I’m lucky. The first time I sat down to meditate, I had a good experience right off the bat. I liked the process. It didn’t give me exactly what I thought I needed, but it gave me something I liked. Insights about relationships and life challenges would bubble up as I sat, and I found that interesting. I also had the sense that I was taking care of myself in some basic way I couldn’t necessarily explain. The reward was subtle, but I felt it and decided to keep going.
Maybe I took to meditation because I had no expectations. I was never a spiritual seeker, so I wasn’t looking for the experience to be magical or mystical. I was just hoping for a holistic way to soothe myself and get some relief. I kept at it for a half hour daily and before I knew what happened, two years had passed. At that point I was introduced to my first teacher, Shinzen Young. I went on my first silent retreat, and the course of my life was forever altered in a way I could never have imagined.
I feel lucky because developing a consistent practice happened fairly effortlessly. It didn’t take tremendous discipline, and it quickly gave me a reward I could taste, however subtle. Other people aren't as lucky. In fact, I would say consistency is the number one challenge people face in their practice, but consistency is an essential ingredient to see real results in your life.
If you’ve recognized the value of meditating, but you’re struggling to develop your practice, please know you're not alone! Here are some suggestions which will hopefully support you in the process:
1. Make it important.
Your meditation practice needs to be prioritized for it to help you the way it’s designed to. Think about ways you know meditation is helpful to you, and keep making it a priority. Once you make a clear commitment, your life will fall into place around your practice, and your practice will support your life.
2. Set goals.
When I decided to give meditation a shot, I knew it was not a quick fix. So, I set a goal of 1/2 hour per day for three months. More than any other step I took, setting that initial goal created the habit of practice. If you take only one of the tips I’m offering here, this is the one!
3. Find an interesting practice.
Sometimes the first practice you’re exposed to is not the best one for you. Unfortunately, many people blame themselves at that point and assume they’re not capable of meditating. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! It can be hard to establish a practice, so do yourself a favor and find a method that’s interesting and engaging to you.
4. Establish the routine.
It’s ideal to do your practice at the same time every day, but some people’s schedules don’t allow for this. If your schedule varies, I recommend figuring out an open window of time each day when you wake up, then set an alert to remind yourself. Your meditation practice needs steady tending to grow strong.
5. Remember, location matters.
When starting your practice, pick your spot. We're creatures of habit, so make that work to your advantage! Once the habit is firmly established, feel free to roam.
6. Make practice time manageable.
I recommend a minimum of 10 minutes a day to establish your practice. Who can’t find 10 minutes?
7. Find a group or partner.
Meditating with someone else or in a group can be a great way to keep your practice on track. You can ride on the group energy and enjoy the shared experience. Online forums can also provide a source of connection. Socializing gives meditation more of a chance to seep into your life, enriching the experience and providing further motivation and support.
8. Find a teacher you trust.
A teacher is like a personal trainer. A good teacher can help you stay focused and optimize your practice time! Practice involves vulnerability, so make sure to find someone you trust, who has the ring of authenticity for you.