Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reinforcing daily practice

Many people complain to me that they lack discipline. The solution to this situation is not to scold oneself but simply to make certain practices non-negotiable - like brushing one's teeth. Here's an instruction found on the website Interlude: An Internet Retreat that helps stabilize a daily practice:

Consider how you move through your day. Is your mood and state of mind determined randomly by events as they unfold? Do you often say, “I’m having a bad day, because…”? Do you set yourself up to feel bad by persisting in negative, angry, resentful or anxious thoughts? Do you get caught up in the events of the day and find yourself distracted, ungrounded, or swept away by thoughts and emotions? If so, you could help yourself by establishing a pattern of daily rituals to remind you of what you are about. To design your own daily practice consider these factors: How often do you intend to practice? Options include:

* On rising and on going to bed or an hour before bed
* At specific hours
* Every three hours of waking
* Sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight
* At each meal
* Before specific activities, such as brushing teeth, shaving, bathing, using the toilet, dressing, and doing household chores.

What form will your practice take? It can be a combination of activities including:

* Prayer
* Chanting
* Repeating a mantra
* Song
* Meditation
* Postural movement, such as bowing, kneeling or prostration
* Repetition of affirmations
* Time for silence
* Conscious breathing
* Reading scripture or other inspirational material
* Remembering to be mindful

Whatever form your daily rituals take, they will become your second nature by repetition. Like any habit, you may need to repeat the practice for a significant period of time for it to seem natural and part of you. You may want to write down what you intend your practice to be and refer to it now and then to keep on track. Practicing with other people can also deepen the meaning and help keep you on track. If you plan to say specific prayers for specific activities, write them down and place them where you will see them at the appropriate time.

I have found it helpful to write whatever practice I want to remember on an index card and to prop that card against the clock on my beside table. A sticky note on the bathroom mirror is also a good idea. Get creative about giving yourself reminders and you will find it quite possible to institute a daily practice.

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