One of the truly awesome, and at times challenging, things about meditation is there really is no instruction other than beginner’s instruction. If you are new to meditation, try to and enjoy your practice without seeking expert status – this is it!
Today’s tips are about getting to the cushion. Often we are exposed to meditation and we bring great enthusiasm to making this practice a part of our lives. However, we quickly find ourselves putting off sitting in favor of watching a little more TV or sleeping in a few minutes longer. The greatest benefits of meditation come not from a single session but rather from sitting every day.
- Set a reasonable length of time: Consider starting with 5 minutes. Remember our goal is to sit every day, not to be rocketed into enlightenment with that one perfect session. The first few months provide more of a challenge building a new habit than anything else. Make you ability to succeed sustainable. What length of time would it be impossible to say no to? What length of time doesn’t intimidate you at all?
- Link your meditation to something you do everyday. I have a friend who meditates in between showering and shaving. Another friend pulls into the parking lot at work in the morning and sits in her car. I know a guy whose life has been radically changed by meditating on the train ride into the city. Yet another friend links her meditation to waiting for her coffee to brew. The couple who started the Tuesday night meditation group I cherish, sit every evening after dinner together. I have a routine of washing the dishes and then sitting. Examine your life. Where do you see an opportunity to add some quiet time?
- Make a checklist. When I challenge myself to make a new habit or to do something like my daily gratitude list, I put a checklist in a visible place. Hard to ignore a box next to a date that is waiting to be clicked off. I like to use the space next to my phone at work on a little posted note. Inconspicuous but impossible for me to miss.
- Ask yourself why you meditate. A powerful and motivating force for creating this new daily discipline lies in our most intimate motivations. We are attracted to meditation for different reasons; spiritual inquiry, a desire to quiet the mind, a quest for serenity, managing anger or anxiety, or coping with the loss of a loved one. These and other starting points provide for important reminders. Hard to justify watching another episode of Real Housewives when the alternative is working on an important struggle in your life. Why do you meditate?
- Join a group. When I first started meditating I was lucky enough to have the support of a weekly group. This guaranteed I had at least one day a week of meditation. Even better, the support of others and the shared experience was a powerful motivator for my own daily sitting.
- Learn from the resistance to practice. We examine our minds when we do zazen but the opportunity to see our mind at work is available to us at all times. We can learn a lot from honestly inquiring within ourselves what these resistance points are.
- Just do it. Sometimes it is easier to simply let go of the struggle and just get on the cushion. Meditation is no place for debate. If we have good reasons to practice and a reasonable goal in mind, just sit there!
Good luck! May your practice and your life go well.