fitness · meditation

Streaking through meditation

Who remembers streaking? Not the hair-kind, but the running around naked kind. It was a thing in the mid-late 70s on college campuses that appeared, had its moment, and faded out. Before Weird Al Yankovic was old enough to drive, singer-songwriter Ray Stevens was on the case, releasing the novelty song “The Streak” in 1974. It was a huge hit, and then disappeared (as these novelty songs are wont to do).

Many of us have written about streaks, in meditation and in our physical activities. Mina wrote about her experiences at day 999 of her meditation streak. I’ve blogged about what happens when I get a 200-day streak going in meditation. I’ve also written about what to do when, for whatever reason, I miss a day of meditation. Most recently Christine wrote about her experience of 22 days of meditation.

It happened again a week and a half ago: I missed a day. I’ve finally gotten used to this– it’s not cause for feeling like a failure. Starting again is another (and very important) step in developing stable habits over time. Starting over. Picking up where I left off.

Looking at the Ten Percent Happier app on my phone, it faithfully notes and keeps track of every session. I really like how it shows my sessions over time. It sees all and tells all. Here it shows where I missed a recent session.

The last 4 weeks of meditation sessions, with one sad gray circle where I got too busy.
The last 4 weeks of meditation sessions, with one sad gray circle where I missed a day. The checked circle is today when I’m writing this.

But that gray circle is only one element of a larger picture. When we pan out and look at my sessions over time– also faithfully recorded by the app– we see two patterns emerging. Here’s pattern one, showing my streaks of consecutive sessions.

A collage of my 3, 5, 10, and on up to 200-day streaks, showing how many of them I've done.
A record of my 3, 5, 10, and on up to 200-day streaks, showing how many of them I’ve done.

You can see that I’ve started and restarted many times– 35 to date in the past two and a half years. There’s a serious drop off at the 10-day mark– only 11 of those. And there’s a further drop-off at the 20-day mark– I’m at 6 of those. As you all know, it’s hard to do most things (apart from teeth brushing, maybe) 150 days in a row. I’ve only hit that mark once. And oh, was I bummed when I missed a day after reaching the 200-day mark!

But hey, life happens. And, life (plus the app) reveals another way to frame my meditation habit. Take a look at pattern two.

My weekly progress. 70 weeks is missing on this slide, but it’s there on the app. I’m at 109 weeks today.

For me, maintaining enough continuity to keep the weekly streak going is something I’m focusing on. Yes, it too could get interrupted, so I would do what one does: pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.

Hey, does that sound like a song? If so, that’s because it is a song by Nat “King” Cole. Here’s the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald’s version, whose streak of magnificent performances is impressive no matter how you frame it.

Readers, how do you feel about streaks? Aiming for them, being in the middle of them, getting interrupted, resuming? I’d love to hear from you.