A Psychologist and Buddhist Nun Explain How to Sustain a Regular Meditation Practice
We liked meditation and the teachings when we felt inspired and in touch with ourselves and on the right path. But what about when it begins to feel like a burden, like we made the wrong choice and it’s not living up to our expectations at all? — Pema Chodron
A meditation practice is kind of like a weight loss diet. It’s easy to start, but often abandoned when old habits and daily events get in the way. See what a psychologist and a Buddhist nun have to say about how to meditate regularly so you can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
Some obstacles are relatively easy to fix, and some will require more effort. By starting with the simpler stuff, you’ll build a strong foundation to support you when it’s time to tackle deeper issues.
Robert Puff, a clinical psychologist, writes about meditation for modern life for Psychology Today. His piece on How to Maintain a Consistent Meditative Practice has excellent advice for beginners or anyone interested in getting a firm grasp on the basics:
Create a comfortable atmosphere: Set up a quiet and inviting space. You can sit on your couch or special cushions. Do what relaxes you whether it’s burning incense or looking at a pretty poster. Sit up straight, and wear loose clothing.
Reach out for support: Let others know that you’re trying to carve out a time free from distractions. When they find out what you’re doing, they might want to join you.
Know your limits: Keep it brief at first, and increase your sessions gradually. You might want to break it down into 2 sessions a day. A few minutes of good quality meditation can make a big difference and it’s actually more effective than forcing yourself to sit for too long while your mind wanders uncontrolled.
Follow these suggestions consistently, and you’ll probably feel happier, calmer, and more productive. Think of it as training your mind so you can handle bigger things just like you’d train your body to run longer distances or lift heavier weights.
If you meditate long enough, you’re likely to discover that there’s a common misconception that meditation is all good vibrations. In reality, there can also be confusion, anger, and sadness. Think of your mind like a pool of water. Meditation stills the surface so you can see what’s underneath, and that might include some uncomfortable stuff.
The natural first reaction may be to forget about meditating when it stops feelings good. However, you’re coming to the greatest rewards if you hang in there. Remember that meditation didn’t put that uncomfortable stuff there. It just revealed it so you can resolve it.
The beloved Buddhist nun Pema Chodron explains 3 steps in a traditional Buddhist approach to working with such chaos, and these methods can be adapted to any belief system.
Look at it: Go towards what scares you instead of averting your eyes. When you run away, you tell yourself you can’t handle the truth. When you face situations, you discover what you’re capable of.
Use it: Connect with suffering. Use it to develop more compassion for yourself and others. Resolve to be kinder and more patient.
Befriend it: View everything as a manifestation of energy and wisdom. Think of the times something bad happened, and it wound up changing you and your life for the better. Listen for what that uncomfortable stuff is saying to you, and you might wind up being grateful for the message.
While you’re working to create a regular meditation practice, it’s nice to have resources you can count on .