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Many people who come to our courses, volunteers and even lifelong meditators sometimes go a few days, or weeks or even months without meditating. I can see sheepish, guilty looks on their faces when I ask about their practice. If this has happened to you, hopefully this blog should help to get you back in the saddle, and at the very least let you know you aren’t alone. So for the sake of transparency, let me start with a confession: I too have fallen off the horse.

I don’t have a 9-5, structured lifestyle. I study, I volunteer as a counselor, I do stand up and occasionally I get a night’s sleep before teaching mindfulness and stress control courses! On a few occasions these commitments piled up, and I failed to find time to meditate. I had fallen off the horse. I had every intention of meditating. But something arose in the day that took priority and, lo and behold, it had been three days and something just wasn’t right. At that point I’m at a crossroad. Both roads require me to get back on the horse, but how I go about it will make the difference between whether I climb onto a trusty steed, or a real-life buckaroo who’ll toss me right back into the dirt.

The answer to this lies in your first mindfulness session. When you tried to tame the beast, and keep your mind sat on one thing in the present moment. Your mind  immediately threw you off and ran to the nearest point of interest. So you got angry, shouted at the mind, and the more angry you got at it, the more unruly it got. When you break in a horse, you have to use kindness. Every time the mind wanders, you must acknowledge where the mind has gone, then gently bring it back to the moment of focus, without being hard on yourself. You have to accept this is part of the way the mind works. It deviates. It is unruly. You must praise it when it stays on course, and accept it when it deviates. You can bring a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. You can bring a mind to the moment, but you cannot stop it thinking.

Mindfulness is a process of constantly starting again. Constantly taking the reigns and bringing yourself back to the present, calmly without judgment. This is true whether the mind has strayed for a moment, a minute or a month. Thinking you’re back to square one is what will make you quit. Whatever the discipline, whether it’s mediating, diet or exercise, falling is part of the process, and getting back up is what makes you stronger. 

P.S. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I really like extended equestrian metaphors. Sorry if this seems like I’m flogging a dead… nevermind.

Josh Elton
Valleys Steps Course Practitioner