How I forgot to meditate after sixty days in a row of remembering and what that means

I woke up this morning feeling very tired. I also suddenly realized that yesterday, I forgot to set aside time for the daily meditation practice (just ten minutes a day) that I had successfully done for sixty days in a row, having deliberately started it shortly before Thanksgiving. I was pretty angry at myself. But I also thought about how it was possible that I slipped after sixty days, and what that means.

What’s my meditation schedule?

The optimal way to maintain any habit is to make it as rigid and automatic as possible. Several years ago, when I went months at a time without missing a single day, my system was to meditate first thing in the morning, before eating or exercising or anything else.

I confess that I still don’t have that kind of rigid schedule yet. Much of the time, I do meditate first thing. Other times, I feel pressed for time and want to get some work done. Or I’m feeling very hungry and decide to eat breakfast first. But usually I do complete meditation in the morning. Occasionally I “forget” but then remember well before bedtime, and get it in before sleeping.

What my forgetting yesterday says about my life

First of all, I was feeling tired when I woke, because of a week of accumulated fatigue from doing many things, including going out last night with Abby for the second week of blues dance class at Tartan Swing at CMU. Adding an extra evening out every week is requiring some changes in how much other stuff I can get done in evenings, and apparently I have not scaled back enough to make up for that additional commitment; it is always a struggle for me to give up something to make room for something else, but especially on short notice, since we had not originally planned, in December, to start checking out Tartan Swing this January!

Also, yesterday was Friday, and I tend to feel I have many things to try to get done on Friday. I ate breakfast immediately, did work stuff, then since I was scheduled to go for a run, I did that. I’ve been ramping up on my run distances, and I ran my second longest distance so far this month: the length was the sum of the length of my Monday and Wednesday runs this week! So that took more energy than I am used to yet.

When I came home from work, I was extremely tired and hungry, to the point that I decided I wanted to eat a whole lot of food and do something different, so Abby and I went out for dinner. I came home totally stuffed. In any case, going out was an unscheduled, spontaneous decision, and by the time we came home, none of the whole day had gone according to my usual pattern. And so I somehow forgot to get in meditation before going to bed.

Lessons learned

The first lesson is that just because I missed one day of meditation after sixty in a row, that doesn’t mean I’ve lost everything. I meditated today, and will continue my practice. It’s important to recover as quickly as possible, to avoid what has happened to me before, which is to feel ashamed, start identifying (after too many days in a row missed) as a “non-meditator”, and give up the practice.

The other is that I’m definitely overbooked and need to make sure I get rest, and get back on schedule for what I can manage to do. A busy week is coming up.

What do you do when you find out that you’ve missed a day of meditation, exercise, or some other daily practice? Do you feel bad about yourself? Do you make excuses? Do you examine what is really important? Do you set up a system to prevent having to rely on will power? What is your latest experience of slipping, and how did you deal with it?

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