Are you new to meditation? Or have you been meditating for a while but have trouble staying consistent? Here’s a few tips that can help you establish the invaluable habit of meditation.
CULTIVATE A DEEP DESIRE FOR GROWTH
A new habit takes time and energy to establish. If you are to be successful in incorporating a habit of meditation into your daily life you have to have a deep reason to want to practice.
In the tradition of meditation that I practice and teach, the cultivation of a strong desire for growth is considered essential — so much so that it is actually embedded into the practice itself. You do this by bringing your attention into the naval chakra (your fire center) and affirming your wish to grow spiritually.
Your wish to grow becomes a catalyst for your growth. A deep need is established, and then the practice of meditation becomes a part of the way to fulfill that need. Your desire helps bring you back to the cushion each day.
There are many reasons why you may have come to meditation. Or why you wish to begin a practice.
Maybe you have a lot of stress in your life. Or you have a tendency toward anger.
It could be that you have a desire to see what lies beneath the surface level of life. You have a hunger for Truth. And you want to discover different dimensions of your being.
Whatever your reason, it helps to remind yourself of it on a regular basis. This will inspire you to push past your initial resistance and enable you to cultivate a consistent habit.
PRACTICE IN THE SAME PLACE EVERY DAY
Find a comfortable, quiet place in your house or office where you will not be disturbed. Return to that same place each day for your practice. If possible, reserve that chair, cushion, or corner of the room for your practice alone. This will help create subconscious impressions in the mind that associate that particular place with the quiet stillness of meditation.
If you don’t have much room, improvise.
My wife and I used to live in San Diego, California. Our condo was 50 yards from the Boardwalk at Mission Beach. It was a beautiful setting, but our one bedroom unit was no more than 600 ft.². The only private space I could find was inside my closet — the opposite of a spacious walk-in. Luckily, I didn’t have a large wardrobe. I would push my clothes aside, place a stool on the closet floor, slide the door shut, and dive within.
MEDITATE AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY
When you begin your practice at the same time each day you look forward to that time. You anticipate it in the same way you anticipate your lunch break at work.
I have found that the easiest time to maintain a consistent habit of meditation is in the morning before you are distracted by all the activities of the day. A morning practice sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Another time some people find it beneficial to practice is just before they go to bed. But in the beginning this can be tough because you are tired from the day and are used to drifting off to sleep around this time. So when you sit to meditate, you nod off. As you advance in your practice you will be able to maintain a meditative state even when you are tired. But this comes with time. In the beginning, it’s easier to practice when you are feeling awake and refreshed.
SETTING THE MEDITATIVE MOOD
The environment you meditate in should inspire your practice. Here are some mood-setting ideas:
- Create a small altar filled with symbols, statues, mandalas and yantras, photos of your teacher(s) — whatever opens your heart to the practice.
- Burn incense or dried herbs, or diffuse essential oils. Studies have shown that the recollection of particular memories can be strongly associated with certain smells that were present when those memories were created. As meditators, we can use this to our advantage by exposing ourselves to the same scent each time we sit. The scent will help elicit the calm feelings we experienced in past meditations.
- Lighting a candle is a way of setting an intention for your practice. As you light the candle you can acknowledge the teachers of your lineage and the presence of Spirit within you and all around you.
START WITH 3 TO 5 MINUTE SESSIONS UNTIL YOUR MEDITATION HABIT IS ESTABLISHED
It’s easier to sit for short sessions, micro-meditations, than to force yourself to push through 30-60 minutes. Several years down the road you may find that one or two hour sits are easy and enjoyable. But when you are first starting out, even 3 to 5 minutes of work — performed every day — is going to provide more benefit than sitting for a half hour once a week.
Once a consistent habit is developed you can gradually increase the time. A good way to deepen your practice is to carve out a longer period once a week (or once a twice a month) where you can meditate for an extended duration. This will anchor your meditation habit even further.
REMIND YOURSELF OF THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
The many benefits of meditation are beyond the scope of this article. But here’s a short list of the things a daily practice has been shown to do:
- Encourages a healthy lifestyle
- Increases energy levels
- Reduces stress
- Reduces anxiety
- Clarifies awareness
- Increases happiness levels
- Enhances focus
- Releases energetic blockages
- Relieves pain
- Boosts immune system
- Promotes a healthy heart
- Regulates mood
- Increases optimism
- Increases the feeling of well-being
- Enhances creativity
- Aids in overcoming addictions
- Dispels false identities
- Cultivates Self-realization
As you work toward cultivating a habit of meditation, stay inspired by contemplating the different ways you might benefit from the practice.
HOW HAVE YOU ALREADY BENEFITED FROM MEDITATION PRACTICE?
It’s one thing to read a list of meditation benefits. But how have you personally benefited from the practice of meditation?
- Do you feel less stress in your life?
- Do you feel more at ease?
- Are you more spiritually connected?
- Are you more in touch with subtle feelings and energies?
- Do you find that it is easier to focus at work?
- Do you find it easier to let go of work when you leave the office?
However you have benefited, inspiration to continue can come from an awareness of those blessings. When you recognize a change in yourself, even a subtle one, write it down. Create a list of those changes that you can refer back to from time to time.
READ INSPIRATIONAL WRITINGS
Whatever you place your attention on expands. Spiritual writings, as well as recorded lectures and videos, can help expand your understanding of spirituality and increase your desire to become closer to Spirit.
There are countless books and articles on the philosophy and practice of meditation. Here are a few favorites I keep close by:
- The Sky of The Heart – Jewels of Wisdom from Nityananda (A collection of sayings by the great teacher Bhagwan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, India.)
- The Radiance Sutras – by Lorin Roche (A poetic rendition of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra)
- Rudi: In His Own Words (Excerpts of talks given by Swami Rudrananda)
- The Science of Self-Realization – by Roy Eugene Davis (Translation and commentary of the Yoga Sutras)
- I Am That (A collection of talks by Nisargadatta Maharaj)
Bruce Rubin, one of my most influential teachers, posts weekly talks on his website that I find invaluable. You can find them at: brucejoelrubin.com/talks.html
Any new, positive habit creates the kind of change that brings about growth. The normal human reaction to change and growth is resistance.
Resistance is what stops 90 percent of New Year’s resolutions dead in their tracks. It’s what prevents people from launching a business, writing a book, or stepping onto the stage.
If you let it, resistance will talk you into skipping your daily practice of meditation. At first for just a day. Then two. And before you know it, meditation will become something you used to do.
The good news is that the power of desire is far stronger than the power of resistance. The more you tap into your desire to grow spiritually, the easier it will be for you to establish a consistent habit of meditation. It will become something you want to do, not another thing you have to force yourself to do.
May you be filled with the desire to practice and grow, and may that growth bring endless blessings into your life and the lives of those around you.