Do The Work

Of course I’m writing a “get ready for 2018” post. For those of you who didn’t already guess this was going to happen…hi, my name is Jessica, and thank you for reading my stuff for the very first time.

This past year, my main mantra was “be present”. I’m approaching the two year mark of when I first started practicing meditation, and focusing on the present is one of the main skills you are encouraged to work on in your practice. And during a year that was so unpredictable, I found it much more rewarding to devote my attention to the present moment and take things one day at a time rather than try to guess what would be happening in the future.

The first step in starting this new practice was recognizing the difference between a goal and an intention. While a goal is more likely to be something you can cross off your list, an intention is the manner in which you get these things done. Someone once described an intention to me as the compass you use on your way toward your goal. This doesn’t necessarily mean there are foolproof methods to getting where you want to be, but intentions can be reminders of how we want to show up in every moment that gets us closer to our goal, or even more simply, whenever we need some guidance.

So I made small changes over the past year to allow myself to place my mind in the present more regularly. I tried not to live through the screen of my phone to capture every moment so I could share in on my Instagram story. (Although, I often have really great Instagram stories. Do you follow me on Instagram? You should follow me on Instagram.) I didn’t completely shut out social media, but I made a conscious effort to remove any expectations from my mind and rather look at the moments of my life for what they truly were, and finding enjoyment in that. It was, and still is, a super difficult task. It’s something I’m going to be working on my entire life.

For 2018, I’m still very focused on the importance of pausing to recenter myself and experience the truth of the moment. But after the year we’ve all just endured, it’s safe to say we might not always want to accept the truth of the moment, because it’s likely to be some sort of garbage. And while you don’t necessarily need to equate being present with being happy, it sure would be great for those two things to line up, right?

So I’m shifting my focus a bit for the upcoming year. In the meditation class I took on New Year’s Eve, we took some time to contemplate the intention of discipline. This has been one of my go-to intentions when I’m frustrated about not getting something accomplished, but it has also been difficult to digest because of the harsh connotation that comes with the word discipline. There’s an association with punishment and being hard on yourself, which definitely isn’t something any of us want to do voluntarily. I’ve often tried to soften the idea of this intention by reframing it as “gentle discipline”, but more often than not, that just leads to an easier way out when facing potentially uncomfortable limits.

In class that day, our meditation instructor made an important distinction about the intention of discipline that struck me, and I had one of those great moments when things all came together like pieces of a puzzle that I didn’t even know I needed to assemble.

Discipline doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is met with discomfort. It doesn’t have to mean that you’re doing something wrong that needs to be fixed. Instead, we can consider discipline as a means to getting closer to your goal, or closer to something that makes you happy, that makes you both satisfied and accomplished. For example, not all of us may enjoy going to the gym, but when we finally get there and finish a workout, we’re likely to delight in our ability to have done the thing, despite the struggle. So rather than saying “I need to go to the gym or else I will fail at completing this goal I set for myself,” you can shift that thinking to say “I need to go to the gym because I want to feel the satisfaction of following through with my plan and come out on the other side successful. Plus, endorphins make you happy and hell yeah, I want to be happy.” It’s easier said than done, but it’s a practice. It’s an intention. It might not always work the way you want it to, but making the effort is half the battle. Some might even argue making the effort is the entire battle. I’ll leave that up to you.

Last year I saw the show Prince of Broadway, a revue that showcased the work of Broadway producer Hal Prince. (This is relevant, I promise). After sharing highlights from Prince’s career and all he has accomplished, there was a final song called “Do The Work” about reminding yourself that while there is definitely a great deal of luck associated with success, in order to get to that point, you have to – you guessed it – do the work. I still think about that song when I want to be inspired, and when presented with this new perspective on the intention of discipline, everything seemed to click together. Now if they would just release that cast recording…

So without further ado, let’s gear up for another year that is bound to be difficult and unpredictable at times. But if we do the work, perhaps we can make it something worth celebrating. I’m rooting for you.

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