by Stephen Taul
For over two years, I talked about increasing my meditation practice. Since moving to Spokane I have had a stable morning practice, but could not bring myself to settle into a habit of meditating in the evening. One day while speaking to a Dharma friend, I thought, “What if I just do 5 minutes every evening for a week and then if I’m still doing it, increase by 5 minutes for the following week?” We agreed to check-in on one another the next week. He had wanted to begin a morning practice, so we would check-in to encourage and support one another.
It worked! After one week of 5 minute meditations in the evening, I actually wanted to increase it. So, for the following week, I meditated for 10 minutes. Again, success! So, for 15, 20, 25 and finally 30 minutes at which point, I decided to sustain the practice for a while to make the habit firm. There it was — my biggest learning since meeting the Dharma. Inspired by my progress, I composed this short song:
Don’t talk about what you want to do
Don’t wish for what you long for
Don’t dream about who you want to be…but instead,
Take the tiniest step, but forward
Take the tiniest step and make your way!
It’s been about two months since beginning my evening meditation sessions and I am still on track. I’m meditating 30 minutes every evening or afternoon. My friend and I are still sending weekly update texts, and I feel encouraged and inspired.
What I learned about myself is this: stay somewhat comfortable and especially stay happy. It seems calling, “joyous effort,” “enjoyable effort,” would be a helpful mantra to remember. I am slowly learning how to encourage myself gently without pushing too hard.
“Taking the tiniest step” does two things. First, it’s an action in the direction I want to go, so it can fill my mind with hope, optimism, and confidence. Second, the action is small enough to be easy. This is really the key. If I expect myself to take a huge leap, while I may initially be able to do it, it will be difficult or impossible to sustain. I must gently and kindly encourage myself to do more and more virtue.
I would like to apply this strategy to many other areas of my life including my relationship with technology, the type of media I consume and my habit of multi-tasking. However, as I learned, these changes must be approached slowly in order to take hold. One tiny step at a time, I am changing and that is good enough.
Listen to Stephen’s song.