Late in January, I decided that I would participate in the 2012 Real Happiness 28 Day Meditation Challenge after telling a host of friends that the Real Happiness book by Sharon Salzberg was a great way to help them start a daily practice but watching them struggle to do so. I figured it would help motivate them if they had a little company from someone they knew who was directly participating.
Having been practicing for almost two years now, and having read the Real Happiness book previously, I didn't think it was going to do much for me to participate in this thing. What I found was that just reading the book and actually participating in the challenge are two very different things!
From what I observed, this is for two reasons:
1) Doing is better than reading! I had read the entire book and had even practiced many of the methods or - more accurately - something close to them. The difference, this time, was doing them in a daily, planned fashion with guidance. This structure, I feel, translated to a lot of insight and benefit that I didn't expect. The challenge aspect and this structure compelled me to want to track my effort by writing about it.
The second reason I think the results of the month of dedicated practice was such a surprising help was...
2) Responsibility. The commitment to participate in the challenge and, more importantly, to write about it publicly gave me a sense of responsibility that helped me stay at it. While I already practice daily and don't require any additional motivation to practice, I think that writing about it daily made me stick strictly to the books practices rather than settle for ones I might prefer normally.
These two things provided a sort of motivation loop that kept running on its own steam, one step feeding the other, perpetually. So much so, that I'm a little sad to see it stop! But, then, that's a good reason to remember the most important lesson the month had to offer: