Episode 51. Meditation as a Lifestyle (vs a Strict Practice)

Join me this week as I share how I’ve changed my thinking about having a consistent practice – I no longer think it’s better than doing what actually feels in service (it changes day to day). I have been challenging and questioning what I’ve taken on as meditation student, and how it applies to any practice – creative, exercise, writing, etc.

In this episode, I share:

  • How to know if what you’ve learned still feels true (+ in service) to you
  • How showing in the game is more important than being a perfect-practice-student (and a sports analogy that I hope makes sense – I am not a sports person!!)
  • How I see meditation as a life practice (rather than a sit-for-20-minutes-and-then-go-into-life-mindlessly-or-on-autopilot)
  • What I mean by living life as a meditative practice (with a real-life explanation)

Episode links:

  • Learn how to Map Your Intuition with a guided worksheet, located inside The Resource Library – learn more HERE
  • Want some support in getting quiet and tuning into what you’re thinking about, or what’s calling to you, today? Go to www.jenmoulton.com/newsletter and sign up to get my completely free Intuitive Creation Audio. You’ll receive my unique process to reliably tap in BEFORE you make any creative work so you can overcome procrastination, overwhelm, and where-do-i-start-itis.

If you enjoy listening, please subscribe, rate and review, and forward this episode to a friend who would benefit from it too.

Let’s become a generation of creative women who are examples for the people in our lives of what it looks like to prioritize our work (AND recognize our impact).

x, Jen

Full episode transcript below:


Welcome to today's episode, Meditation as a Lifestyle ( vs a Strict Practice). I've been thinking a lot recently about meditation. I have tried all sorts of meditation styles, retreats, trainings, et cetera. And as I've come to accept the reality that I am not an everyday routine person, meaning I don't do the same thing every single day. 

I've thought a lot about how meditation fits into that, because I do identify as a meditator and I am, committed to a meditation practice, but not necessarily a 'strict I sit down for 20 minutes and it looks a certain way practice'. I've tried that I made it a noble thing, like a character flaw thing, if I couldn't do it. 

As I've come to accept the reality of who I am, and what feels like it really serves me, and I've started to really enjoy feeling into what sounds good? What is calling to me? What is nudging at me? And following that. I've thought about how I have come to practice meditation versus again  the way that we very strictly interpret what a meditation practice looks like. 

I think it's really been over the past year, dropped the 'I do this thing every single day and that's more noble'- having a very strict almost dogmatic practice, that is more noble than following what I feel called to do. Following what feels like it would actually be of service to me, checking in with myself and really paying attention to that. 

I feel much more aligned with the latter, and much more interested in it. 

So I've shared a little bit about this. I am going through I would say many transformations this year. Life is giving me a lot of opportunities to grow, and stretch, and question things, and release things, and go into unknown spaces. And one thing that I'm doing is questioning everything I've taken on to be true from other people. 

I want to know for myself, does this feel true to me? Does it still feel true to me? Maybe it did in the past, but does it still resonate for me? 

If you're anything like me, which I'm guessing that there's parts of you that are, if you are resonating with this podcast, then maybe you've taken things on from other people as the right thing to do, or striving towards doing something, thinking that it means something about you as a person, your character, et cetera. 

Then I would encourage you to do the same: to really question the things that you have taken on from other people. And I think  a way to find those things is to look at the areas of your life that you feel dogmatically about doing things a certain way. Like if there's not an openness and a curiosity about is a serving me, is this something I really actually want to do?

If you're not thinking like that and you're just like- I should be doing this thing, this is the right way to do it, this is what someone else said worked for them, so I should figure out a way to make it work for myself too- that can be a clue of things that you have just taken on from other people. 

And it can be difficult to evaluate those things, it can also be very uncomfortable. Because again, if you're like me, then you get a lot of your self-worth out of how well you do things compared to how well you're told to do things, or how well you take things on, or how good of a student you are. That used to be the language that I thought about a lot. 

But as I've gone through these transformations this year, I think this happens when you get uncomfortable, when it, sometimes it kind of feels like your life is crumbling around you or areas of your life are crumbling around you. Or another way that I think about this is something is broken- something that worked for a really long time isn't working anymore the way that it used to. And maybe you don't yet feel like, you know, what's next or what the next way of working it will be. 

This is a good time to really evaluate things in your life and practices that you, do all of the things, right beyond practices, beliefs that you have about yourself, or things you should be doing commitments you've made. Everything and anything is up for evaluation whenever you choose for it to be. But really looking at practices that you've taken on as there's a right way to do this and there's a wrong way. 

And if I'm not doing it the 'right way' then I'm not doing it right. Or something is wrong with me- a lot of times we make it mean something about ourself. 

Okay, that was a little bit of a tangent, but that's what was coming to me as I was thinking about this topic. So all of this brings me to meditation. Pretty much everyone will tell you, when they teach meditation, that you should have a strict practice. And a strict interpretation of what meditating looks like. 

And then if you don't follow that, it's kind of like your, I don't want to say you're doing it wrong, but it's like something to strive towards. It's something for you to compare yourself against, and to judge yourself, like maybe like, oh, well I'm just not a serious meditator, or I'm not disciplined in enough, or I'm not good enough yet. Maybe I'm not even committed enough yet. Right? 

