How many days would you give to yourself if you were to learn a new skill? And, how long would you need to develop a healthy habit?
When we practise something for an extended period of time, not only we become good at what we practise, but we also make that practice a habitual element in our life. It becomes part of what we do on a daily basis without having to think about that. In this way, we can develop healthy habits and, by the same token, we can undo unhealthy ones. All it takes is perseverance, courage and mindfulness.
Developing the habit of practising meditation regularly works exactly in this way. You have to patiently build it day by day, with diligence, with resilience and curiosity, with kindness and care. Then, one day, without thinking about it, you find yourself sitting effortlessly on the cushion to explore your inner world, to contemplate your own mind, to simply be present with your thoughts.
The benefits of meditation are numerous. One can easily browse the internet and read tons of scientific reports and articles talking about that. I must say that I have never had the patience to read through many of these reports but, I rather trusted the process and what this process would bring by just observing the people around me who were already meditators. I could see the quality of their actions, their presence when they listened or when they spoke. There was something in them that I wanted to have too and, a part of me was telling that those qualities were the fruit of their meditation practice. That was for me a first hand indication of how meditation and mindfulness were effectively working. Somehow, I could tell that practising meditation and mindfulness was healthy for the body, for the mind and could also have a beneficial effect on people around us. That is what I found out myself during my years of practice.
At times, I struggled to keep my practice going. I experienced a few periods when I even stopped meditating just to find out how things would, in general, feel rougher, I would feel more irritable and less patient. Then, I would start over again until the practice would become again a regular healthy habit. Every time I stopped it, it took me a while to bring the practice back to its ‘habit status’. What I would do was to set targets, perhaps committing for a month, or for a season or for 3 full moons period. I would just set a period of time in which I intended to sit every day. Every time, it worked perfectly well and I would get my practice back to its ‘habit status’.
Sitting for 100 days in a row, seems to be an ideal amount of time to build a solid habit, to turn something that you are perhaps doing occasionally into something that becomes regular in your daily schedule. It can easily be compared to brushing teeth, it is something that you do without thinking, it just feels right to do it and if you were not doing it, it would feel somehow odd.
The beginning of the year seems to be the perfect period to set a resolution. I guess that, as humans, we love to set goals and targets and perhaps, when a new year starts we see in that the opportunity to focus on something we want to change or, on something new to explore. It seems that the new brings new energy, new vitality and determination, that’s great!
For the beginning of 2022, I am going to set my own resolution which is to consolidate my meditation practice and I’d love to invite anyone reading these words to do the same. It is very simple once we set a strong intention to do it. Just start the new year with this strong resolution to meditate for 100 days in a row, doing your very best not to miss a single day. It can be fun to see how all kind of resistances will appear to the surface of your mind. My suggestion here is to be curios and just explore with an open mind, you now have 100 days to become more and more familiar with that and to learn how to respond to these resistances.
When I run my mindfulness and meditation courses, I always set this target for the people attending to sit for 100 days straight. After the 100th day, we meet and see how things have been. In general, some people struggle more than others but, it is nice to hear all of the participants talking about the benefits of this long ‘meditation run’. I remember when I first set this target for myself, I would keep count of the days, I would make sure I would not miss a single one and would use all kind of strategies to make sure I would go straight to the final goal. I had my diary where I would write about my meditation and I had reminders set on my phone to make sure I would sit at least once before the end of the day. It was a nice experiment into understanding my own mind, my own blockages, my highs and my lows. I could easily see how the mind can become the best or the worst friend in a matter of seconds. All I had to do was to allow my attention to follow the stream of thoughts and, my energy, my mood, my perception of the world would change accordingly. When that is seen clearly, I could start discerning a little bit more my own thoughts. I realised that I could let go of them, I realised that they didn’t need my full attention, I realised that they had a life on their own which is completely separate from my own. When we spend so many days in a row exploring this, it really becomes natural to have a better understanding of our own mind, our own mental patterns, which life situations trigger certain reactions, which situations make us angry and which situations make us happy. In other words, we tune into our mental unit and see what is healthy and what is less healthy in there. We see more clearly which mental circuits bring happiness and which ones bring misery. It is like becoming an IT expert of our own computer set; our mind. We start working on our hardware and see which parts need substituting, which parts need some reconfiguring and which parts are actually fine the way they are. Who would not want to have the best possible mental unit that could bring us lots of happiness?
As for all things people achieve in life, reaching the 100 days meditation resolution practice will have an amazing impact on your life. And, of course, it will allow to develop a solid healthy habit to meditate regularly. All you need to do is to give it a go and be curious about the whole process. Then something at the mental level will change. This is called Neuroplasticity which, to go back to the hardware analogy, can be compared to the reconfiguration of some of our mental circuits. In fact, our mind is made up of millions and millions of circuits which determine our behaviour, our reactions and responses to situations. When we bring mindfulness to these circuits, we somehow have an effect on them. We start seeing how we behave mechanically in certain situations. We clearly see how the stimulation of certain circuits have developed fixed mental patterns which make us behave in a certain way rather than in others. When mindful of this process, we can start responding to situations more consciously and, as a consequence of that, we start developing new circuits, new mental patterns. In this way, we can change old unhealthy habits into new healthy ones. Old circuits get undone and new ones are created. Without realising it, we start acting differently, in a healthier way. All we need to do is to bring a certain level of mindfulness to our unconscious mind, see what arises all the time and be patient enough to observe that without impulsively and mechanically reacting to what the unconscious part of our brain is ‘offering’ to us. If rather than reacting unconsciously to life situations, we take time for a more conscious and healthy way to respond to them, we begin to change patterns, we begin to modify our circuits. In other words, we can change the way we perceive the world and the way we live in it. All it takes is perseverance, courage and mindfulness.
The mind can be an excellent servant but a terrible master. Developing a meditation practice habit will help us to ’employ’ this excellent servant and will allow us to find the way to dismiss the terrible master. 100 days, give it a go to see whether this is the time it takes to learn this skill and to develop this healthy meditation habit.
On Tuesday January the 4th at 7pm, I will run an ONLINE drop-in meditation session where we can better explore this 100 days meditation New Year’s resolution. Please feel free to join this Zoom meeting below
Meeting ID: 998 104 8293
The session will last around 45 minutes and is FREE OF CHARGE
Feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries you might have about the session