Meditation or prayer has been a daily part of my life since at least my teen years. In my most fervent days, I sought to be "praying at all times," even when just walking from place to place or waiting for an elevator. I had little alarms set on my watch and planner to remind me of specific times to pray. In college, my mornings began with an hour of prayer of meditation, sometimes longer.
It's been years since I've had any kind of daily practice of stillness or contemplation. It's easy to get out of the habit when you have so many things to distract you constantly: the radio, Facebook, internet silliness, a zillion forms of media at your fingertips.
For the past month or so, I've been experimenting with bringing back some kind of morning meditation practice. I'm starting slowly — just a few minutes of silence before I leave the apartment for work. It's a time to connect all the pieces of my sometimes fractured self, run a self-diagnostic, acknowledge whatever anxieties and worries are there, maybe work through something that's been bothering me.
So far I've found it to be calming, refreshing and every once in awhile illuminating. So I think I'm on the right path.
I also want to cultivate a stronger awareness during the course of the day and night of how I'm doing and feeling. Run an internal scan more often, and troubleshoot if something is amiss. Luckily I have the kind of work and personal schedule that it's usually not too hard for me to retreat and regroup for a few minutes if I have to. Not everyone has that luxury.
I have long believed that the increasing intrusion of media into every waking moment has meant that we have less time for quiet contemplation and reflection. In the past I have relied on Quaker Meeting for Worship to force me to turn off my devices and just be with other people and myself for an hour. I still think that has value. But in some ways I think that once a week is too seldom, and that I should be cultivating my own capacity to create these pockets of quiet whenever I need them, during my entire week.
Meditation and prayer is like anything a habit and an exercise that gets more natural and stronger with practice. I'm feeling pretty flabby now, but I hope to start the new year with a healthier spiritual regime.