On December 17, 2015, I stopped meditating.
I’d been meditating at least 20 minutes a day for more than three years without missing a day, and in an on-and-off way for many more years than that. In fact, I tracked my meditation on an app called Meditation Helper. It has a little widget (pictured) that helped me remember to meditate and held me accountable for doing it every day because I didn’t want to reset the “longest streak” count to zero. As you can see, I was at 1,209 consecutive days when I missed one day and stopped completely. I was so shocked that I’d missed that day that it was like the wind went out of my meditative sails. That was more than six months ago.
In those intervening months, I haven’t considered myself less of a Buddhist, though I’ve felt a combination of guilt and sadness over not getting to the cushion. In March, slightly less than four months after I stopped meditating, I started walking every day, which has made a big difference and has, in some ways, become like meditation.
During this hiatus, I’ve read a few very valuable Buddhist books. One was Don’t Be A Jerk by Brad Warner, a wonderful look at the work of Dogen. I’m about halfway through the latest book by Stephen Batchelor, After Buddhism, a brilliant and inspiring look at secular Buddhism and the Pali canon. A few days ago, I read Lodro Rinzler’s brief Sit Like A Buddha, which, while aimed at new meditators, still contained a perspective I found refreshing. I’m also reading Chogyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: The Sacred Heart Path of the Warrior, a classic text of almost-Buddhism that, like Batchelor’s book, is very secular in its approach. These books helped me engage with my practice even when I wasn’t actively sitting each day. Are books a substitute for meditation? No. But they can help refuel your tank when it’s been depleted.
Two days ago I started sitting again. I’m using the same app, though I’m having second thoughts about it. I wonder whether it might be healthier just to set an alarm on my phone but not track the consecutive days. In any case, I’m glad to be back on the cushion.