Do you ever hear the same message again and again? Do you ever sense it’s time to listen? A yoga instructor told me last night that my crazy monkey mind will never calm if I show up at yoga class to meditate only when I feel like it. A fitness trainer mentioned yesterday that I won’t drop those last five pounds with my on-again, off-again pendulum eating style. And a French woman said today that my language skills won’t advance unless I keep studying. Wise voices hint to us — and hit me over the head with their guidance — that if we want to improve, we need regularity in our approach to growth.

So it is with spirituality. Lately I feel stuck, and I am curious about this lack of progress. In my wondering, a once-studied concept now echoes to me from my yoga teacher training 10 years ago: the notion of consistency. I looked up an ancient passage I vaguely recalled. The 2,500-year-old suggestion was to weave the following thread into our consciousness: “Our practice is firmly grounded when it is performed for a long time without interruption and with zeal.”

Zeal I have. I jump into projects fully. I’ve packed whole bookshelves with French study guides, four Larousse dictionaries, three copies of Le Petit Prince, cassette tapes I can no longer use and books for each start-and-stop attempt.

I just spring-cleaned a cabinet full of Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden yoga DVDs, Shiva Rea yoga CDs and wall-size posters with 3,000 postures pictured. I own enough peelers, spiralizers, food processors, high-speed blenders, and pasta makers that one might mistakenly surmise that I regularly spend time in the kitchen.

It’s the “long time without interruption” that trips me. I imagine saying, like most people, “I tried meditation once. I couldn’t do it.” Or perhaps, “I went to a yoga class years ago. It didn’t work for me.”

With this dilemma, I figured I needed another explanation of the “thread.” I found a new translation of the centuries-old text. This one read, “The stilling of the agitation in the mind is achieved by applying oneself through discipline in action.”

I act, I thought. I eat high-fiber, low-fat, plant-based food. Most days, except when I don’t. I sing along to French songs when I hop on my elliptical machine. Sometimes. I list gratitudes every morning, unless I’m busy. And if I’m not too tired, I pray at night.

I know we share this universal predicament; I am not alone. In fact, one current-day teacher points out that, with spiritual practice, most of us are “attentional spastics.” He says when it comes to focusing on the greater good in the world, on our connection to something larger than our own egos and concerns, people have always had attention deficits.

Sometimes this human being feels like Maine’s April: rainy yesterday, sunny today, cloudy tomorrow; snow now; then heat; cold later. With minds wind-blown like the weather, how can any of us do anything for a long time without interruption?

I try again to understand. Perhaps a modern feminist perspective on this “thread” will help. It reads, “Devoted practice is nurtured by a sustained, steady rhythm and a dedicated heart.”

Suddenly I flash to an adolescent memory, a tennis rally some 40 or so years ago, when I had returned from college and spent an afternoon hitting balls with my brother. Mike competed on the middle school team, his rhythm indeed steady, and he loved the game.

Nineteen, I complained to my 12-year-old sibling, “I’m so bad. I never get better. I can’t master this stupid sport.”

Mike said, “For everyone, improvement takes years. When was the last time you played?”

I dropped my head, “Umm high school.”

He asked, “Do you even like tennis?”

I answered, “Not so much.”

Mike stopped, raised one eyebrow and said, “How can you expect to do well if you have no passion and you don’t stay with it?”

I am still learning what it means to have a dedicated heart. And yet, in this moment, in this life now, we are all nurtured by a sustained-through-the ages-consistency in this one simple consistent instruction. 

Susan Lebel Young, author of “Lessons from a Golfer: A Daughter’s Story of Opening the Heart,” teaches mindfulness, meditation and yoga and may be reached at [email protected]