A regular meditation practice is a difficult habit to nail. Many of my yogi friends will admit that they have struggled getting into a regular pattern with meditation and when shit hits the fan it is the first thing to go by the way side. We suffer and we struggle with a process that when you look it is actually incredible simple. Or so it seems. I thought it might be timely to talk about how to establish a good practice as often it is one of the things that appears on our New Years Resolutions list.
One of the first things to consider and to establish is your motivation for meditation. If you have it on the list of things you “should do” then perhaps you need to go back to the drawing board. Although we all need to start somewhere, and if that is the initial motivation for sitting on your butt for 10 minutes each day then awesome. However, why you drop the habit so easily and readily is you have not established a clear enough goal and motivation for yourself. Look at your reason for wanting to meditate, is it because your yoga teacher tells you it is good for you, is it because it is the latest thing Russell Brand is trying on for size, or is it because you know when you do it you feel the benefits. Your motivation is what keeps you going when time is limited, things are tough or you simply feel like giving up.
If you have not had an established practiced before, you are left to rely on the testimony of others, ask your friends who meditate, your teacher or connect with people who have a regular practice – ask them what they gain from it? Then the next step is for you to outline your goals – based on what others have told you, what do you want to achieve? This is important as the days when you decide you can’t be arsed sitting and meditating, you need to come back to your goal, your motivation for doing it in the first place.
Once you have set your motivation, then decide on how much time you realistically can sit for and how often. Setting realistic goals is useful in keeping yourself in check. Never meditated before? Perhaps don’t aim for an hour morning and night. Start with even 5 minutes, the key is regular and uninterrupted practice. If you can do 10 minutes, awesome, find what works for you and stick to it.
Commit to a time frame where you will stick to a program – and then review. Maybe you will decide to practice 5 days per week, 10 minutes in the morning for 3 weeks. See how you go, does this work? What are the differences you notice? Assess your program and the outcomes, you might be surprised by the results. It is great to journal your experience so you have an accurate record of your achievements, progress and what you notice.
Set a regular time each day when you can and will practice. First thing in the morning is great, however it does not always work for everyone. I found when I first started early mornings were always chaos as I had one eye on the clock and one eye trying to meditate. Disaster. I switched to a night time practice and found I was much more relaxed. I also use a timer so I know how long I sit for, this has allowed me the flexibility to practice in the mornings again.
There are countless traditions teaching meditation and endless styles, approaches and ways of meditating. Find what works for you and stick to it.
The process itself, this can the tricky part as just sitting can often lead to thoughts, your mind wandering etc. I find using a process of focusing on the breath is incredibly useful to keep things on track. I will also use awareness in the body or different styles based on my mood and needs. You can have a look at some meditations I have pre-recorded if you need some inspiration.
The physical body should be relaxed and comfortable, ideally with the spine straight and the major joints stacked over one another. The hips raised slightly above the knees (this is where sitting on bolsters or pillows are handy). If you have bad knees, don’t hesitate to use pillows under the knees for extra support. Create a seat that is comfortable and will not provide distraction to your practice. It is great to even do a few stretches before you sit, if you have a regular yoga practice, then do your asana first before sitting for meditation.
The spine should be straight, the back of the neck long and the chin slightly tucked in. Shoulders relaxed and you can leave a small gap between your arms and your torso to allow air to circulate. Keep warm with a blanket but you don’t want to be so cozy you fall asleep! Your eyes can be slightly open or closed, different traditions teach different methods. Play around and see what works for you – eyes open can in fact keep you more alert and prevent you from falling asleep; eyes closed can calm the mind and limit distractions.
Simply sit and notice, play witness, observe. Use an object to give your mind something to focus on – this can be the breathe, the sensations of the body, a candle. Anything that allows your mind to focus. Counting the breath is also a fantastic way to give the mind an anchor.
The most important thing is to not get caught in the trap of judging meditation – there is no right or wrong, good or bad. There just is meditation.
Enjoy the process! If you need any help, or have any questions, drop them in the comments below or contact me.