The life-changing benefits of meditation come from establishing a regular daily practice. While a quick-fix session certainly helps during times of stress, meditation’s positive effects are cumulative—it is one of the best habits to adopt because it affects virtually every aspect of our being. And just like any other habit, meditation takes a bit of initial effort to cement it into a daily routine. Here are ten tips to set you up for success.
Know Why You Want to Meditate
Do you want to sleep better? Clear the clutter from your overworked mind? Be able to keep your cool with your mischievous toddler? Whatever your reason might be to start meditating, identify it and remember it. Maybe even write it on a Post-It note to place in a visible location you’ll see every day. Remembering the “why” keeps motivation strong when outside factors tempt us to stray from a new meditation habit.
If you’ve never run a marathon, you wouldn’t tie up your brand new sneakers and hit the road. You’d start small—with a run around the block, then around the neighborhood—until eventually you build up enough stamina to make a full marathon no big deal. The same concept goes for meditation. Don’t set a timer for thirty minutes and burn out after a couple of days. Start with five minutes, or even less. It’s far better to close your eyes and watch your breath for thirty seconds each morning after breakfast than it is to sit for a full meditation session only once in a while.
Find a Time and Place That Works for You and Make it Sacred
When it comes to meditation, the key to success is consistency. Carve out a time of day that works best for you and stick to it. Maybe that means setting your alarm fifteen minutes earlier each morning—many meditation teachers recommend a morning session to tap into the clear state of mind that exists before the day fills it with its obligations. You’ll also want to designate a specific place where you’ll meditate. Choose somewhere that’s comfortable and make it feel special. Maybe you set up a cushion on the floor and light a candle or burn some incense. Meditating in the same place builds up a charge that supports the practice.
Choose a Technique That Resonates
Spend some time browsing the meditation techniques in our library and notice the ones that resonate strongest with you. One technique is not superior to another—they are all different paths to the same end. If you’re a person who hates to sit still and likes the idea of contemplation, don’t force yourself to learn Vipassana just because it seems like “real” meditation. Listen to your own unique needs and choose a technique that works with where you are, not against it.
Let Go of Expectations
You’re not going to get rid of thoughts. And you’re likely not going to see flashes of light or divine visions, no matter how hard you try. Meditation is about letting go of goals and expectations and instead of meeting yourself where you are, open to whatever arises. Setting goals is a sure way to encounter frustration and miss the point entirely. Show up. Allow your inner landscape to unfold in its own time. Show up again tomorrow. It’s as simple as that.
Practice Being Gentle with Yourself
No matter which technique you choose, begin each session by cultivating a loving attitude toward yourself. Make friends with your thoughts. When they arise during your meditation, greet them and gently send them on their way. Meditation is loving awareness, and the first place it starts is with ourselves.
Once you’ve identified your “why” and set a time and place for your meditation, commit yourself to a daily practice. Sometimes it will be easy and sometimes it won’t. There will be days when your schedule is overflowing and it will be tempting to skip your time on the cushion. Don’t. This is the time we need meditation the most, and a solid commitment will carry you through the challenging days.
Commitment doesn’t mean running your practice like a drill sergeant. Keep your practice light and approach it with curiosity each day. Each session can reveal something new about yourself. Let meditation to be a ritual of self-care instead of an obligation.
Strength is in numbers! Team up with a friend who also wants to start meditating and check in regularly to keep each other on track. Let your family know about your new practice so they can respect your alone time each day. Rely on your support system to set yourself up for success.
Technology helps make an ancient practice possible in the modern world. MeditationWise’s library includes guided meditations as well as automated timers. Tap into online resources to deepen your practice and tailor-made reminders to keep you on track.