Post #2037: On the hundred and first day

Today was day one-hundred-and-one for me – that is – days in a row that I have meditated. I have a timer on my phone that I use when I sit down to meditate, and that also keeps track of the number of days I meditate for thirty  minutes or longer. The time setting is my doing as thirty minutes feels like a minimum amount to me and something I can always fit into my schedule, though mostly these days I sit for forty-five minutes – and in retreat or at the zen-dō, much longer.

I’m not sure that there’s anything in my life that I have done unfailingly for a streak of a hundred days or more – not even flossing my teeth – so on one level it seems like a big deal to me. On another level, I know meditators who have sat every day for the last twenty years or more – and in that context, one hundred days is nothing. In a month I will be coming up on two years of practicing meditation – another milestone that is both large and small.

As usual, there was nothing particularly special about my meditation this morning – forty-five minutes of attempting to focus on my breath, and my breath alone. My mind played across all the things I am working on, delved into the problem of other people’s expectations, did some self-justifying routines about recent decisions I have made – and got pulled back in to become the breath over and over, for a few seconds at a time.

It’s not magic, this practice. And I don’t have the kind of mind that produces visions or revelatory voices – so mostly it doesn’t even feel insightful. And yet it provokes my curiosity endlessly  – glimpses of the mind in its settled state, seconds in which the mind and body integrate to create the relaxation of holism, the occasional glance over the precipice of no-self, and deep feelings of universal love that wash up at the most unexpected moments. This morning practice that I do tints every other aspect of my days as though through a filter which slows down time and reaction instead of refracting light and colour.

And so I am certain that these hundred days will be followed by another hundred, and another. I feel quite sure that this is a lifelong practice, no longer just an experiment to see what it is like. I could be wrong about that of course, but in my current thrall I can’t imagine not getting up and taking my place on the cushion each morning – never sure of what the next breath will bring.


2 Comments on “Post #2037: On the hundred and first day

  1. Is there a place (or book or something) you’d recommend starting? I’ve been thinking a lot about starting to practice meditation, but so far haven’t done anything as – well, there’s a total abundance of information but nowhere clear to start. 🙂

  2. I know what you mean – there is so much out there it’s hard to know what will work for each one of us!

    A book that I am currently listening to which I think is really great from an atheist-meditator/spirituality perspective is Sam Harris’ Waking Up – it’s not a meditation book per se, but he goes into the science of how meditation is beneficial and how our brains work – and I find it inspiring and really informational. From a secular meditation teacher perspective, I’m a big fan of anything by Jon Kabat Zinn and if you would like, I can share some of his recorded meditations with you that I started out with – he’s also written numerous books – Coming to Our Senses is a good overall/comprehensive guide to meditation and getting started.

    If you are looking for a larger meditation community – I would steer you towards something formal like zen meditation, which has very little woo but isn’t as corporate as the mindfulness movement can be – it’s entirely possible to be an atheist and engage in zen buddhist practice which is what I appreciate about it. Zen meditation is a formal, silent practice and can take many forms (breath focus, koans, expanded awareness, etc.) depending on the tradition.

    In general though if you want to start on your own, I would recommend starting out with some kind of reading (one of the above books), and engaging in a daily practice of 5 minutes to start – my perspective is that rather than trying to sit for long periods once and awhile, it’s better to sit for a short period every day in order to build the routine. This should produce subtle changes that encourage you to sit for longer periods in a gradual fashion and it allows you time to adjust your life around a new daily ritual. If you want to sit longer in the beginning, it can help to have a recording to guide you and keep you focused. I started with recordings but now I find that I don’t like to have any guided practice unless its in the presence of a teacher who I am studying with.

    And if sitting meditation doesn’t work for you, remember that there is walking, lying down, and standing meditation – plus other moving meditations in the Chinese (Chan) tradition.

    I highly encourage this practice – as you can probably tell – I feel it has transformed my life in subtle ways, brought it much more joy and an easing of anxiety overall.

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