for a couple of days I tried to keep track of my “down time” with the idea that I would take half of that and add it to my practice day.
I didn’t... but I was not all that surprised to find out just how much “me” time I was wedging into my everyday life.

“Them time” ÷ bodhicitta = “me time”
24hr - (them-time + me-time + sleep) = practice time.

Of course “me” time is important for us mere mortals so young on the bodhisattva path, but just how much do we need? I would say: exactly as much as it takes. If our practice becomes just another weight put upon us by the world, we will surely have a hard time of it. However, the thought that I will “take care of myself and then go practice” has some serious flaws in it. If meditation is not taking care of myself, then I need to revisit good ol’ Noble Truth #1 and remember why I started this whole project.
Assuming good technique and training, meditation (in all the various forms under that umbrella-term) is a fascinating and amazing event. I’m certain that in all regards cushion-time is THE best me-time there is, and I reaffirm it (almost) everytime I sit down. The biggest trick is getting to the seat. It’s much like diving off a diving board, or getting out of bed too early: you just have to make your muscles move without listening to your brain. You decided beforehand that you would do this, so your brain’s contribution is finished. “Legs, walk!”
Coming to the decisive conviction that you actually WANT a steady practice in your life might be Step Two in this imaginary guidebook. After that, it’s simply a matter of making a schedule that honors all parts of your life each with the weight it deserves.

My own personal aspiration is to find four hours a day without unduly neglecting my “life duties.” To that end, I’ve been attempting three sessions (morning, midday and night) each of indeterminate time, with the hopes of haggling more time for each of them from the so-called “me-time” and sleep until I have 90 minutes in the morning and evening, and an hour midday. It’s a lot compared to what I’ve done in the past, but I think I can do it.
(Feel free to egg me on and/or shame me into it!)

I'm looking into "meditation games" to play with my children, such as sitting quietly and shoting "THOUGHT!" whenever a thought comes up... with some success I guess, but would love to hear others' ideas for inventive ways to make sitting still a normal and interesting part of a child's life.

Who else has an ideal time goal of “enough” daily practice?
How do you plan to get there?

No comments:

Post a Comment