There is a very simple motivational technique that has become popular on the internet called “Don’t Break the Chain,” and it is perfectly suited for a daily sutta reading practice.
You take a one year calendar, either poster size or a single sheet (see below for sources) and you mark an X each day you do your sutta reading practice, however much you have committed to do. You can also write the number of the sutta you read. In this way you start to make a chain of days that you have done your practice. Then you Don’t Break the Chain.
That’s it. Could not be any simpler. It doesn’t add more than 10 seconds to your practice time. But here’s what it does. It gives you a tangible indicator of what you are doing. Every day you are bringing the Blessed One’s teachings into your life. On days when the hindrances are strong and the joy of reading the suttas is not enough to motivate you, the satisfaction of knowing that you have this unbroken practice might be enough to help you pull out your main text or your backup text and practice for a few minutes. Then before you know it, you haven’t broken the chain. Hindrances overcome for one more day, and you make your X.
Any time we spend with the teachings of the Blessed One is beneficial. And this unbroken connection, day after day, is especially beneficial. We may need the teachings the most on those very days that we don’t think we have enough time to read. And making daily contact keeps things familiar and in the front of our mind.
Post the calendar in a prominent place in your home. That way if you haven’t been able to link your practice to a regular daily activity, or if your schedule gets disrupted, you will have a reminder. When you travel, take your text and your calendar with you. And Don’t Break the Chain.
Year Calender resources
- PDFcalendar.com has a very simple year calendar generator. Use the 12 Week calendar option and change the 12 to 53 to ensure you get a full year. You can download a 2012 version here.
- www.timeanddate.com has more options for different formats.
- How much to read each day
- Sutta Reading Practice Basics
- When is the best time to read
- When you complete a collection
To find out more about the Don’t Break the Chain technique in general, just do a web search for “Don’t Break the Chain” and you’ll find lots of articles and even some computer tools to do tracking.
Have you tried this technique with your sutta reading practice? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.