Given the current political and economic climate in our country, some are again turning to meditation as a way to address increased stress and uncertainty. You too can harvest these benefits for yourself, but there's only one catch. You have to do it. And you need to keep on doing it. If you've already tried to meditate, then you know that it's not necessarily so easy to do. Somehow, in your busy life, you never get around to finding the time. Not so long ago, someone came to learn to meditate because her mind was so busy it was driving her crazy. When I met her on that first day, she couldn't stop talking, and I could see that she was really suffering. She came to our Primer Series of four classes where we teach people how to do mindfulness meditation. She took up the regular practice of meditation and I have noticed a significant change in her. She is now more at home with herself and calmer. And for those of us around her, it's a joy to see her, because her innate sense of humor and spunkiness has returned.
I've seen hundreds of people make serious transformations in their lives from practicing meditation, so I'd like to give you 10 tips to help you establish a meditation practice on your own. I hope you will find these helpful, and I do hope you will give meditation a chance because it's not necessarily a quick fix, so it may take some time before you begin to experience the benefits of this practice.
1. Set Aside a Meditation Space in Your Home If you have an extra room in your house or a corner in a room, try to set this aside as the space where you go to meditate. Keep it clean and orderly. As you continue to meditate some natural order and clarity will begin to arise and this will gently spread out from where you meditate and begin to organize the rest of your living space.
2. Use the Power of Ritual Ritual has the unconscious power to create a context that can encourage you to meditate. Ritual doesn't have to be religious. It can be very simple things, like burning a candle or incense. When you smell the incense, you body knows its time to meditate. If you are religious, you might use symbols of your faith to remind you of important teachings. You might want to create an altar in your meditation space. Again, there is no one way to do this. Make it something that resonates with you. Something beautiful from nature, a rock or a flower arrangement – perhaps a photo of a spiritual person who inspires you could be on the altar. Ritual can help put you in the mood, and give you permission to carve out the space and time for doing meditation practice regularly.
3. Unplug all the Gadgets I know this one might be difficult, but please give your self a moment of peace and quiet, free from your cell phone. Turn it off. If you have to answer the phone when it rings – unplug it. Turn of the TV and the radio. And by all means, turn off your computer.
4. Avoid other Interruptions If you have other family members or roommate in your home or apartment, explain to them that meditation is not so easy to do, and you need some uninterrupted time to do this practice. If they still don't understand why this is so important to you, explain to them, that they'll find you a more agreeable human being to be around after you've meditated. If you have kids, you may need to carve out times to meditate when your kids are asleep or not around.
5. Creating Structure can Help you Meditate Like ritual, structure can help you create a context that is more conducive to meditation. Many people find that having a regular meditation schedule is helpful. Since we are creatures of habit, you are creating a new, constructive habit in your life, and as you begin to do it regularly, it will get easier and eventually, you'll do it without thinking about it too much. This tends to be a more effective approach than just doing the meditation when you feel like it. This approach assures that you will get the meditation practice done. You don't have to like it. You just have to get it done.
6. Set a Fixed Time for Your Meditation Figure out what is a period of time you can sit still comfortably before you start getting restless. If it's 10 minutes, then commit to that time. Get a clock and make sure that you sit 10 minutes – not 4 or 8 or even 9, but 10 minutes. Resist the temptation to jump up because you are suddenly feeling restless or anxious about something. Sit through until the time is up. If you do this regularly, you are training yourself to approach difficulties with more confidence and resiliency.
7. Don't Create a Standard Any meditation you do is good. It doesn't matter what judgement you have about it. So don't compare what you are doing today with something that you did at some other time. Maybe the meditation you did last week seemed really great. Let it go. Don't use that to make a comparison to what your meditation is like today. Don't use that to create a standard by which you will now measure every meditation you do in the future.
8. Don't be Too Ambitious or Idealistic Don't try to do too much. If you try to meditate too long, and you're not ready for it, you'll simply get discouraged and quit. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Meditation takes time and patience. Don't be in too big a hurry to get some kind of results.
9. Meditate Early or Late in the Day Of course, you can meditate anytime you want, but many people find it easier to meditate early in the morning before their busy day is upon them. Often people also find that sitting meditation at the end of the day, when their busy work schedule is behind them is easier. Since meditation is not so easy to do, it helps to pick times of the day, when it's easier to give yourself permission to be still in this way.
10. Respect the Limitations of Your Body It's important to respect your body. Sitting cross legged on the floor is a good posture for meditation because it supports your back, but if you are not limber, it may be difficult to do. You can sit in a chair too. The most important thing is to be upright. There is no one way to do meditation that is right. So approach this practice realistically, acknowledging your own physical limitations. If you really want to sit cross legged, that is probably a good thing, but you may need to work up to that gradually, through stretching, or doing some yoga practice.
I hope you will find some of these suggestions helpful. Please write and comment on this blog and let me know how your meditation practice is going. What tips have you found that are helpful for you that might help others?