If you’ve been practicing meditation for a while, you know that practicing isn’t the hard part. The difficulty comes in actually finding the time in which to dedicate 20 to 30 minutes once a day (hopefully twice) to intentional internal reflection. What with how fast paced this life tends to be, most are already out of bed and out the door once our feet hit the ground. Unfortunately, not making time for this vital practice, as you know, can lead to all sorts of problems including stress and anxiety, not to mention a poor outlook on life.
Diana Winston takes an overbearing life into consideration in this Intent post and gives 10 helpful suggestions on how to better prepare yourself for a daily meditation routine. According to Winston, not only does our culture not promote this type of reflection, but as such, it’s not a habit for most of us. We have to develop it. And if you want to recover from a society of too much information, you’re going to have to at least try. Below are her suggestions:
1. Be gentle on yourself. If you think you’re a failure and berate yourself for missing a day or a week, meditation then becomes another excuse for self-hatred. Look, meditation training is like swimming upstream, doable, but takes some effort. Be forgiving, yet keep at it.
2. Allow it to become a habit. Try to do it at the same time in the same place everyday. The way to cultivate a habit is to actually do it. The more consistent you can be, the easier it is for the new grooves to be worn into your brain.
3. Review your day and pick a time to do it that makes sense. If you are not a morning person, in fact can’t even look at yourself in the mirror until after you’ve had your coffee, wait till later in the day. If you come home exhausted every night, try the mornings.
4. Be willing to be flexible. If you miss your morning session, be creative. Take a mindful, silent walk at work; sit before you fall asleep. Don’t throw in the towel just because your daily routine got upended.
5. Prioritize. You need to somehow insert into your brain that meditation is just as important as brushing your teeth, showering, eating, Friends reruns, whatever it is. I think it’s amazing how much time we find to answer email but how strikingly little time there is to sit daily. Hmmmm.
6. Set your intention. Ask yourself as you sit down, why am I meditating today? See what emerges. Then ask yourself, what are my deepest reasons for practice? Return to these motivations when the going gets tough. A liberated mind takes work and reminders.
7. Pick a doable amount of time. Don’t strive for an hour unless it seems easy to you. Twenty minutes to a half hour can work fine. Up it, if that seems easy and fits in with your schedule. Even five minutes will activate those neural pathways, keep it going. And get a new groove forming.
8. If all else fails, get your sweet self on your cushion and take three breaths.
9. Sometimes sitting truly feels impossible. Then use your designated time for some kind of spiritually supportive practice: read a dharma book, listen to a tape, write in your journal.
10. When you screw up, be gentle on yourself. I already said this, but I’ll say it again, it’s key for developing a regular practice.
Read more here from Winston on how meditation benefits those willing to try.