Dealing with setbacks during my second month of meditation

A month ago, I reported on my meditation practice in January 2013.

The month of February was even more problematic for me than January was. I’ve noticed a pattern that January tends to start our fairly well, because of rebooting after the winter holidays, but then “feature creep” catches up in life.

I did not manage to meditate every single day, but thanks to the Insight Timer mobile app I use, with its “journal” feature, I have a lot of when I did and my brief thoughts after each session.


Breaking the chain for the first time

I first broke my chain of daily meditation on Wednesday, February 6. This was the day after a long chess tournament game in the evening. According to my journal, I was very busy with exercise, work, and starting to pack for the NE Scala conference that I was going to travel to Philadelphia for the next day, Thursday (which I took off from work). I ended up “forgetting” to meditate, and then staying up late, until I realized I had forgotten, and so it was past midnight when I did the meditation session, so it counted for Thursday rather than Wednesday.

The piling up of being “too busy” clearly wrecked my routine. In retrospect, the only solution is to plan better when my routine is going to be broken up by travel or other significant disruptions. Also, there was the matter of just having too much in my routine anyway: I did recognize that Tuesday night chess tournaments were clearly causing me to stay up too late at night, and so decided already in late January to stop playing in them.

Note: I did manage to get in my daily meditation while at the conference, using the Android version of the app. I squeezed it in on the floor of the hotel suite I shared with Josh and Jamie while they were in the other room.

A one-minute meditation session

Monday, February 11 was a tough day for me (still recovering from the conference trip, and going back to work) and more so for Abby, who broke her foot late at night coming back from mandolin rehearsal. We spent nearly two hours at the emergency room (time mostly spent waiting; we spent another two hours Tuesday morning), during which I decided to steal a quiet minute meditating, so I did a one-minute meditation using the mobile app at one point. In my whole meditation log, this is the only time in the past two months that I did anything other than a ten-minute meditation on a day when I meditated at all.

The next two weeks of our lives were very tough. I put aside most of what I had planned to do in my life during that period, in order to take care of our life, but I made sure to meditate every day. I think having the meditation practice really helped a lot, actually.

Problems with the evening schedule

I never got back onto a reliable morning meditation schedule, although I did continue to meditate before bed. But because of variability in my schedule, I again missed a daily evening session, by mere minutes, on Monday, February 25, when I had a crazy busy day that concluded with not only stopping by OpenHack Pittsburgh but also attending a music jam. I didn’t forget to meditate; I just stayed up too late for the session to count for Monday.

Again, the real solution is to get the meditation in early in the morning. Having a better home evening routine would also help: I have found that if I stay out too late outside the home for some event, I end up “shifting” my schedule at home rather than cutting things out that I would normally do during an evening staying at home. Abby has advised me on this and I agree with her that this is the right thing to do. On days when I’m out in the evening, I simply cannot expect to have the time to do what I would normally do when not out. I should not shift, but should cut out.


Despite all the setbacks, I still keep on meditating. It is easy to stop doing something when you realize you’re doing it “badly”. It is easy to say “what’s the point?” or “I’ll never get this right” or “I’m a loser”. But I keep in mind that meditation is meditation, however it is done. I don’t stop flossing my teeth just because I don’t always do it perfectly, after all. And sometimes the benefits do not become apparent until an unexpected turn (such as Abby’s accident) that showcases the need to be present and calm in the face of challenges.

It’s been two months now since New Year. Do you have New Year habits that you threw yourself into with enthusiasm that you have now fallen away from or are ashamed of not keeping up the way you had hoped? How have you coped with your own imperfection?

(Update of 2013-08-10)

I never wrote up a report on March meditation, or April, or my giving up meditation in May. Here is an explanation of what happened and how I decided to get back on track.

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