Not long after I completed the Precepts Ceremony, I signed up for the Intensive Practice program at my temple. I don't think I lasted a month. But at the time, I was really intrigued by the notion of a practice schedule. Our practice schedule was as follows:
- Wake up: 6:00 am or as early as you can without being a menace to the world
- Water, fresh air and stretching
- 108 prostrations or bows (A combination is fine)
- Sitting meditation 20-30 minutes
- During the day: Chanting the three refuges when you think to
- Journal Writing: Four points of reflection
- Time spent in idle chit chat
- Particular resistance(s) to my practice
- What troubled me most today
- What made me happy today
- Gratitude practice as you fall asleep
- Sunday Service
- Second Sunday study class
- Second Sunday discussion group meeting
If we were monks or nuns or practicing in a monestary during a temple stay, we would have a practice schedule. There would be a time for waking up, a time for sitting, a time for eating, a time for chores, a time for chanting, a time for exercise, a time for study, and a time for sleeping. I've wondered for myself why initially having a practice schedule was so difficult for me. At the time, my daughter was pretty young, less independent, and the demands on my time as a single parent were felt. But I also simply didn't have the discipline, and for whatever reason I wasn't ready. I was in contemplation about daily practice, not quite ready for action.
Now that we've gotten through nearly a month of daily practice together, my mind returns to the idea of practice schedules. I'm starting to ask myself if the regularity of time and place would be of benefit. For some reason I can't begin to explain, that closing phrase keeps popping into my head from the Batman series that aired reruns in the 80s when I was a kid... Same bat time, same bat channel. Is there some comfort, some benefit to sitting at the same time, in the same place every day, every week, every month?
In his book, Meditation: Now or Never, Steve Hagen discusses this:
The Three Legs of Meditation Practice
There are three essential elements to meditation practice: regularity, meditating with others, and non-judgment. All three are necessary if your practice is to mature and flower.
These three work together in countless ways. For instance, regularity is made easier with the help and support of others. The ability to refrain from judgement is supported by the power of regularity. And the realization that we're never separate from others, whether in meditation or in life, grows naturally out of the ground of regularity and non-judgement.
These three aspects of meditation work together as a whole, in the same way that a three-legged stool needs all three legs to provide support and stability.
[...from Chapter 7, page 64]
I think we'll talk more about meditating with others and non-judgment as we proceed, but today I'm wondering what you think... Would you benefit from a more structured practice schedule? And when do you impose that schedule? I thought for myself during this first 108 day cycle, I'd go easy and create a condition that would support my success in doing this exercise... to just sit whenever I could once a day. But as I reflect on the notion of practice schedules, I'm starting to think they provide an anchor that is helpful to creating the meditation habit.