Commitment

I’ve been on vacation for a few days—it’s one of those “I have a bunch of vacation days I need to use before the end of the month” type things.

One of the things I’ve noticed, between taking free days and being on the schedule, is that the basic structure of the day around here is great. When I’m doing the schedule, I feel great, and I’m relatively productive. When I’m not doing the schedule, things tend to slide a little.

So this vacation, I decided to commit to part of the schedule.

Commitments are a critical part of the training around here. When we make a commitment and keep to it, we’re sending the world and ourselves a clear message that we’re trustworthy, and that we’re someone who follows through on our commitments. We hear that message and grow stronger. The world hears that and trusts us.

Of course, the reverse is also true. When we make a commitment and then don’t follow through, we’re sending the message that we’re untrustworthy. The world hears this and doesn’t trust us, but even worse, we hear it and don’t trust ourselves.

So we take commitments seriously. We practice making and holding commitments often. We hold ourselves to a very high standard: we do what we say we’ll do. We practice making and keeping manageable commitments again and again, just to strengthen the evidence that we’re trustworthy, so that we can make bigger commitments, so we can grow more confident, and so on. (You can do this too, and I recommend it. Pick something. It can be something totally trivial and meaningless: “I will clap my hands once after I finish reading this paragraph.” Or “I will do 10 jumping jacks in the next five minutes.” It doesn’t matter what it is—it just matters that you follow through.)

Back to my vacation, I was considering committing to something pretty significant: chanting in the morning and evening, the morning and evening interview periods, and the exercise period. In the end, I decided to commit to chanting. I still wanted to do the rest, but I didn’t feel confident that I could follow through on it, so I didn’t commit.

The result has been interesting. So far I’ve been at chanting every single day. It’s not even been hard to do—my alarm goes off at 4:30 AM, and just like any other day, I get over to the zendo. At 8:30 PM, same deal.

But I’ve only been to two sits in the four days I’ve been off, and I’ve done zero exercise periods. After chanting, I just go back to my room to nap.

It’s incredible: it seems that committing to something results in a major difference in the likelihood that it’ll happen.

So I look at my training. I see that I’m here to do something specific—awaken for the benefit of all beings. And I don’t even know if that means anything yet, much less if I can do it, much less if I can do it in any definite time frame.

But I do know that if I commit to do something, it’s much more likely that it’ll happen.

And I know that each day I’m here not doing that is also one more day that I’m not doing anything else I could be doing with my time.