By Leo Babauta
You’ve signed up for the Iron Will Challenge (aka the Consistent Meditation Challenge) this month, but you’re wondering how meditation is going to lead to an iron will to stick to something … the answer is, “One step at a time. One breath at a time.”
By committing ourselves 100% to a tiny practice (just 2 minutes of meditation a day), we’re going to take the first step to full commitment to whatever we decide to do. Full dedication to sticking to what we commit to. Full devotion to the task, devotion to what we care deeply about.
All with one tiny step: sit down and meditate for two minutes.
Let’s talk about the practice I recommend starting with for your meditation, and then how I believe an iron-willed commitment will develop from this.
It’s important to keep your commitment small, so I’m recommending just two minutes of sitting meditation a day. Many people overcommit, and then struggle to hold that commitment. In this challenge, I’m asking you to under commit, and then hold that tiny commitment with as much dedication as you can. Be completely in.
So the practice is just 2 minutes of sitting meditation, with the option to go longer if you feel like it … but if you would prefer to choose another kind of meditation, that’s fine. Just pick one kind of meditation, and stick to that for the month.
The meditation I recommend is very simple:
- When your reminder goes off, drop whatever you’re doing immediately. Remind yourself of your iron-willed commitment, and be 100% devoted to this. Go to a spot you’ve chosen for your meditation. (If you’re traveling or somewhere other than your usual home, just choose a quiet spot.)
- Find a comfortable, grounded seated position (on the floor with a cushion under you, or on the couch or a chair).
- Notice how your body is feeling. Just notice sensations in the body.
- Then pay attention to your breath. Notice the sensations of the breath. Keep your attention on the breath for the rest of the meditation, coming back when your mind wanders or gets caught up in thought.
- Don’t worry if thoughts appear. Just notice them, and return to the breath. It will happen, and it’s not a problem. Keep coming back to the breath.
- Notice if you feel uncertainty (“I don’t know if I’m doing it right”) or frustration (“This is hard!”). They are completely normal. Just notice how they feel in your body, and relax into the feelings.
- If you’re feeling good, keep sitting for longer than two minutes. Go for as long as you’re feeling it. But every time it’s time to get started, only tell yourself that you only have to do two minutes. That’s all.
That’s about it. If you’re an experienced meditator, feel free to use your practice, or find a new practice to challenge yourself with every day of this challenge (just one, don’t rotate).
If it feels absolutely traumatic to focus on bodily sensations, please choose a moving meditation (yoga, walking, etc.). But only do that if it feels completely unsafe to focus on your bodily sensations â€” if it’s just uncomfortable, stick with the bodily and breath sensations, it’s OK to be a bit uncomfortable.
If you have questions, please ask on our Sea Change Facebook group, I’ll answer. :)
How an Iron Will Develops from Tiny Steps
So how will a measly two minutes of meditation every day result in having an iron will to stick to what you commit yourself to?
As usual, we’re about slow change here in the Sea Change Program. Lasting, meaningful change isn’t something that happens overnight.
What we’re working on here is a lifelong habit we have of only halfway committing ourselves to things. Think about your day today â€” how many tasks have you done with 100% devotion and commitment? Like it’s the most meaningful task in the universe? Giving it your absolute full attention? Most of us (if not all of us) go through our lives half committed to everything, not really present with anything, not feeling devoted in our hearts to what we care about.
This challenge is about changing that. Here’s what I envision happening:
- You pick one tiny thing that you can do every single day, and commit yourself fully to it. You practice feeling the commitment in your heart.
- Your old habits will start to surface … when your reminder goes off, you’ll be tempted to push it back. But because of this challenge, you’ll pause for a moment, and ask yourself if you’re committed here. You’ll notice your old habit of trying to get out of the commitment, and then turn towards the commitment and fully devote yourself to it. This will be a huge success, and it takes only a tiny effort.
- You might miss the meditation for some reason (you woke up late, or you’re traveling) … then you’ll be tempted to say, “Ah screw it.” But you’re committed to this challenge! So you’ll say, “Hmm, no screw my old patterns, I’m going to do this! Make sitting for two minutes the most important thing in the world.” And you’ll make the time to sit in meditation, and you’ll do what it takes to not forget from now on. You’ll carve out the time, and go to be earlier.
- As you go through the month, this will get easier, and you’ll start to develop trust in yourself. That’s huge.
- But then it’ll be a little too easy, and you’ll start to just go through the motions, not really fully there but just walking through it like a zombie. Then you’ll remember my urging you to be “fully devoted,” and you’ll ask yourself what it would take to be fully devote yourself to it. And you’ll lean into that, and things will start to shift some more.
- When you finish this, your understanding of “full commitment” will be completely different than it is right now. A month will change everything. You’ll see what it’s like to not put things off, to be fully in it, to be ALL IN, to have your heart fully devoted, to be completely present, to carve out the time to honor your dedication, to care about it completely, to adjust when you make mistakes rather than give up.
That won’t be the end of things, of course.You’ll have to commit yourself to something else. And then another thing. But we’re always committing to things, every day … this is just about changing the way we commit to things. It changes the quality of our commitments. It changes how we show up.
And that, my friends, is the start of an iron will. Fully showing up, fully devoted, one tiny commitment at a time.