Challenges & Intelligent Strategies for Creating a Daily Meditation Practice
You’ve heard about the benefits of meditation, for body and mind: How it promotes relaxation, relieves stress, enhances energy and improves concentration. You know that with a regular meditation practice, you could cultivate an abiding sense of wellbeing throughout your daily activities, and develop insight — direct perception — into life’s deepest questions.
This sounds great!
So why is it so challenging to develop and stick with a daily meditation practice? The answer is actually quite simple, and twofold: First, to develop any new habit requires a certain amount of skillful perseverance. We become comfortable with our habitual ways of doing things, and this repetitive action deepens specific neural pathways, which condition future action. It’s like a well-worn pathway through a grassy field — which then becomes the default route, the way we automatically travel, without even thinking about it. To do it differently — to form a new habit — requires a concerted effort.
And secondly, meditation is an activity whose nature is profoundly different from the vast majority of our other daily activities. How so? It requires us to turn our attention inward, to pay attention to much more subtle phenomena than we’re used to paying attention to. It requires us to unhook from the pattern of being externally focused on the objects and events of the world — and become interested instead on the space of awareness, within which all of this activity is happening. Because the quality of this activity of meditation is so different from what we’re used to, there’s bound to be a bit of internal resistance, or confusion around how exactly to go about it.
Given these challenges, how can we go boldly forth into creating our daily meditation habit? Here are five time-tested tips to support you in making this most beneficial and revolutionary leap …
• Same place. Choose a spot in your house or apartment to be your designated “meditation corner.” Make this place special with a vase of flowers, or a candle, or a photograph or painting that inspires you: just something simple to remind you of your purpose. When you arrive at this place, its simple beauty should bring a gentle smile to your face, and a sense of saying “ahh” from deep inside — already a step in the direction of meditation.
• Same time. Choose a time that will be your designated “meditation time,” and then honor this commitment in the same way that you would honor the commitment to meet a friend for lunch, or arrive at a scheduled doctor’s appointment. This “appointment with yourself” is actually the most important appointment of all!
• Share the journey. If possible, find a practice partner — someone who you’re able to sit with once a week or more, and touch base with to share experiences and offer support. The ZenFriend community is a great resource for connecting with like-minded friends.
• Enjoy yourself. Though there’s an element of discipline that’s required to create and sustain a meditation practice, do your best to cultivate an attitude of openness and curiosity. Be interested and enthusiastic. Think of this as a wonderful adventure, into territory that is at once deeply familiar and utterly new. Yeah!
If you take to heart these five tips — same place, same time, and being modest, sharing the journey and enjoying yourself — your chances of creating and sticking with a daily meditation practice are truly excellent.