That's like the, the string of thoughts that you might have. And what I've really, I mean, I'm speaking from experience here. So what I really started to think about is: what if a strict sitting practice isn't the type of meditation that actually  serves me. 

And I would offer that question to you: what if a strict practice, whether it's meditation, it could be anything else. It could be a creative practice, a painting practice, a walking practice, a writing practice, whatever. What if a strict practice isn't actually in service of you and your goals and what really matters to you and the life that you want to have. And the way that you're programmed. 

And what I really started to wonder is what if I could live life as a meditation practice? 

And I think that to me at this point, after several years of studying this and practicing it and going on retreats and being really curious about it, and evaluating my relationship with it, that doesn't sound overwhelming to me. 

But I think that when I had first started the idea of something being a kind of a lifestyle, or a life practice, rather than a sitting practice, that might have overwhelmed me. So if I say that, and that feels overwhelming to you, like just disregard this, just consider maybe another area of your life or just like, hear this, listen to it, take it in, plant a seed and maybe in the future, you'll be curious about it.  You don't have to take this on.  My whole thing here is to evaluate the things that we take on from other people. So I definitely don't want you to just take on what I'm saying.  It's an offering for you to consider. I'm curious how it lands for you. So, let me just make that disclaimer right there. 

But for me at this point, when I think about what if I could live life as a meditation practice, here's what I mean: 

Meditation is all about mindfulness. It's about present moment awareness and hearing your inner thoughts, your inner voice. It's about noticing without becoming intertwined or engaged with the ideas, thoughts, cravings, reactions, rejections, judgements that we all have. 

And here's what I'm offering here: it is possible to live your life as a meditative practice. It's possible to keep coming back to the present moment, noticing your thoughts and inner dialogue, practicing non-attachment, or non-engagement is one way I like to think about it. 

Listening for that small, still inner voice. And heeding what is offering you  me  us moment to moment. And, I've said this before, but I'm going to keep saying it cause it's my thing: and we are never offered much more than the next step in my experience. 

To me, what I just said, is meditation in a nutshell. 

Noticing, coming out of awareness, getting wrapped up in something, realizing that you're wrapped up, going into non-engagement, coming back to yourself, coming back to-  a way I like to think about it is  being inner- oriented. I think is how I would say it. 

So rather than being oriented towards external things, like what is happening in the outside world? What is someone telling you? What feedback are you getting? Traffic. Like 900 million things. Coming back to being oriented towards your inner self, towards your inner experience, inner life. 

To me that's what meditation is, or that's what it's become. It, it didn't start out this way for me. 

And when I think about it this way, I think, it doesn't need to look like a strict practice. Where you are sitting silently, in dedication, out of obedience sometimes even when it doesn't really feel like it's serving you. 

And I just want to say there, there is a balance between doing something when it's, you know, maybe you just don't feel like it, but you know that it's for your greater good versus doing something out of obedience or compulsion. Overriding information that you're getting from  your inner orientation. To me, those are two different things and every single one of us needs to learn difference between them, and it is different for each of us. 

And I want to say here- please don't get me wrong. I love going on meditation retreats. I love sitting in meditation with other people. It is one of my favorite expressions of quote, "being alone in public", which is my favorite way to spend time. And that's like my favorite way to explain it. I love being around other people, but I love being kind-of anonymous, or solo.   

And, you know, people watching and taking in information, and really attuned to myself at the same time. 

So I say all of that- I love meditation retreats. I love sitting in meditation with other people. And I have tried and failed over and over and over to bring a quote "dedicated practice" home with me. 

As I started out this podcast episode, I said I'm not someone that does something every single day. I've learned this about myself- maybe I've accepted it about myself. I think I knew it for a long time. 

And I would beat myself up every single time and ask myself why can't I just be like whoever I'm looking up to, they can manage a strict daily practice. Why can't I? 

And then I would make it mean all sorts of things about myself. And I have finally gotten to the point where I'm questioning what I've been told and taught. That a daily practice is the best way to be a serious, dedicated student. 

I'm questioning that rather than making myself wrong. And believing that if I can just figure out how to contort myself in the right way, then I'll feel the way I want to feel- I'll feel like a good student. And maybe I'll feel in this case accomplished because look at me, I finally managed to do something every single day. And it's something I've struggled with in my 37 years of life. 

What I'm playing with instead is living my life as  an expression of meditation. And this is where I want to say: if this feels overwhelming to you, or if this doesn't fit for you, question it. This may not apply to you. This applies to me. Maybe you'll resonate with it, and maybe you won't. 

I've started to think about meditating as a lifestyle in this way. So from the moment I wake up, when I'm showering, getting ready, petting my dogs driving, working, walking, cooking, I am curious about how present can I be in these areas? 

And let me be clear here, also. I am not seeking to have, or be, perfectly present in these moments. That is not my goal. I'm curious to see how present I can be in those moments. And for sure, I forget. I get caught up. I get tired and grumpy. Or in the case of this boiling hot Texas summer we're having, I get overheated and cranky. I get distracted. Day's can go by. 

