What I’ve Learned From 30 Days of Meditation

There is a lovely Buddhist story about a conversation between the Buddha and his disciple Ananda, in which Ananda has just enthusiastically declared;
“Surely this is half the holy life lord; admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie!” to which the Buddha replies “My dear Ananda, admirable friendship is actually the whole of the holy life”.
Admirable friendship is of course the power of the sangha, or the community, and the way in which it supports the individual on their own path of practice. When one commits to a path of practice one must do the work on their own, and yet it is so much harder if we try to do it all alone. Our personal efforts are empowered by the knowledge that others, people just like us, are also doing the difficult work of showing up, day by day by day.
Today I wrapped up a 30-Day Illumination, a commitment to meditation that began on the New Moon of March, and ran until the New Moon in April. I embarked on this challenge with 195 others, many of whom I have never met personally. Each day we promised ourselves (and each other) that we would find the time in our day to sit quietly and attend to the practice of meditation. We did not have the luxury of gathering together each day in physical space, rather we needed to create the discipline to sit quietly on our own- and yet through the magic of virtual connection we were able to check in with each other daily if needed. Something happens when people come together around a common desire or goal, and honestly share their challenges, their insights, and their little victories. We are lifted and inspired by others, and hearing their stories of effort & reward can help us renew our own commitment.
So what did I learn by committing to 30 days of meditation? I remembered that, as the Buddha taught, admirable friendship is key to success on this path. I remembered that success in meditation is not measured in simple or linear ways, but rather can be felt in a slowly growing resiliency to the daily stresses of life, a greater ability to catch ourselves when moving into self limiting patterns of behaviour or belief, and a sweetly expanding sense of compassion- for ourselves and for others. I value these gifts above and beyond any sense of pride I might feel in being disciplined enough to follow through with a challenge I set for myself, and it is the felt experience of these rewards that will carry me forwards as my own path of practice, which does not end once the moon begins to wax towards full once again.
Making a commitment to practice, in my mind, is truly about making a commitment to a relationship with yourself. Whether it be a commitment to yoga practice, meditation, writing, painting, dancing, or anything else in which you meet yourself fully. It’s about what happens when you show up regularly, and come to know the ways in which your resistance expresses itself and your sense of will and faith is empowered. It’s about finding a quality of agency that is self-motivated, and a curiosity that is open ended. It is about having intentions that run deep, but are not attached to specific and linear goals. It’s about coming to grips with the fact that everything is always changing, that nothing is solid or abiding, and yet you can access a sense of ground within that truth.
Deep blessings of gratitude to everyone who undertook this first 30-Day Illumination with me, my practice has been enriched beyond measure and my sense of community has been expanded. Here is to many more cycles of practice and an unflinching commitment to intimacy with ourselves, and the world around us.