Tuesday, January 11, 2011

'Cause Waking Up is Hard to Do!!!

Precious Practice

Greetings, dharma friends, fellow parents and others.
I've been quiet for the last few months, for no good reason. Combination of holiday busy-ness and just not much to say, I guess. Still mostly-unemployed except for helping out a few hours at a friend's shop. Still have a roof and food, so unlike so many others out there, I can bring my attention to spiritual matters.
Working on discipline and organization, to make the most of my day. I think I mentioned before, my goal of 4.5 hours on the cushion. Right now I get a consistent hour-and-a-half to two, but the "reasons" for doing other things still assault me and my selfishness daily.  ;-)
I've never been a very disciplined sort, but have always been able to get done what needs doing, so it stands to reason: I'm just not convinced that this needs doing. And so it comes back once again to bodhicitta versus laziness. I confess to acting like I'll live forever!!!
I know I'm not alone in the struggle to find more time to practice, but it's never helped me to be hard on myself particularly. Gentle pushing.

"Pillow to Four"

There's an online runners' training program, called "couch to 5k" that aims at getting people off the couch and running consistently within 3 months. Apparently it works well.
So then, I'm going to make a "pillow to four hours" program, during which over the next three months I'll slowly bring more practice time into the day. If you'd like to join me, please let me know and I'll include your experiences, struggles, and advice, so that hopefully it'll be of use to more than just myself. Otherwise, feel free to watch and laugh.
I'll start this coming Sunday, just for a nice round number. The big idea is not to push the time, but push the regularity, so starting small but consistent seems better than just sitting as long as you can or even as long as you feel like it.

If you're doing this yourself, I recommend coming up with a "dream-day" schedule that honestly includes all of your responsibilities, and see what's left. Perhaps for some, a better goal might be "double my practice time," or something like. My perfectly-run day allows for four hours, but that's about max. Before you say - "but hey, you don't even have a j-o-b!!" I should tell you that as a "house-husband" I'm committed from 7:30 to 5:30 except for about a two-hour break to eat, goof off on the computer and read. (Not everyone gets a two-hour lunch-break, but at my last job I got 45m and used about 20 of it pretty consistently for sitting.) And as most parents will agree, there's no real "clocking out" at the end of the day: dinner and cleanup, homework, playtime, hugtime, MAYBE a few moments with your spouse....

My goal is to have a strong schedule in place so that when I find work I can keep it up, with whatever necessary adjustments. Everyone's circumstance is different, so if we're going to get anywhere we need to be honest about things (like how much sleep we really need) or we end up either setting the bar too high and failing or simply not reaching our own goal — whatever that is.

The sessions will be shorter than normal at first, and I'll be sneaking in sadhana practice but we'll ignore that for now, until I have enough time for it in one of the three sessions. I hope the schedule is light enough so that some of my friends trying to do the same thing will be able to jump in regardless of how much they currently practice. It may in fact be easier to start with what you have and grow, making the number of sessions the important bit rather than time.

Here's the program:
Week one:
Fifteen minutes (only!) each morning and evening for three days; then adding ten minutes anytime in the middle of the day for three days; final day thirty minutes three times in the day.
 Week two:
Twenty minutes three times a day for three days; then adding another ten minutes to the morning and evening for three days; finish with another day of three-times-thirty.
Week three:
Thirty minutes, three times a day for three days; then adding another ten minutes to the morning and evening for three days; finish with forty minutes three times in the day.
Week four:
Sunday, forty-five minutes three times; Mon-Fri forty-five morning and evening with thirty in the middle; Saturday forty-five times three again.
[That's 2:15 within a month.]
Week five:
Repeat week four, deal with any obstacles.
Weeks six and seven:
Forty-five minutes three times, all week.
Week eight:
Same, but Sunday and Saturday's morning and evening are extended to ninety minutes.
[3:45 in six weeks.]
Weeks nine and ten:
Same as week eight's Saturday all week.
Week eleven:
Sunday and Saturday middle session increased to sixty minutes.
Week twelve:
Same as week eleven's Saturday all week.
That's 4hr/day. I think I can do it.

I'll be sure to check in once a week and let everyone know how it's going, with an eye out for cheerleaders. And to all of you out there looking to balance worldly duties and practice, good luck! It's rarely easy.