The words "mindfulness" and "meditation" are inescapable these days, with an endless amount of articles touting everything from stress reduction to better relationships and improved focus at work.
With the benefits of meditation backed by thousands of years of practice and scientific proof, there's not much reason left not to meditate.
Somehow, though, the three meditation apps on your phone and your new meditation cushion just aren't doing it for you. As with any new habit, it's not uncommon to struggle to build a routine and create and keep up momentum.
Here are some ways to get and stay in the flow of a regular meditation practice, with action steps to help get you on the right track.
1. Get very clear on your "why."
Every good vision starts with "why." You can read articles and get lectured by your doctor all day long, but without your own buy-in, it's going to be difficult to maintain a practice.
This can pose a challenge with meditation. Without the practice, you may not even be fully aware of what it will provide for
you. In the meantime, think about where your life is now and where you're looking to grow.
Do this now: Take out a piece of paper and free-write for five minutes about your vision for your life. How do you want to
wake up in the morning? What qualities do you want to bring to your work and relationships? Where do you find yourself stuck or suffering in your life? What patterns keep repeating?
2. Stop seeing meditation as a chore.
Sometimes I wish that meditation had a sexier name, like "nowcrabatics" or "brain trampoline." A rebranding of sorts. In a world
of constant activity, through our technology, jobs, and constant media bombardment, the idea of sitting quietly can feel like a
decidedly unsexy task.
But meditation isn't just something to cross off your to-do list before rushing on to the next thing. It is the end, not a means to an end.
Do this now: Enhance your meditation space. Creating a refuge or filling your space with objects like candles, flowers, or incense can
bring pleasure to the experience and liven things up a bit.
3. Set up triggers to help build your new meditation habit.
Almost every habit is built upon a trigger whether we are conscious of it or not. For example, we wake up and stumble into the bathroom to brush our teeth. There is a trigger (waking up) and a rooted habit (brushing your teeth).
For newer or more difficult habits, choosing to focus on the trigger rather than the result can be helpful in moving forward. For example, just putting on your workout clothes and driving to the gym will usually lead to getting out of the car and working out.
Some common triggers include time, location, or a preceding event. When I first started out with meditation, I made the commitment to go
straight from my bed to my meditation area, leveraging the triggers of time and location. As the benefits of the practice became more clear, the conversations about just hitting the snooze button one more time disappeared.
Do this now: Choose one or two triggers to remind you to sit and practice each day. Try setting an alarm; dimming the lights in your office; taking five deep, conscious breaths; or lighting a candle or stick of incense.
4. Start small.
When starting a new meditation practice, many people feel pressure to try to meditate for long periods of time. But this can
set you up for failure if your skills don't yet match up with your ambition.
So start small, just 5 to 10 minutes in the beginning, and don't try too hard. Just sit with the rise and fall of the breath and allow that
5 to 10 minutes to be enough.
As you become more comfortable with the training of your attention on the breath, you can steadily increase your time spent meditating.
5. Find a meditation group or community.
Meditation doesn't have to be done alone.
With the availability of all types of meditation, it's easy to locate local communities and meet-ups where you can sit together with others. Larger cities often have meditation studios where you can pay a monthly fee to drop in or attend classes.
Not only will you have the support, but you may make great new connections and have a place to process your experiences and grow with others.
Do this now: Google your city name and "meditation group" to see if there are any local options to start learning and practicing
meditation. Can't find something local or looking for more accountability? Check out OM*Lab’s live virtual meditation options.
Most importantly, don't forget to lighten up! Getting your meditation practice on track doesn't have to be so serious. You've got this.