For so long I didn’t get why we would repeat things, why repetition even exists… I understand the recycle symbol and understand that many things are a circle and a repetitive process but I thought that repeating things meant you hadn’t done it right so you had to go back again.
I’d been a hundred times before but only on occasion of extra energy, a manageable temperature and randomly low tide can you make your way to a desolate spot on the beach that opens to a canyon leading into the hills of rural Big Sur.
Walking the beach I learn so much about myself… the purple sand is so like my thoughts… beautiful and present yet fleeting and not really something I can capture… I can put the sand in a jar but it never looks as purple as when I just observe and admire it in its natural state. My thoughts are the same, far better to observe and understand them than to try and control them.
As we walk, we come upon this pile of rock that’s been placed upon each other like a little pagoda. I admire it thinking about the awesome mindfulness practice that can happen with this kind of effort… like a Zen garden but on a beach.
Then I notice another one, and then another. And then like ten thousand more.
Over and over again someone, or many someone’s, had built little rock mindfulness pagoda’s everywhere.
It was perfect timing, I needed a visual reminder of why repetition can be so immensely helpful. I think back to my first 12-step meetings and the idea of going to 90 meetings in 90 days and hating every minute of a bunch of them but eventually realizing how totally amazing the steady, constant focus was to my recovery.. it built a foundation I’ve stood on for more than 20 years.
That experience helped me understand that to really navigate a spiritual path we must use repetition to replace unconscious habits of crazy with conscious habits of wisdom.
My eyes couldn’t quite comprehend how many of these rock mindfulness pagoda’s had been built… it was as if the scene was photo shopped and I was testing it’s credibility by staring at it.
Some of the rocks had been written on… “”the balanced one”… “love fills”.
Finally comprehending just how many there were I felt obligated to build a few more… it was so evident that this was a collective of humanity, people coming to repeat over and over again the mindfulness practice of the first pilgrim.
As I found the rocks that would remain sturdy balancing upon each other, I thought about the chant we do every day at meditation and the pledges we repeat. I’ve hated them so many times thinking they are so dumb and a waste of time… I could do them in my sleep I’ve said them so many times.. and yet standing on Pfeiffer beach with thousands of little repeat mindfulness pagoda’s, I realized that it’s this sacred repetition that allows nobility and ethical practice to get burned into my soul, into my DNA… that’s how it becomes living and breathing in my actions. It takes repetition over and over again to re-write the crazy in my brain.
Meditation requires this exact same repetition.. to deepen in any real way, it requires showing up when life’s awesome, when life sucks, in good moods and bad moods and on stormy cold nights and beautiful hot summer days. The excuses are mind numbing— I can manufacture them at a moments notice… but the repetition has worked for me… I made showing up a non-negotiable. It’s just like going to the gym… go, go, go, no matter what. Start light and go easy but show up. Slowly the muscles begin to respond and you increase your weight, a healthy body and lifestyle one day seem to override the previous behaviors that don’t serve you anymore. That’s what happens in meditation.. you show up over and over again and you hate it and you love it but you just keep coming back and then one day without even realizing it, the muscle’s have grown and you find yourself naturally seeing the world thru clear thinking, you observe your ability to make choices with grace and easy, you notice yourself being kind and having increased compassion and non-judgment.
I built 5 mindfulness pagodas’ that survived; I had to do a few before that to get the hang of it. In business we often talk about how “time on task over time” is how you really succeed.. mindfulness practice is no different, once I got the hang of the rock formations, once I knew what size and weight was needed and where, I built one after another and each time I learned a little more, it became a little easier. My assembly of mindfulness pagoda 5 didn’t have any resemblance to the first or second.. it was a culmination of each attempt, taking what worked and building upon it again and again.
Humbled, I walk back along the waves realizing life works just the same way and that repetition has been why I’ve developed such a steady meditation practice and thereby experience kindness, peace, easy and joy is no longer something I’m trying to achieve.. instead it’s just who I am now, it’s effortless, mostly.
Keep coming back, it works when you work it.. over and over and over again.
- A Neuroscientist Explains how Meditation changes your brain
- Meditation: how to be an unconditioned, sane, really free human being
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