How can one get a meditation practice established effectively into their everyday life?
This is a question I’ve come across many, many, many times. A lot of people do a few courses on meditation and then after a few months let the practice slip and then it fades or becomes a frustration.
There is no easy answer to this and everyone is, of course, a bit different but I’m going to give you five things you can do to get your meditation and mindfulness practice going.
If you know your life is hectic and finding the time to spend an hour in meditation each morning just isn’t realistic then don’t set yourself a goal of meditating for an hour each morning.
Be realistic, perhaps fitting in 15 minutes to start with could be a realistic goal. It is more important to do a regular practice even if it is just a short amount each time.
While short daily sessions are preferable even doing meditation, say, four out of seven days is a good start.
The key here is to start and find a suitable time of the day to do this. The morning might suit you better than the evening or vice versa, or perhaps you have 15 minutes to spare in the afternoon? Decide for yourself and then try to stick to it.
Mental habits are powerful and the hectic rush-rush mind might have long been established in your life.
Bear in mind too that your perspective on life is highly conditioned by mental habits. So, if the mental habit is one of rush-rush "must get things done" this might lead you to the view that there isn’t much point in taking time out to meditate.
You might even try to make time to meditate only to find this attitude arises. “Why am I doing this?” or “I could be doing something more useful.” But persist as eventually, you might start to see through this view.
This principle here can apply to any view we might hold or encounter in meditation. The view, “I can’t do this” is simply conditioned by mental habits that colour your perspective on meditation.
Persistence - something I always bang on about - and keeping an open inquisitive mind is key here. There is a lovely blog on Inc written by Jeff Haden entitled 8 Habits of People With Amazing Determination and Willpower; worth reading and reflecting on!
Just doggedly coming back to the cushion, again and again, bringing your awareness back to the breath or the sensation of your body sitting again and again, and eventually, your view may lighten and meditation may suddenly - just for a few moments - seem lighter and more spacious.
Persist enough and this lightness will become an ongoing factor of meditation, not the goal mind you, but a factor for sitting and looking calmly inward.
Meditation can then be a joy you’ll look forward to, a good place to be.
Often a lot of people start their interest in meditation via a book they read. It is common and can be the spark for taking up a regular practice.
Continuing to be interested can also be a way to help continue that practice. Further reading is ok but bear in mind there are three forms of knowledge when it comes to mindfulness:
1. Knowledge-based on study
2. Knowledge-based on experience
3. Knowledge-based on wisdom
All three can be real encouragers to get a mindfulness practice going and then to keep it going!
So let’s take a look at each of these.
Knowledge-based on study
This is reading books or listening to talks. Think of these as pointers telling you which way to go, like a signpost on a walk.
Knowledge-based on experience
This is when you follow the signpost and experience for yourself what has been taught.
Knowledge-based on wisdom
This is your inner knowing about the present moment and the nature of reality. With this, you just know what to do without having to be told or directed.
Not only can these three aspects be interesting but beneficial to your life too which can motivate you to carry on.
Well worth it!
Join a group of others meditating and if there isn’t one, then start one even if it is just you and a friend getting together every couple of weeks to sit together and practice.
Here is a great article Ommm: How to Set Up a Meditation Group by Charles A. Frances. Give it a go as I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of group practice; it is a great source of encouragement and support!
This is an interesting one and something I’ve done many times over the years. Setting themes, I’ve found is particularly useful for long-term practitioners.
Often one can start to feel lost with the practice or that it isn’t going anywhere. These can become themes in themselves. I remember going through a period of intense boredom with meditation, so I just took it as a theme.
I avoided indulging my boredom with distractions and instead investigated its nature. I sat with it as well as with the breath and noticed how it eventually passed. Boredom is just a transitory state; another state of clinging and not a state of letting go.
That is another theme I then looked at, letting go.
What is letting go I contemplated? Is it throwing away, getting rid of stuff? Is it seeing thoughts and trying to chuck them out of my mind? What I found was that letting go has far more to do with letting be, accepting how the mind is and how it operates.
I found that doing harm leads to harmful results and an unsettled mind, doing no harm leads to harmless results and a calm mind.
I had control over my choices in life but that was about it, everything else was just cause and effect. By accepting this I’d started to let go of the idea I could control my mind in some way; by making wiser choices there was no need to control or to put it another way hold on to an idea of how I thought I should be. I could just let the mind flow instead and this was letting go.
Concentration and being aware in this state is very light and easy, a bit like the effort to hold a cup of tea, no more than that, very light indeed.
So, take a theme now and again and role with it. See where it leads, some themes may last a few days others can go on for years even decades! They are well worth it and a great way to help the practice of meditation keep going.
This can be tricky and if there isn’t one near to you it could be worth taking a trip to visit one at least once a year if not more.
I regularly drive an hour to a monastery where a group of Forest Monks practise meditation together and then share their teachings when appropriate.
Every two to three weeks I go down for a day, meditate, listen to the monks or sometimes just hang out with people there.
Then at least once a year I go for a stay of five to ten days with them. I also do a silent meditation retreat once a year in a group with a teacher and a specific theme
People often ask me why don’t I ordain but my family situation isn’t one that makes this possible at present, but I’ve found these regular visits to this community have been invaluable.
Reflect that visiting a community with a good teacher ticks a lot of boxes: helps with realistic goal setting based on the experience of others, gets you interested, involves group practices, offers themes for contemplation and opens you up to contact with more experienced teachers.
So, find a group or community lead by a good teacher as it is well worth it. Google meditation teachers or local meditation teachers and all sorts will come up; it can be a great adventure too!
Stuff to look out for is does the group allow you to come and go freely - this is important - and does it avoid putting financial pressure on you in any way (these ties into point 4 above). The best groups are offered free with a donation system to keep them going.
Take a look at how cohesive the group is too, there will always be someone how has the hump but on the whole, are they getting along. Finally, of course, check out the teacher does he lead by example or does he say one thing and do another. If he does the later, give it a miss, find another teacher with a group.
Remember though people are just human so give them a chance but do use your instincts. Get it right and a community of meditators with good teachers can be a great source that will benefit you and that you, with your own growth and commitment, can, in turn, benefit them.
Have a good go at the above use what you see fit from it: try and get meditation established in your life as it is well worth it!
Offered for your consideration