I’ve should on myself all my life. For the past few years, it has been, “I should have a morning practice.” It seems I’m the only one left on earth who doesn’t. A day doesn’t go by that an article doesn’t pop up in my emails or social media about another brilliant morning practice. I feel bombarded with admonitions to get up early and make sure to exercise, meditate, read something positive, take a walk, journal, write…then you can eat and go to work!
I often have early breakfast meetings with clients. This past year, I decided to be tutored in foreign languages—Spanish and Arabic and I still only speak English, but that’s not the point! The lessons are over Zoom and I have to book them early because of the time differences of my tutors. Also, I sometimes take the little boy next door to school to help his parents. My thyroid medication doesn’t allow me to exercise until I’ve waited an hour after taking it and then eaten.
Do you see my dilemma? I can’t possibly fit everything in and so I’ve told myself, knowing it wasn’t true, “I just can’t do it this morning. Maybe tomorrow.” I’d be devastated if I counted how many days I’ve broken my commitment, my promise, to myself because I should on myself in the first place.
At my age, I’m supposed to be wise. Then why did it take this long for me to have that moment of awareness? I was speaking to my writing coach, Eric Maisel, sharing another excuse for why I can’t write in the morning, when I heard a voice say, “Just write. Whenever. Just write.” I don’t think it was his voice, but he also didn’t say, “You MUST write in the morning.” He simply encouraged me to write 500 words each day and offered to be my accountability buddy if that would help—I could send my work to him each day. No should, simply a suggestion.
Can you guess what happened? I wrote over 500 words that evening. And then the next day, in the early evening, I did it again. One night, it looked like I was falling back into my self-sabotaging behavior and wasn’t going to keep the commitment. Of course, I had a barrel of excuses: I had trainings I conducted that day, long client appointments, a 12-step meeting, lots of emails to respond to, and whatever else I could think of as I was convincing myself it was impossible to fit in one more activity that day. I fell asleep early in my recliner. I woke up around 10:30pm and was going to go upstairs to bed and I stopped; by some invisible force, I stopped. “You have time to write 500 words before midnight,” I heard an unfamiliar voice—unfamiliar, yet mine—say. Before I knew it, I was at my laptop writing and I sent it to my coach at 11:45p.m. I’ve never had that feeling before, that feeling of being acutely aware I was breaking a pattern that had impeded my progress for decades. I had set a goal but this time I didn’t listen to my excuses even though I convinced myself they were legitimate. I didn’t want to write then and I didn’t have to…and I did it anyway. Wow! That’s a feeling I want to experience more often.
That energy moved me to throw myself wide open to the possibilities of having an evening practice. Why not? When I googled morning practice and then evening practice, there were 60% more results for the morning ones—over one billion! I’m fine with stepping onto the road less traveled. Evening is when I have more unscheduled time. I’ve always listened to a guided meditation as I fall asleep. I had recently started reading something calming and positive before bedtime. Now I’m adding some gentle stretching. A long soak bath a few times a week is a must. I told the Pilates instructor and personal trainer I started working with a few months ago I could make more sessions if they could fit me into afternoon slots and they were happy to accommodate my request because they want success for me.
Now I can honestly and proudly declare I have a daily practice; it’s an evening practice and it fits and fills me. I’ve found myself scrolling through social media and YouTube much less. Like those with a robust morning practice, in the afternoon and evening I exercise, meditate, review (in writing or mentally) what I’m grateful for, read something spiritual, relax in the tub or have a stretch session and write. I write. I write daily. Can you believe it? My self-criticism for breaking promises to myself is slowly turning into trusting myself.
I don’t always do all the practices every night, but I do at least some and I celebrate myself for those and refuse to beat myself up for any I might miss. The one I’m committed not to miss is writing because within that is meditation and a joy that nothing else brings my heart.
I stopped shoulding on myself. I started an evening practice. What opportunities would open up for you if you stopped insisting you should do what the billion articles are telling you to do on any particular subject and instead you listened to the gentle whisper—or the fierce screams—of your soul?
President, The Zen Speaker
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