I made myself sit today. It wasn’t an option. I was going to sit there whether I liked it or not. It’s not always like this. But, the last couple of days have taken all the skill developed over years of meditation practice to make it happen.
If you want to develop a daily meditation practice, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that might make it easier. Here’s my personal list. Although you might find different supports along the way, these will definitely serve you.
- Intention. The very first thing that will help you meditate regularly is to set an intention to practice. I decided many years ago that learning the benefits of meditation through my own practice was something I wanted to do and set that intention. You can’t just do this one time either. You need to set your intention regularly and remember your intention daily. Since you will start feeling the benefits of practice fairly quickly, this makes it easier to do.
- Don’t listen to your mind. Even though you set an intention, your mind will NOT usually tell you to sit and meditate. In fact, your mind will probably come up with all kinds of reasons why you shouldn’t. “I don’t have time right now.” “I will do it later.” “I’m too tired.” “I’m in a hurry and have a lot to do.” I’ve heard it all! But, don’t be fooled by these foolish voices. They are not responding to your highest good.
- Have a motto. I learned the motto, “Just Do It!” from Jon Kabat-Zinn and I offer it to you to use as well. (Yes, I know it is also the Nike ad and, regardless of whether you like Nike or not, it’s a great motto.) He went on to say, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.” Many times when I’ve awoke in the morning and thought about my intention to meditate, heard the wailing voices in my mind discouraging me, I’ve also heard myself say “Just Do It!” This is an emphatic statement that comes from a deeper place than the wailing voices in my head. In my experience, the wise voice rises from deeper inside my body than the discouraging ones. Learn to listen for your deeper wisdom and follow it.
- Place and time. It’s really helpful to designate a place in your home where you will meditate. If you do most of your meditation in one place it will softly call to you when you have ignored it. In addition, a regular time to meditate can also be helpful. You can play around with a time that works best for you. However, with that said, don’t be rigid about it. Anytime (rather than no time) is the best time to meditate. Even stopping and taking one conscious breath in line at the grocery store can keep your intention to meditate alive.
- Length of Time. If you are taking a meditation class with instruction from a teacher, follow her suggestions. If you’re starting on your own, you could begin with five minutes and working your way up. The more you do, the more benefit you will achieve. My own practice varies some but, in general, I typically sit for at least twenty minutes. Of course, even five mindful breaths might be all you can do one day. Let that be okay.
- Give up expectations. Particularly if you are new to meditation, what happens when you sit and meditate might take you by surprise. It won’t necessarily be a blissful experience. In fact, at least half the time it probably won’t be. “So why do it?” you might ask. Because when we learn how to be with ourselves through the bliss and the sorrow on the cushion, we will be able to more skillfully navigate the twists and turns of life off the cushion. That takes me to my next, and final point.
- Check your attitude. Setting our intention and teaching our minds to be in the present moment is hard enough. But, the most important part for me is the attitude that I bring to practice, to myself, and to my life. When we sit, we pay attention to the present moment with certain attitudes. The attitudes that I find most helpful are kindness, compassion, non-judgment, acceptance, non-striving, patience, trust, beginner’s mind, and letting go. I would suggest picking one attitude that resonates with you or that you know you could use some work on and use it in your daily practice for a while. Currently I’m working on patience and kindness (I know, that’s two. But, I’m an overachiever!).
To help you in your daily commitment to practice, I have a number of meditations on this website that you can use. I also highly recommend Insight Timer as a meditation app. (By the way, I’m on there as well.) The Insight Timer app lets you know how many people you meditated with once you’ve finished which I find very comforting. There are many of us meditating at the same time all over the world. You are not alone, ever.
Good luck with setting your intention and making it happen. You won’t ever regret it!