Practice

Wise Consistency

Happy Monday from a bus somewhere between New York City and Washington, DC. I woke up in Providence, Rhode Island, after a weekend at a conference where I taught three classes, served as a speaker on a panel, entertained a packed room as part of an improv troupe, and spontaneously did a performance art piece at the prom-themed party.

Sounds great, right? And it was, in many senses of the word. Heck, I even sold several of my “TwoPlay: the Art of Making Out” DVDs that I co-produced with PassionateU. I saw many old friends who I’ve not seen since I moved to the left coast, I made new friends and new connections…but at the same time, I failed.

How? I didn’t sit one day. Not once. I also haven’t journaled in about four days. And any thought of the exercise regimen I’ve been wanting to pick up has been left by the wayside. Running into my Ravenous Romance agent at the convention was great…but also a reminder that I am actually under a deadline to finish a romance novel for them, and I’ve not touched the manuscript in weeks.

What happened to my habits?

You Keep On Using That Word…

Or did I even have a habit in the first place? I used to believe in the definition of habits being something that you do for twenty-one days in a row. If you can do that, you have instilled a habit, you can start a new one. I’ve even been a voracious reader of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog, especially his entries about how to create habits that constructively improve your life. His work is in a large part responsible for my belief in the Love Life Practice project, and I try to read every post he puts up.

Except lately, see, because I seem to have fallen out of the…well, you get the idea.

My traveling companion, best friend, and personal assistant Natasha commented today that we’d both “failed” at the meditation habit. While I knew exactly what she meant, I also had to disagree. I’m not quite positive, but I’m pretty sure that if Buddha were there, he would not have pointed his long finger of non-attachment and blamed us for not meditating. When you teach a class until 9:45 one night, attend a class after that, and are expected to be back teaching at 9am the next morning, finding the time for the meditation and the journaling can get difficult. In fact, I didn’t even find time for coffee or any kind of breakfast before the 9am class.

But I rocked the class. It was on a subject that I know forwards and backwards, a specific technique to help couples better connect romantically. The class was packed, grew moreso as I taught, and it just felt good up there, talking about things I was confident in, knowing the audience was engaged and interested in what I had to say. It’s not too far a stretch to say that the feeling of being in that space, talking to those people, gave me the energy I needed to do without the food or caffeine.

I know that I felt better when the class was done. Better than I did when I had the coffee and fried chicken for breakfast (I really don’t recommend that).

Emerson & Jesus

It’s one of the most well-known quotes ever:

“Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Except that’s not actually Emerson’s full quote:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Notice the difference. “A foolish consistency” is one particular thing, as opposed to a full-fledged trait. And notice who it is that he singles out for the kind of person who is most attracted to the letter of the law: “little” statesmen, professional thinkers and religious proselytizers. Sound familiar?

Though the proselytizers have their own particular fable about the idea – and it’s actually a solution, related in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus was accused of working on the day of mandatory rest:

“And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?”
– Luke 14:5, New Testament, King James Version

That’s what I think Emerson was talking about as well. It’s a good idea to have a habit – until it’s not. If trying to maintain my meditation/journaling schedule would have made me late for class, or cost me some of the scarce sleep that comes so dear at these conventions, would the knowledge that I’d “kept in the habit” have been worth it? Would the added stress of trying to add an exercise routine to the already-insane schedule of the weekend have really been better for my health?

I think not. More than that, because I have had the habit before – well past the twenty-one day mark for both of them – starting them again is going to be as easy as slipping on your favorite pair of shoes, the ones that have molded to your feet and feel like part of your body. It will be easier to go back to the meditation and journaling, frankly, than it has been to stop it. It has become a wise consistency, adored by parents and presenters and completely alien to the TSA.

While I haven’t been doing a lot of exercise per se, I’ve been on my feet and walking for hours each day. As Leo Babauta would say, that’s exercise enough for most. He’s also recommended some other  exercises for the terminally busy that I think might be the practice I try to incorporate this week – my last week on the road before returning to Seattle.

Please don’t think I’m saying that there was an excuse for not doing the meditation. I missed doing it, and I’m taking this as an indication that I really need to better manage my time when I go on these trips. I’m going to try and structure my time so that I can have the benefit of the practices as well as teaching and performing and socializing.

But most of all, I’m going to congratulate myself on managing my practice habit and not letting it become an addiction that gets in the way of delivering classes that change the way my audiences see their world, performances that add to the quotient of beauty in the world, and sharing the joy and laughter of an active life with others.sharing the joy and laughter of an active life with others as I travel.

San Francisco. I think. Then again, I also thought I was smiling when I took this. Might have been on the road a little too long...

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