For me, I need enthusiasm to start a new practice, but I am not great on the follow-through.If I have started a new practice, based on will (not a bad thing), like exercise or meditation, I may be fortunate and taste an initial power of that resolve.
Often I start a practice and then struggle to make time to do it regularly. I have that problem in becoming a choir member in my new community. I sing once a week, but I rarely get around to regular practice at home.
I may decide (every Monday) that I am going to practice each day, and that may work for one or two days, but then, something comes up. For me, because the practicing program is on the computer, my arm will rebel, after too much clicking and scrolling.
Or I can just plain forget! Or put it on my "do later" list.
But if I strike an easy balance and am disciplined to be patient and use my left hand, I get into a stride with practicing and it feels so good that I want to make daily time for it.
Same is true for me with meditation. When I am kind to myself even when I drop the discipline, then I can return to it with joy. In fact, allowing the lapse, helps me to experience how much I crave the rewards of the discipline.
Regular runners (I am married to one) "get" this, because they actually feel a sense of lower energy and joy when they don't get that endorphin high that comes with being in disciplined running shape.
I may have had my intellectual reasons for starting a practice, but it is my set back that brings my heart into the practice, when the practice has become dry.
Missing (or longing for) something we have lost in our lives, draws us back. Once I gently and kindly move back into my most important discipline (for me it is writing), I rediscover my commitments. My love of writing always draws me back to creativity in my program, for sure.
Any setback or lapse in writing, makes me hunger to get back to it, and DEEPENS my commitment each time.
"A set back has real power."
Whether it is anxiety, a touch of depression or disillusionment, or a sense that I am being lazy...I get this chance to see how much progress I HAD made, before I stopped.
If only I am kind to myself, that is.
Whenever I get to Step Twelve in my practice, today I anticipate the setback. I try not to be vigilant, just aware.
In fact, set backs are great in that they bring me back to the reason I got started in the first place, in much the same way program long-timers find themselves doing. Each time I have a set back, I get into direct contact with the part of me that does not want to return to things "the way they were," before program.
Every reversal I've experienced, in incorporating a new discipline in my life, has brought me to a deeper understanding of myself. Where I have started most of my disciplines with reason and self-will, if the disciplines lasted, I had to come back from a relapse, bringing an open heart.
Ours is a lifelong discipline, that starts in the clearing our crisis created for us, which brought us to the doors of a meeting or to this place where you and I are meeting.
"It is when we (temporarily) stop a new discipline that we discover how much it has already added to our lives." For me to see progress, I have to be gentle with myself and give credit to those little seedlings which are so vulnerable in my first garden.
I can grieve for the failure of my discipline to be more deeply rooted than it is. But all is not lost!
Yes, I can beat myself up after my missteps, and criticize my (apparent) lack of dedication to staying on path. But when I lose my way... I gain something. I find in me the drive to find my way back. I find love in my practice, that goes beyond the law, or any strict wording of our steps or traditions. I find the soft place in me that is willing to re-interpret the program so it reaches more people, who find the words hard and unfathomable at times. I find myself loving myself more compassionately when I listen deeply to others questions. Which are usually innocent, even when they seem confrontational.
When someone tells me what does not work for them in their program and I listen, I become a better teacher. (And believe me, teaching is the last thing I thought I would be doing when I joined program. I just wanted to learn!)
In open-hearted learning, the program becomes so deeply rooted that I can live and breathe it. Sometimes. When I forget myself. That is when I know that this practice of Living Program has truly taken root in the space I made for it, starting some 22 years ago now.
Thanks for listening.