January 17, 2011

Winter Feast for the Soul 2011

If you've been reading this blog from the beginning, you may know that both of us participated in Winter Feast for the Soul 2010, a 40-day commitment to spiritual practice inspired by a line from a Rumi poem:
"What nine months does for the embryo,
forty early mornings will do for
your growing awareness."

The recommended commitment is for 40 minutes of spiritual practice each day for 40 consecutive days; we both modified the commitment a bit to suit our needs and schedules.

Barbara posted a bit about last year's Winter Feast here and here.

Last year's feast ended in February and we are both participating in Winter Feast for the Soul 2011 from January 15 - February 23, 2011. We decided to share a bit about last year's experience and our intentions for this year in the form of an interview with ourselves.

What was your commitment last year?

R - I aimed for a minimum of 15 minutes of sitting meditation per day. I also allowed myself to do text contemplation instead on a few days when I did not have time to meditate or resisted doing it.

B - I intended to sit quietly/meditate for a minimum of 15 minutes a day on at least 4 days a week.

How did you do? 

 - days of meditation - 29 (13 days, 15 min; 16 days 20-25 min)
 - days of text contemplation - 4
 - days of neither - 5
 - days I forgot to record - 2

B - I didn't record it... I think I started strong and then slowed way down.

How did it feel?

R - Depended on the day - some days meditation feels good and other days it drags on and can be quite frustrating to watch my mind jump around so much. It felt helpful to have stronger motivation to sit more frequently.

B - I felt my usual resistances to commit time for silence and contemplation. I liked the call of the Winter Feast -- to connect with a worldwide movement for peace.

Did you continue after? 

R - I did, though the frequency abated pretty quickly. I continued and continue to have a sporadic meditation practice throughout the year.

B - Me too.

What is the benefit of participating in Winter Feast specifically?

R - Before the Winter Feast, I rarely spoke about my meditation practice to others because I wanted to meditate for myself, not to be able to seem good or holy to others, or to build up my ego. I still have some hesitation about that, but have come to realize that if bragging and fear of humiliation can get me to the meditation cushion, that is the most important part for me.

Side note: There are many other online challenges which serve the same purpose for other practices and projects, such as writing and knitting.

B - I appreciate this quote of Thich Nhat Hanh, “If we do not change our daily lives, we cannot change the world.”  Committing to a meditation practice and devoting time during the day to other foundational activities (exercise and writing) energizes me and I like the idea of connecting with other people around the world who also want to create a more peaceful world. For me, this challenge motivates me to begin again... and committing for a specified period is helpful.

What is your commitment this year?

R - My commitment is similar to last year's - a minimum of 15 minutes of sitting meditation per day, longer if possible, with a few opt out days of text contemplation. I intend to match or beat my record from last year - meditating 29 or more of the 40 days and doing text contemplation 4 or more days.

B - I would just like to sit quietly more often. On most days I'd like to meditate or do yoga. I hope to incorporate the practice back into my life this year, not just for 40 days. And 40 minutes still seems too long for me to manage. I like Rebecca's option of text contemplation -- and I will either reflect on a daily reading or read or listen to one of the many talks on the Winter Feast website.

What do you plan to do the same as or differently from last year?

R - I want to keep talking about it with other people since the bragging does seem to be motivating for me, and some interesting conversations came out of it last year. I also want to utilize the recordings and resources on the Winter Feast website, which I did not do last year.

B - I want to check in with Rebecca more and for both of us write about Winter Feast here. I invite readers to join in and comment. Also, I will try to meditate during the morning... I have the tendency to put it off and then it seems like a pressure, another item to check off my to-do list. I feel clearer and calmer if I sit in the morning.

I want to be optimistic yet realistic.... in terms of my expectations (hence the 15 minutes rather than 40, the goal of at least four days a week and not expecting seven).

We'll keep you posted on how it goes!

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