Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How To Begin Again and Again

Well, here we are- the end of January. Attendance at the yoga class has begun to fall off, new gym memberships purchased at the first of the year have started to disappoint. (I understand- for years I secretly believed if I rustled up the money to pay THAT should get me in shape- but apparently not.) Friends who declared they were going gluten-free are slipping into "lower" gluten food plans or have stopped reading labels altogether.

Here's the thing: if you find yourself repeatedly vowing- with great sincerity and hopefulness- to do something you feel will add to your life in a positive way (exercise regularly, eat a particular way, meditate daily, write weekly . . . . etc.) and then find yourself sneaking out of the house without doing these things (sure that your cat is looking at you with condemnation) there is a chance that you don't really want to do the thing you declare you do, but rather, think you "should" do it.

I've read a lot of books about writing (a favourite passtime for writers avoiding the unfinished manuscript.) One of the pieces of advice that stuck with me was from Pat Schneider's book, The Writer As An Artist. Pat says, if you find yourself not writing (after you've said you are going to or that you want to) and you are able to quit- quit! And, she continues, if you can't quit, then you may as well sit down and write.

I think what she was trying to say is, if you say you want to do something but aren't doing it, maybe you don't really want to do it, or you like the idea of doing it, but the thing itself does not appeal.

I've written almost every day of my life since I was about twelve. I can't quit, so I keep writing.

Sadly, my relationship with exercise and yoga is not so compulsory. I can quit. Of course, when I do I get stiff and sore, I have less energy and am less centred. But the negative feedback is gradual, easy to ignore for at least a few weeks (unlike eating gluten which results in a migraine within twenty-four hours- pain is a great incentive to stay on track.)

So, what to do about the things that we want to do, say we'll do, the things we don't want to quit even though we neglect them horribly for long periods of time?

How do we begin again. . . . and again. . . . . and again?

Yes, by the end of January, it's Begin Again Time.

And here's a few things to consider: Is there a way to receive the benefits (equanimity, income, physical fitness etc.) that you'd hoped would come from the thing you vowed to do that could be done more easily than the way you have chosen? We don't get any "points" for doing it the hardest possible way. Actually, the Big News is that no one is even "keeping score," so we may as well find what is needed in the most sustainable way.

Sometimes this means reconsidering how we do what we are trying or wanting to do. Can't do forty-five minutes of meditation in the morning? How about ten? How about five in the morning and five in the early evening? How about a walking meditation before you hop on the bus in the morning? Finding it hard to get to the gym? How about a walk at lunch instead?

Many of us (and I am the poster girl for this) tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude toward our resolutions and intentions. But life- real, messy, uncontrollable, daily life- as a human being, is rarely all-or-nothing in any area of being, is more of a this-is-the-best-I-can-do-now practise.

I do a daily practise. Want to know the secret about doing a daily practise of any kind? Each day I begin again. I don't count the days, don't commit to "the rest of my life." I begin today. Oh, I also don't throw the decision open for inner discussion daily. I just go to the cushion, sit down and begin where I am- whether enthused or reluctant, energized or exhausted- I begin again.

Oriah House (c) 2014

Would love to hear your thoughts/questions about beginning again and again. Tomorrow, Thursday, January 30th I am going to have a discussion with Janet Conner about how we can find renewed energy and heart to begin again live on her show at at 11 am PT, 1 pm CT, 2 pm ET.


  1. It helped very much for me to reduce my expectations. I wouldn't manage to do yoga daily, but I'm very good at doing yoga on four fixed mornings in the week. So I'm looking forward to it on the mornings without yoga. The same with meditation, only at five days a week. And I'm practising Pilates three times a week: at the beginning of the week I have a look at my calendar and make the dates with me. That's a good way because thus I can be flexible with other dates. And then I start practising *immediately* after coming home, I don't allow something to come in between.
    With other things like being creative it is not so easy. Having some kind of schedule would help here as well, but I don't like too many schedules in my life. So I have to decide what it important enough to be scheduled without restricting the freedom I need.

    1. Nora, I really get that "immediately." There are things I want to do that do not happen if I do not do them right after I get up (as in- before I turn on the computer!) Knowing what works and letting go of what we think we "should" be able to make work is probably the biggest step in creating the change we really do want. :-)

  2. Dear Oriah,

    I begin again and again my doctoral studies nearly every day. I pull myself up by my boot straps even when I don't feel like it, when it's cold and windy outside and I'd rather hide under the covers and pretend the world went away. I know it didn't.
    I hold onto the vision and inner sense of completing this degree for ME. It is to prove to me that I CAN do it, and I will. I have one more year and a little bit. "I Think I can. I think I can". I will complete the most difficult and rewarding academic journey of my life! "Keep On, Keepin' On".

