A journey to where?

The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step

Lao Tzu

The first step is often the hardest

When starting any journey or change in life, spiritual or otherwise, it is often the getting started that is the hardest part.

When I remember back to when I first started practising mindfulness and meditation, my mind would do anything to stop me from actual starting to practise.  Procrastination and distraction was there in abundance, doing all it could to stop me from making that first step.

One little simple trick helped me to push through all of that. I was reminded of it this morning when I was out walking George.

Our walk this morning took us into a corn field with a path running right across the middle.  As we traversed the field my focus was on the end of the path, way up ahead.

We do this in life too, we don’t concentrate on each simple step but rather tend to look to the end of the path far away.  This can lead to a sense of hopelessness, bewilderment and a sense that life is just passing us by.

We stop seeing the steps that we have may have already made, or feel that the task is so huge that it would be easier to simply stay stagnant.

All of these things went through my mind when I started to practise, how can I change? How can I calm my mind with all these thoughts? How is it possible to stop this rumination going on? I haven’t got time to meditate and so on and so on.

At this point, it indeed would have been easier to stay as I was, but instead I put all my focus into that very first step, nothing else. I sat for just ten minutes and counted my breath, in – one, out – two.  The thoughts came and went and tried to push me off-balance but I just simply came back to the breath, in – one, out – two.

The simple trick was to focus not on have I got the time?, can I calm my mind? how will I change? but just simply focusing on sitting and breathing.  It could be easy to dismiss this first step as too simple, too basic to be able to change a life. That first simple step was difficult but has truly changed my life for the better.  Dropping the expectation and taking that small step was the key to starting the journey, overcoming procrastination and taking action.

Steadily over the last couple of years, I have gradually increased those ten minutes to a regular daily meditation practice, ten minutes in the morning and twenty in the evening.  When I feel like I am going off track, or that knot of anxiety starts to bubble up, or life throws something up unexpected (life has a habit of doing that), I return to that very first step, the anchor, the breath, in – one, out – two.  A sense of peace and calm, slowly returns without fail.

a journey to where?

Unlike the path I took with George this morning, our lives rarely play out in a linear way.  The journey I talk about with mindfulness, isn’t a journey from point A to point B, it is a journey to now, right here, in this moment, the only moment we have.  It is a journey to this step, the one we are taking right now and being able to see it in all its glorious detail.

As we focus on each little step and not on our expectations and achievements, something magical starts to happen.  Decisions we have to make start to become clearer, we may become more creative and procrastination finds no home.

If you find yourself at a standstill, stagnant or unsure, try dropping the big picture for a while. Concentrate on now, this step, this moment and see what happens.  It sounds simple, but it works.

Think of the places where you plant your feet

Inscription on the door of Zen dojos