January 2013 Practice Challenge

imageIn January of 2013, on a whim we started the Practice Challenge. Every day, we posted on FaceBook something to try, something to think about, or something to encourage everyone in their practice. On the suggestion of our friend Ben Fleury-Steiner, we’ve collected the posts and are sharing them here in one spot.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, even a little bit!

January Practice Challenge FaceBook Posts

I’m going to suggest participating in a daily practice challenge: every day during January, at least ten minutes. Yes, starting today. Who’s game? [heading off to start a half hour sit]

Okay, we’ve had over 100 people Like the idea of a daily practice challenge. I’ll post gentle reminders here and via our Twitter account (@SecularBuddhist), feel free to Comment each day with how it’s going for *you*. To kick this off — Day 1: two half hour sitting meditations for me. For now, I’m sticking with the breath. For new folks, may I suggest heading on over to the SBA site and using one of Mark’s wonderful guided meditations.

I’ve started a Discussion thread for the January practice challenge, so in addition to the daily nudges here in FB and on Twitter, you can post how you’re doing on the main site.

January Practice Challenge, Day 3: Start with some thoughts about that which makes you happy, and enter your meditation with that tone of light-heartedness.

Happy Friday, and welcome those who are new to this page. For those participating in the January Practice Challenge, today — if you can do your planned meditation, that’s great! If you can squeeze in a second sit, just for ten minutes, that’s *awesome* and helps foster awareness more consistently off the cushion.

January Practice Challenge Day 5: Weekend’s here, maybe a few more opportunities to sit for a few minutes, instead of one longer meditation. See you on Insight Timer, I’ve done one half hour early early this morning, and will sit again this afternoon!

January Practice Challenge Day 6: approach your meditation like a kid about to launch into a swimming pool in the summer! And, hey, how has it been going so far?

January Practice Challenge Day 7: Today is about intention. Set & maintain this time for attention to *now*, set everything else aside. Those thoughts can wait a few minutes while you breathe!

There were 100 hundred people meditating on Insight Timer tonight when I started my half hour this evening. How about you, how’s the practice going?

January Practice Challenge, Day 8: Today, take it off the cushion, too. Bring a fresh quality of intentional, gentle awareness to a basic activity of your choice, like doing the dishes, walking the dog, driving, etc. Pick just one activity for now, and every day this week, practice bringing attention gently to it.

*Today*: Forgive yourself. Whatever it is, forgive yourself.

Practice Challenge — several people have asked about this, and if you’ve not seen the threads, here is the tool a few of us are using to help support our practice. (Insight Timer is the tool)

January Practice Challenge, Day 10: Remember, it’s not about what you didn’t do yesterday, it’s about what you decide to do today.

Practice Challenge Today: Before things get out of hand at work, *experience* your coffee, your tea, or whatever you might have in the morning. Take a moment to observe the appearance, temperature, scent, flavor, and any sound that may occur as you stir it. We forget, sometimes, how full each simple moment can be — take a few seconds, and notice. Have a good weekend if I don’t see you tonight for Social Circle (8:00 p.m. Central U.S. time).

January Practice Challenge, Day Dozen — We often “lose our mind” -fulness when the bell rings and meditation stops. Today, maintain attention as you get up from the cushion, and move around for a few minutes before the activities of the world shift your focus away from more dedicated awareness.

January Practice Challenge Lucky 13: Full attention, on just *one* breath, in and out. Success? Good! This proves to you, you can do it. Do it again.

It’s not about the full half hour, or even the next ten minutes, it’s just about *now*. If (like many of us!) you tend to lose track of the breath, see if that perspective helps.

January Practice Challenge: Comment here with any benefit or speed bump you’re running into, with your meditation so far this month. Thanks!

*Today* — honestly, really sucked duck eggs. I’m sitting in the hospital with someone I love who tried to take her own life. Two things: 1) Our practice isn’t about changing reality, it’s about changing our response to that reality so we’re more flexible in the face of that adversity. 2) Our practice is not magic, nor the cure for all ills. If you suffer from untreated depression, please for the sake of those who love you if not for yourself, allow help to enter your life. Challenge participants, if I can meditate here at this bedside, you got no excuse. Find the time for yourself, *please*.

January Practice Challenge: This one is from Rick on the Discussion forum for the challenge, called 15/15. If you’re typically someone who sits ten minutes, consider marking this pert-near halfway mark of the 15th with a commemorative fifteen minute meditation. Not sold in stores 🙂

Tonight the nurse observed my distress when heading out from the hospital, leaving my loved one by herself for the night, and quietly brought in some tissue. Later, she apologized for intruding. “Acting purely from compassion,” I said, smiling with warmth at her double kindness, “is never something to apologize for.” So, in honor of those who sincerely give back on a daily basis in service to others, *today* is hereby Random Act of Kindness Day. What might you do to celebrate it? Comment here, inspire others in that sharing. And very deeply — :: thank you ::

*chuckle* Yesterday someone could have said, “why is that secular Buddhist atheist praying in the chapel?” Answer: he wasn’t. It was the only relatively quiet spot in the hospital for meditation! So, part of your January Practice Challenge is to see if you can meditate somewhere you typically might not. Your car, a conference room, wherever — this one’s for fun just to switch it up on our Halfway There Day!