Though the more I practice this, the more rare it is for several days to go by before I realize it. Which to me that's like a huge win, and that's kind of the point, in my opinion. 

I've gotten curious about how much presence can I cultivate in my daily habits, in my daily-ish habits, right if I don't do something every day.  In the practices that I do daily.   I shower most days, I definitely eat every day. I drink fluids every day. There's certain things that I do do every day. 

And I've gotten really curious how much presence can I cultivate in those everyday moments? Kind of in the minutia. That normally I would just like speed right by, right. Like in my mind meditation is something you sit and do for 20 minutes, and then you just move into your day and bam, bam, bam. Go through everything. 

And what I've started to realize after a lot of curiosity and thought around this is that, that is not the point. That is not the point. The point is not to like have a perfect practice for 20 minutes and then like go through the rest of your life you know, on autopilot or semi mindlessly, or really caught up or being really critical of yourself. That's not the point. 

I hope that what you are hearing in this conversation that we're having. Is the way that I am partnering with myself. I am using this practice as a tool to befriend myself. To witness with care and attention what my experience is right now. And then in the next moment, And then in the moment after that. 

I believe that this is the seat of awareness that we are all seeking. And it is a source of great joy, even in the hard moments, to be present with oneself, to be present with your inner experience, to be present with the people or the beings in your life. That's what we're all craving and wanting and seeking. In my opinion. 

I want to share a, I guess it's a metaphor that a meditation teacher offered me several years ago. I was on a silent retreat at Spirit Rock, which I highly recommend if you're looking for meditation retreat places. It's a beautiful place. It's such a healing place. In Woodacre, California.   

It's just a special, special place and they do silent meditation retreats. They also do non-silent meditation retreats. 

This was the last retreat that I went on, and this was a few years ago. And I had gone on one, I think around six months prior. So I did them kind of close together, which is, I think in a little crazy, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. 

But that's just kinda my personality.  And so I knew that from the first one. So I went on one, I think it was an August. I went on the first week-long silent meditation retreat. And I left and I'm like, I'm going to have a daily practice. I'm so committed. I'm going to do this perfectly. And I got home and it was so hard to incorporate it into regular life, with all of the demands and all of my existing habits. And just the busy-ness of life. 

So then I went on the second retreat, it was in December. And at that point I knew, right, it's not easy to just like bring this practice home. Even if it became easeful, I'm not going to say easy, even if it became easeful on retreat. And so the only time that you're allowed to talk is if you book a like a session with one of the teachers, if you're struggling, if you're questioning, if you're needing support. 

And so I signed up for one and I was telling the teacher I'm like, I know how hard it is to bring this practice home. And I was just very attached to doing it right. And I was explaining this to him and he used this analogy. He said that going on silent meditation retreats is like practicing baseball or softball. 

You're in practice mode. You've removed all of the distractions of normal life. You're just focused on what you're doing. You're supported, there's people around you, you're in community. And then he said, going back home and real life is like playing the game of baseball or softball. 

And what he was saying was that, it took me a while, like years to really understand what he was saying. What he was saying was that it's great to go off and practice. And I think as creative people, we all, you know, need retreats. We need to go do things away from our normal life. And be immersed in them. 

And have the space and the experience to question and like evaluate and take in new mediums and learn things and be around  like-minded people. 

But when you go back into your real life that you're playing the game, right. That's real.  Sports practice, and I'm not a sports person so baseball practice isn't real right. Playing the game is what's real. So going back into your life and playing the game of life is what's real. And so we practice on retreat, or for a baseball game. 

But what really counts is showing up and playing the game. And that has stuck with me in a lot of ways, not just with meditation. Because I think that we obsess with doing practice right. And we miss the whole point. The whole point is not being a perfect-practice-student. 

The whole point is practicing, going off and learning, and then coming back into your real life and integrating that information, and adjusting things, and changing, and updating areas of your life. That's the point. 

The point is not to have a perfect practice and then go back to your life and like bring none of it with you, right. I hope I'm explaining that because it was very profound for me. 

So, I am really curious how this is landing for you. If you have a tendency to be hard on yourself about having a consistent meditation practice, or other practices: creative practices, writing practices, exercise practices, I hope listening to this gave you ideas for how to customize a meditation PRACTICE. Remember what practice means for you. Not a strict rule to judge yourself against, to judge, if you're doing it good enough. That's not the point here. 

And, if moment to moment awareness sounds overwhelming to you right now, then give yourself parameters that feel and sound supportive and nurturing. Check in with yourself to source them- I would encourage you not to look for answers from someone else. You know yourself best, and you can use this as an experiment to befriend yourself even more. 

And if you have thoughts about this, please send me a DM on Instagram. I am so curious what you think about this concept that I've been tinkering with- this idea of meditation as a lifestyle versus a strict practice. Or if it applies to you creatively, or exercise, or walking, or writing or anything. I would love to hear how this is landing for you. 

That is what I have for you today. I am so glad that you were here and that we get to walk our paths together. See you next time. Same time, same place. Bye for now.  ​

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