Almost every day for the past several years, I have meditated very badly for ten minutes in the morning. Occasionally I’ll bring it down to seven minutes (which feels like a vacation!), and there was a stretch there where I was pushing myself to do 15 (oh, the agony), but mostly I have decided that ten is better than nothing. So every morning I sit on my couch with my feet up on the coffee table (no cross-legged vibes for me) and attempt to focus on my breathing for ten minutes.
It occurred to me this morning, meditating right before sitting down to write this, that I would love/hate to see a montage of all the ways I meditate badly. It would be depressing, probably, but also hilarious: a blooper reel of how not to meditate, featuring multiple pick-ups of my phone to see how much time is left, taking a quick bathroom break while “focusing on my breathing” (so it counts, right?!), lunging for my notebook to write something down, literally giving up and picking up the novel I’m reading while the timer counts down to zero, and so on, and so on.
But here’s the other thing: as far as I know, I have the longest-running, most consistent meditation practice of anyone I know. Other people might have done more intense meditation for shorter bursts of time, or maybe they use it as a self-care tool occasionally, but I’ve been plodding along doing this shit badly every single morning for YEARS!!! I say that not to brag, but to remind myself of what is actually important, and of why I do this at all.
I almost never feel like my meditation practice is helpful in the moment. In the moment, I’m doing all of the above to distract myself, albeit mixed in with a few solid minutes daily of quieting my mind. But when I skip my practice for a few days? Suddenly it becomes abundantly clear why I meditate: because I become an irrational, reactionary cookie monster without it.
It turns out that over the years, in tiny fits and spurts in between my extremely transparent attempts to avoid sitting with myself and my breath, I have slowly, infinitesimally increased my tolerance for time spent sitting with myself and my breath. It’s almost imperceptible, this increase, and every day I feel guilty for reaching for my phone yet again instead of sitting still, but the fact is that this practice has made an impact on my life. Even though I do it badly! Even though it annoys me almost the entire time! It is still worth it, it has still taught me so much, it has still helped me grow.
Or, as someone named G. K. Chesterson once said: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”