I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is exactly that I’m doing here. I’ve been at the monastery for nearly two weeks now, and there’s this constant low-grade question of “am I doing enough?”
Am I going hard enough into my meditations? (no.) Am I actually pushing myself fully during exercise periods? (hell no.) Why am I not opting to do every activity that the residents are doing? (because I don’t want to.)
Why am I here, if I’m not going to push myself hard? (…)
I call this voice “the striver”. It’s the one that’s always reminding me of my priorities, the one telling me to have high standards for myself, the one that’s always trying to improve every situation.
It’s not a bad voice. I’m happy to have it. But, taken on its own, it’s obsessive and ultimately harmful.
Yesterday during lunch, I shared that I had been having this low-grade stress of wondering whether I’m doing enough, and some of the residents expressed that it was a very normal worry and that they sometimes had it too.
Today I was ruminating on it further. I stopped shovelling snow after 30 minutes because I just wanted to be inside and warm and I wanted to pee, even though the exercise period wasn’t over. I was thinking about this evening’s optional schedule and how I would probably skip it. I was thinking about how I skipped yesterday’s optional schedule, and probably shouldn’t have. I was thinking how I really wanted something sweet for breakfast, and how I keep letting myself be comforted by food instead of even trying to work with those cravings.
And then this other little voice popped up – an exasperated, slightly angry, but intensely loving voice —
Do you know what you were doing a few months ago? You were waking up, immediately beginning to do work, working until exhausted, and then getting drunk and stoned with your friends in the evenings in an effort to relax your mind a bit before starting the process again the next day. On a good day, you were maybe meditating for ten minutes in the day. Maybe you even ate a few vegetables or went on a ten-minute run.
Look at what you’re doing now. You’re meditating for hours every day. You’re doing chanting practice. You’re exercising daily. Your diet is almost entirely comprised of fruits and vegetables and grains and nuts. You’re paying close attention to your body and your mind. And you’re still managing to do your work.
Lower your fucking bar.
You’re doing fine.