  3. "Each day I begin again." I so get that. In recent months I've discovered that going to the gym can be its own reward. My relationship with exercise has been on again/off again all my life, but if i get in the groove, the habit, then I want to get up and do it. The key for me is to not slough it off and if I have to miss or do miss, to start right back up again. Of course, I've done this all my life so I probably will fall back again and if I do, I will try to remember to be patient with myself. Thanks for this, today, Oriah.

    1. And. . . . as I recall from other posts of yours. . . having a hot trainer doesn't hurt either? :-)

  4. Oh I so love this and needed the reminder to begin again. It's easy to get lost in the "shoulds"!

    1. Kaylin- ah, don't we all- it's a swamp in should-land :-)

    2. I love The Invitation Oriah. A soul being of mine first shared it and it summed up her passion and desires so aptly. I felt it in each verse

      She almost gently gasped out. I have always loved writing but alas, it has been a gift I have not nurtured so hence, missed out on it's endless Joy.

      I never connected with a piece of literacture on differing levels for a while
      It hit my insides just like a poem called, "The 5 conditions of a solitary bird, " I'd read and reread countless times from age 13, I'm now 44.

      I digress as ever, my comment is one
      An expression my of deep gratitude for your sharing The Invitation, and to say that it has served as a beautiful platform for dialogue between my partnerand I who first "Gave me" The Invitation".

      An Invitation that I had to respond to with some of the most awe inspiring verse's that I've had flow through my heart and speak back to my soul.
      I would love for you to read what I have entitled
      My response. Is there a way to do this without sending it as a comment?

      Happy adventures Oriah.

      Thank you.


  5. I have actually had re-invert my life a few times. All my life plans changed when I decided at 15 to hide my pregnancy. To marry his father and then less than 5 months in I left and moved back to N.C. I worded 2-3 jobs to take care of my baby boy, he became my life plan. I never wanted children, until the doctor said "you are pregnant" my response was "his name is Michael, after the archangel that shit to God's left hand". I never wanted anything more. But his father was jealous and the look in his eyes scared me for my child. My son & I had no t.v. for a few years. We read, we continue to read as does his son. That us were I got my energy to put one foot in front of the other, because my heart was full loving this miracle child. Eight years in and I decided to go to college, another change, with the same motivation. Then I met the man I was to marry, 11 years my junior. My son left at 16 to life with his dad 16 hours between us. That day I lost my mind, my heart the essence of me. But I had no choice, he needed this and it was his fundament right to meet the man who donated his sperm. I lost almost everything in my divorce. My son declared he hated me from keeping him from his father, my husband now had most every thing it took me all those years to collect. In 2005 I young girl crossed 3 lines of traffic and now I receive SSDI and lost my home to black mold, which almost killed me. Right now today I am trying to get back on my land in a home. My energy (sometimes I have none) & heart to keep going I learned from my family. As long as you are above ground put one foot in front of the other. Living with my parents at times is like living with a vampire who sucks the life out of you. But, I continue until my heart stops beating. For as long as I can look into my grandchild's eyes, nephews and this 7 year old mini-me I brother & sister law gifted the family with this little girl. I will continue.

  6. Hullo Oriah, thank you so much for that piece. It's humbling and celebratory at the same time. I read your magnificent book The Dance, truly inspiring rich and nourishing. I mention that because my comment is on beginning again day after day, following a promise i made to myself. On January 6th this year, i vowed i would dance every day for however long, for 42 days, to honor my turning 42. At first they were deep, spiritual, followed yoga, preceded swimming. But recently, it feels like a chore, far less spiritual. The crappiness of life feels like it needs ice-cream, comics, movies more than dance..but i still dance. even if it's only 15 mins, even if i'm barely moving. JUST.DO.IT has become my spirituality. It's the most disciplined i've been with my dance after 16 years of dancing. The sheer simplicity of just being willing to do it, no matter what it look or feels like, is so rewarding, It's taught me to simplify..everything. Btw, thank you again for a truly wondrous book that i resonated with on every page. Much love and magic.

  7. Life gives you a chance to start over again each day.