1. Recognise the goodness
Meditation is good for you. It has the potential to bring consistent clarity, calm and control to your life. It translates into a quiet contentment, which is probably the most profound kind of happiness you can find. Remind yourself of this often and you’ll be motivated to find time to meditate.
2. Make it a basic habit
Establish meditation as a daily norm, as habitual as brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. (You do eat breakfast, don’t you?!) The best way – possibly the only way – to do this is meditate at the same time in the same place each day. It will help if you attach your meditation session to a “cue” that comes right before it, like getting out of bed or finishing breakfast. In other words, make it part of your daily routine.
3. Start small
Don’t try to meditate for longer than feels comfortable and enjoyable. It’s nearly impossible to establish a long-term habit that you don’t really like doing. The most important thing is to repeat your meditation every day (or nearly every day). If that means two minutes a day, no problem. As your practice progresses you’ll find yourself naturally extending the time, and occasionally reducing it, to what feels right for you.
4. Get comfortable
Don’t sit through pain. Try different positions and supports (cushions, meditation stool, or chair) and adjust until you find something that’s comfortable for the whole session. Minor irritations are normal – itches, a little ache here and there – but you do not have to put up with numbness or chronic ache.
5. Be patient
Sometimes your sessions will be wonderful, imbued with a profound clarity that stays with you long afterwards. Other times it won’t be like that at all! Don’t berate yourself, or give up, when your meditation sessions aren’t going as well as you’d like. There are usually causes, and even fragmented meditation is better than just about anything else for understanding and easing those causes.
6. Join others
Meditating in a group can be quite different from meditating alone. Think of group meditation as fuel for your solitary daily practice, and take opportunities to meditate with others whenever you can. Consider joining one of our meditation groups, if you haven’t already.
7. Go on retreat
An intensive retreat of two or more days at a dedicated retreat centre can really help establish and deepen your practice. You’ll be free of your usual distractions and responsibilities, which in turn frees your mind to become more spacious and concentrated. Dhanakosa, near Stirling, or Taraloka (women only) in Shropshire, are two wonderful retreat centres.
8. Use an app
I use an app – “meditation timer” – on my phone and have found it quite helpful. I’ve set up four different meditation sessions with different stages and lengths, which frees me from clock watching when I have only a certain amount of time available.
9. Read a book
I recommend “Wildmind” by Bhodipaksa, or for a more advanced study, “Buddhist Meditation” by Kamalashila. Both are available from Amazon in book or Kindle format, or they can be purchased directly from our centre.
10. Let the spirit spread
The states of mind and emotion you uncover in your formal meditation sessions – let them freely permeate other areas of your life. When you’re walking, become aware of your footsteps rising and falling, much like your breath. When you’re driving become aware of the other drivers as not so different from yourself, just people hoping to be happy and well. When you’re listening to someone, really concentrate on their words, just like you do on your breath. And so on. Be creative and you’ll find all kinds of opportunities for spontaneous meditation.