*Today* — January Practice Challenge, note the arising of a hindrance like ill-will forming out of your basic feeling response to phenomenon. That sensation of pain is unpleasant, sure, but it doesn’t need to grow beyond that to, “Oh, this HURTS! DANGIT i wanna MOVE!” Practice just experiencing the sensation, non-judgmentally. Practice, not perfect!

Since I’ll be a teensy bit busy tomorrow, you’re getting your Friday encouragement for the January Practice Challenge a little early. It’s more fun than the last one, and may include a shopping trip to prepare, so … (drum roll)…. *** Friday Chocolate Meditation! *** We sometimes use chocolate to help us note our arising of craving, but you can use whatever small delicacy you prefer. Lindt Truffles do it for me! Get one or two pieces — this is a practice, after all, so we might want to try a couple of times (*cough*) — and taking your time with Seeing, Hearing, Touching, Smelling, and (oh yeah!) Tasting. Really experience the wrapper, the texture of the chocolate with your hands, the weight, the color, the scent, all of it. Again, take your time, there’s no rush. Note what feeling arises, and if you can tell when that base tone crosses over to craving, and what thoughts come up. Anything you’d care to share here about how that goes, please feel free to Comment!

January Practice Challenge: Today, find something to be truly grateful for. Explore what that feels like, and bring it up throughout the day. Fostering mind states like this, off the cushion, is part of our practice, too.

Following up on the post earlier today on the January Practice Challenge, my sincerest gratitude right this moment is for all of you. Really, without your interest and for those of you doing the practice, my own wouldn’t be developing the consistency it has been for the past twenty days. We don’t need to sit perfectly, we just need to give it some time each day — this really does help, little by little. So to everyone here: *thank you*

January Practice Challenge: As the work week begins for many of us (not all, but many!), think about setting a reminder for yourself to have some Mindfulness Minutes throughout your busy day. Once an hour or two, take just a minute, set aside the chaos, and find a minute of gentle awareness to help reset your loving friendliness.

January Practice Challenge: Find a habit you have, one you’d like to change (we all have em!). Meditate on what the conditions are that start that habit, in a given moment, and see how you might start to send them in a different direction.

January Practice Challenge: Based on Doug’s article below, is there a particular unwholesome mind state that frequently arises for you? How are you countering it? Comment here to share your methods with others.

January Practice Challenge: In honor of the final five days, try to add five minutes time to your meditation, just for today, if you can.

January Practice Challenge: If you have time in the last weekend of the challenge, add a couple of short meditations throughout the day to help reinforce that separation of you from your narrative *off* the cushion. I’ve found Mindfulness Minutes to be really easy — one or two minutes on the breath, every hour. Try a few things and do what works best for you this weekend!

January Practice Challenge: it’s neither about congratulating ourselves on the past 27 days for our success, nor about judging ourselves for missed day. It *is* about what we do today, which is much more manageable. So, today, set the past aside as your intention before you even sit on the cushion.

January Practice Challenge: Many of us are familiar with Metta, or loving kindness meditation. But there are a few other Brahma Viharas, or positive mental states, too: compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity. Today give Mudita, altruistic joy, the happiness at the success of *others*, a try. Think of a loved one, friend, or someone you admire and respect, and of something good that’s happened to them or is an aspect of their life — like when your child hits a home run, or your dog is playing happily. What is your mudita story?

January Practice Challenge: Key partners in meditation development are setting the feeling tone, and intention. Feeling tone is the lightness of heart and mind that you bring to your practice (hopefully!), and intention is what you’re focusing on each time you meditate. For feeling tone, doing a bit of metta before your sitting can help set the mental stage of open invitation. I spend a few minutes thinking about my happy and wonderful dog Pogo, that does it for me every time! For intention, that’s more variable, lately I’ve been setting the intention as setting aside mental intrusions from the stressful day for just this meditation. How about you, how do you set feeling tone, and what is your intention?

January Practice Challenge — Last Day! This is the chance to put all the effort into a final practice session, using what’s been most helpful to you over the past month. No judgments about having missed any days, just do what practice you can, the best you can, *today*.

Today, the SBA site hit the four digit mark with our 1,000th registration! The Discussions have been active as well as the Comments on both articles and podcasts — thank you, everyone, for your participation.

I wanted to thank those of you who participated in our first ever Practice Challenge for January of 2013. Hopefully this has been helpful to you, and you’re invited to share your experiences on the Discussion page on the SBA site. You’ve built a good foundation for your meditation, so think about continuing with a daily practice, to keep that energy going. We’ll have more of these in the future, thank you all for being here and for your ongoing enthusiasm and interest.