Meditation is something I’ve found helpful as a leader, a parent, and a person living in this great big burning world. The app that I use has some of my favorite meditation teachers (Tara Brach, Jack Kornfeld, Kristin Neff). It also has a feature that I dislike–it shows my “streak,” that is, how many days in a row I’ve meditated. Similarly, Wordle, the online game that started as a love story, shows our streaks–how many guesses we make before I get the correct answer and the distribution of that number–as well. I imagine people all over the world waking up and grumbling at themselves if they break their streak or take “too many” guesses.
Talking with clients, I often hear that they are “not doing well” with their meditation practice or their exercise goals, or whatever it is that they wanted to add to their lives. One of these clients, a and devoted physician, teacher, and leader, stopped playing Wordle because there was too much pressure and no longer fun for her.
Most of the time, the words that precede streak are “winning” and “losing.” How paradoxical that a meditation practice that is supposed to help us observe our own emotions and thoughts with acceptance and loving detachment is literally programmed by its developer to reveal, not explicitly but certainly implicitly, our winning and our lapses, our failures. (Yes, of course people find habit tracking helpful, but we could call it “tracking” and get the same outcome.) Or that a “game” that we play over coffee is stressful. It seems like it’s part of the human condition to be constantly evaluating ourselves. If we’re not measuring ourselves against others, we’re measuring ourselves against an ideal person we think we should be.
It goes like this: Yes, I’m meditating, but I missed three days last week. Or, “Yes, I’m getting outside every day, but I’m not lifting weights. And yes, I’m a good parent | spouse | daughter | worker | etc., but I could be doing more. Or, “Yes, my home is inviting and comfortable but it’s always messy. I should clean more often.” Or whatever your not enough, falling short, losing streak might me. Of course we can do more–but at what cost?
Several years ago, one of our kids asked, “What is the hardest thing to learn in life?” My husband and I answered in unison, “Contentment.” It’s not just that we have a drive to accumulate more things, or nicer things, or more organized, decluttered things. It’s not enough that we want to excel at our work, avocations, and at home. It’s that we also want to improve ourselves. And while growth is exciting and laudable, how are we to grow if we are always chopping off new branches because they’re not enough? How are we to grow if we want always to be winning?
How about you? What does winning look like to you? Do you find yourself falling short because you’re not always winning? Be honest with yourself…if winning to you is “having good relationships and contributing to my community,” do you assign yourself a grade or wish you could “do better?” Living a life of joy and purpose requires the humility that accepts that we are good enough just as we are and the compassion to let others break their streaks.
Photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova on Upsplash