My last article of the year is about what I want to focus on next year. I try to keep my New Year’s resolutions spare — usually just one. This year it’s two.
I find the fewer I have, the more likely I’ll follow through. Here they are.
1. ADD A SECOND MEDITATION SESSION TO MY DAILY ROUTINE.
My resolution for 2013, as I wrote about last week, was to develop a regular meditation practice. Nine years later, I’m still going strong, meditating every morning for fifteen minutes.
It’s the best decision I ever made. I’m calmer, clearer in the head, more patient, and, most important, more compassionate in dealing with my fellow Earthlings.
Mickey the Great
But several years ago the great Mickey Singer came across my radar. I’ve learned a ton from his teachings, as anybody who’s read my articles knows.
One of those teachings is meditation. Mickey’s thoughts are simple: We don’t need to meditate several hours a day, as he did in the 1970s in his early travels on the spiritual path.
He says all we need to do is fifteen minutes in the morning…and fifteen minutes in the afternoon. Yes, twice a day.
Mickey’s views on meditation
He views meditation as simply practicing being present and not stuck in our heads. It’s also a tool to remind ourselves, twice a day for fifteen minutes, that we are NOT the voice in our heads. We are the consciousness that is AWARE of the voice in our head.
For years I’ve been meaning to take the plunge on adding this second session and just never have. No excuses. I just haven’t gotten it done.
It’s all about habit formation
I’m approaching adding a second meditation the same way I went after this in 2013: Make it as gradual and easy as possible. The first two weeks of January I’ll do only two-afternoon meditations of five minutes each. Then I’ll gradually up both the frequency and duration until I get to my desired landing spot — fifteen minutes, five days a week.
I probably won’t get there until March. Also, I’ll keep track of my sessions on a notecard. This little bit of accountability goes a long way for me.
The ultimate goal is that I end up where I have with my morning meditation all these years: It’s not a big deal. The plan is to develop the afternoon session into a habit, something I don’t have to strain to do.
2. CHOP WOOD AND CARRY WATER ON THE SPIRITUAL PATH
Chopping wood and carrying water comes from Ram Dass’s iconic book Be Here Now, which came out in 1971. It’s how he describes the yoga (spiritual work) of daily life. In Sanskrit, the closest word would be sadhana.
It’s not about the fancy stuff like doing a three-month silent meditation retreat. It’s about the basic, daily spiritual work.
The daily work
Like meditation. And watching, instead of getting involved, when your ego tries to drag you down under after your spouse/boss/parent/kid/friend says or does something that triggers you. Or notice your bile getting stirred when you hit a bunch of red lights in a row and take three long, deep breaths. It’s the everyday things.
In previous years my resolution has been on specific practices, like surrendering (I think that was 2019). The problem I’ve found with focusing on one thing/concept/practice like surrender is that the things I focus on change a lot.
Sometimes surrender resonates most with me. Sometimes it’s simply relaxing inside. Other times it’s noticing when I feel upset or tight inside and not letting myself go down the rabbit hole of “Man, I feel like crap. I hope this goes away soon or…complain, complain, complain…” I just notice it.
It’s not about one practice, but the sum of all of them
The point for me, and why I chose this as a resolution, is that chopping wood and carrying water is not about any individual practice. It’s about the summation of everything you’re doing on a daily basis.
For me, that’s meditating (TWICE a day starting next week!) and doing all of those other mindfulness/letting go practices. And all I need to do…is keep practicing.
Keep chopping the wood and carrying the water. Just keep doing all the little things, every day, that all accrue in my personal, spiritual bank account.
The key is that I don’t need to think about or second-guess any of this stuff. Just keep doing it. And gradually and incrementally, I become more and more conscious.
Which, as I’ve written about in myriad different articles, is the greatest gift we can give not only ourselves but to the world.
And that’s the point of this article. Not to let you know what my resolutions are for 2022. But hopefully to inspire you to commit to your own spiritual chopping wood and carrying water for next year. Whatever form that takes for you.
You, your family, friends, coworkers, and humanity will be the better for it.
I wish you all a healthy and peaceful 2022.