Monday morning. May 8th 2023. I wake up after an unusually restful night of sleep. I know I got up to the bathroom once. Other than that, I have no recollection of sleepless restlessness, which is not the norm for me these last many months. The first thing I notice is the fading rose of the light on the buildings out my window, soft and clear. I am surprised the day is here. I check my iPad for the time. It’s on the bedside table. Reading a novel (on the kindle app on my iPad) in bed as I fall asleep is one of my life’s pleasures.
And, in that moment, reaching for the time, I realize this: I did not meditate yesterday. Horror! How could I have forgotten?
I comb back through the day. It was not my typical Sunday. To start with, I didn’t get into bed until 4:00 am. I was taking part in a big group photo shoot organized by some friends, which didn’t start until past midnight. That same morning, I stayed longer in bed than usual … waiting until the moment before I needed to leave for my 5 Rhythms group at noon. I left my iPad out in a particular location to remind myself to meditate when I got back. But not with a note, as I often do, if I don’t meditate first thing in the morning.
That was May 7th. My cousin’s birthday. He was born 4 days before me. It would have been 1617 days of meditation in a row. 617 days since the last day of the first in-person visit with my mother after pandemic.
My streak!!?? I couldn’t lose my meditation streak, too! Enough with the loss already (I won’t get into the details—I’ve written about them the last couple of months.)
I recalled that while I was lying in bed Sunday morning, I had thought to myself, maybe 5 Rhythms will be my meditation today. After all, Gabrielle Roth, who developed the technique, called it a moving mediation. Still, if I’m honest, I wasn’t thinking about that anymore when I got to the studio. I was just inside my body, inside the dance. So, did it count if I hadn’t thought to myself, in the moment, this is my meditation?
I’ve been meditating daily for more than 4 years now, and I have adjusted my expectations and the form my meditation can take several times. For example, when I started, I required of myself a minimum of 20 minutes. After a month, I relaxed into any amount of time counting, so long as I sat down intentionally. My meditations now are most commonly 10 minutes long. Another requirement was that I be seated—a cushion or a chair (airplane seats count) or a patch of grass. Just seated, you get the picture. Then, about six months ago, when life got especially challenging, I began to relax the seated requirement and relaxed into lying down meditation. Sometimes (often on days when I’ve woken up super early or am having trouble motivating myself to get out of bed), I start my day with a meditation in bed.
So, I am not averse to adjusting my meditation habits over time. And, I’ve never made the adjustment unconsciously. And, I’ve never included a moving meditation in my streak, at least not before May 7th. And, I do think it’s appropriate to count 5 Rhythms as a meditation, though I’d probably feel differently if it was the only form of daily meditation I practiced every day, which is how I feel about lying down meditation, too. Yes, at times the system of rules and regulations and definitions of what counts and what doesn’t inside my head verge on the Kafkaesque. For example, I don’t count riding around town on a bike as my workout, but I’ve also realized that it is a factor that needs to inform the workout I choose to do on a day when I’ll be riding around town a lot.
Which brings me back to my immediate problem on May 8th—what should I do about the meditation streak?
First, I decided to meditate, with the intention to notice what was coming up around the issue. Then, I thought, why bother? You’re just fooling yourself. You’re back to zero. You won’t get back into the 1600s on a new streak until you’re into your sixties. Suck it up. I sat down to meditate anyway. I considered whether there was a freedom in not being on the streak anymore. I’ve got a number of new, unasked for and unwanted, freedoms in my life. I don’t want more of these types of freedoms.
These thoughts crowded my mind: I have deep expertise in the field of being hard on myself, maybe this was not the moment? But if I follow that logic, was I at risk of being too gentle? What long time discipline would I cheat on next? If I decided to count 5 Rhythms, was I lying to myself? What would I lie to myself about next? A rabbit hole of dire possibilities yawned open.
Then, as if switch flipped, my mind quieted and I heard, count it. Add the session into your log. The streak motivates you If after a few days, you feel like a lying, cheating fraud, you can always take it out.
Well, it’s been more than a week now. When I look at my streak count, which is, as I type this (on Friday May 19, is 1628, I feel no remorse. I’ve come clean here about my streak. That’s enough. No public hanging required. I will continue on with my streak.
That last sentence was supposed to be the end of this post. My intention was to let the writing sit over the weekend and come back to polish the next week.
Saturday morning. May 20th 2023. I finish my run and decide to meditate outdoors. It’s only then that I realize, holy fucking shit, I did not meditate on Friday. The very day I was writing my first draft of this post, I forgot to meditate. Again. And this time, there was no 5 Rhythms waiting in the wings to save me. I was stunned. Was this the universe punishing me because I was lying to myself about my meditation streak with my 5 Rhythms fiddle? I sat down to meditate on my new streak-less reality. As I listened to the wind in the trees and breathed the breeze, waves of grief, followed by waves of jubilation rocked through my body. Each wave swelling into the space of the receding wave, as grief rolled into jubilation rolled into grief. For everything that’s been happening. When I finished my meditation, I was shaken. And I accepted. No, more than that, I welcomed what was. That was my word of the year, here was a reminder of the practice. I was not being punished or tested or whatever. I was living and doing the best I can. Later that day I bought a bottle of champagne to share with the friends I was having dinner with. To celebrate the ongoing deconstruction of my life.
This was the quote on my Insight Timer app on the day I realized that I’d forgotten to meditate. It felt like a message addressed to me rather directly. And the other image is my welcome to what now is.
I’m on day 4 of my new streak today. Or so Insight Timer tells me. And I don’t intend to streak for the time being. I will take the days as they come.