It's a fairly common occurrence to experience some resistance to establishing a daily meditation practice.
Our minds are so used to constant stimulation and only partially paying attention to whatever it is we're attending to, that the act of sitting quietly with ourselves and training our attention on one particular object, can feel like a radical act.
The beauty of meditation (aside from the significant benefits) is that it requires next to no equipment, and is always available. As long as you're breathing, you can sit quietly and turn inward.
Here are eight ways you can make establishing a daily meditation practice just that little bit easier:
1. Just sit: Even if you find yourself resisting the idea of meditating, get your body onto the cushion (or chair), with the understanding that you need not stay for a long time if you don't feel like it. You may find that the simple act of sitting down is the hardest part. Once you're there, it becomes easy to remain there for 5 or 10 minutes. And that may be all you need to start establishing a consistent practice.
2. Let go of expectations: So often we can expect some sort of "special" experience and are disappointed when we discover our restlessness, our boredom, our resistance to simply allowing us to look at what is happening for us in that particular moment.
Meditation is not about getting any where other than where you are right now, or experiencing anything other than what's arising for you right now. Once you establish some stability of attention, you'll find that even the most mundane things become more nuanced and interesting with sustained attending.
3. Make it part of your daily routine: No matter what the habit, leaving something open to discretion means we're more likely to tell ourselves we're too tired, or simply don't have the time. In the same way that cleaning your teeth, or going to work is an unquestioned part of your daily routine, so too is meditation.
If you carve out a time in your day that suits you (many people find first thing in the morning is easiest), it means you don't have to continuously argue with yourself as to why it's a good idea to meditate - you just do it.
4. Make yourself comfortable: Meditation should not just be for the masochists amongst us. It is, in fact, a radical act of self love. Do what you can to set up a space that is comforting and peaceful. Whilst also acknowledging that it can sometimes be both physically and mentally uncomfortable to sit and face so much of what we hide from through continual busyness and motion.
5. Relax: Depending on what sort of meditation you're doing, meditation is not about relaxing. This comes as a surprise to many. Mindfulness meditation, at least, is about bringing our intentional, non-judgmental attention to whatever is arising for us at any moment. It's not about striving or straining to reach a particular "special" state - be that relaxation or something else.
That being said, however, it can be helpful to set an intention to let go of noticeable areas of physical tension, or mental striving. And the body and mind has a wonderful capacity for homeostasis. Once we simply notice that we are tense and stress, without any sense of having to do anything, simply holding this in gentle awareness is often enough for us to loosen our grip a little.
6. Focus on your breath: Our breath - something so essential to life and yet so completely taken for granted. Unless we're struggling to breath, it something that barely warrants our attention. Yet it's always with us. And is a wonderful indicator of our physical and mental state. If your breath is ragged, shallow and fast, it's a fairly safe bet that you are stressed in some way.
Meditating on your breath is a wonderful way of stablising your attention. Remember, your job is not to control it - a common misconception amongst beginner mediators. Your focus is simply to watch it as it rises and falls. Your body knows how to breathe without any intentional control - it does it all day every day. Simply aim to feel it come in and out of your nostrils, or observe the rise and fall of your abdomen as you breathe.
7. Be kind to yourself: It won't take long, once you sit to meditate, for you to notice how much your mind wanders. This does not mean that you're doing it wrong, or you're one of the few people who simply can't meditate or any of the myriad stories we tell ourselves. What it does mean is that you're gaining valuable insight into how unstable our attention is most of the time - and this is a priceless realisation.
Once you realise your mind has wandered, simply bring it gently back to your object of attention (usually the breath). And do this again and again, for as long as you need to. Try not to become frustrated, or angry or despondent. And when you do become these things, be gentle with these feelings too. Knowing that we all experience them. This is all a very important part of learning to meditate.
8. Take what you learn off the cushion: This is one of the most challenging aspects of meditation. It's very easy to be mindfully aware when we're in silent meditation space, with very little external stimulation. It becomes much harder when we're bombarded with constant stimuli, when we're surrounded by people doing the very things that drive us crazy, when we're challenged in the hundreds of ways we always are through our daily lives. But try. Try to remain, even for short periods of time, aware of your thoughts and reactions; to perhaps create a little space between situations and your awareness of them. And know that this is the work of a lifetime.
Meditation has enormous benefits to our daily lives. We're told this constantly. Give yourself the time and space to notice these. There are difficulties too, of course. But once you start to see the tangible benefits of meditation in your daily life, your motivation becomes self-sustaining. And you continue to meditate, not because some faceless expert tells you it's good for you, but because you notice you're just that little bit kinder to yourself and those around you, and that you're that little less reactive to things that used to make you crazy angry or hysterically upset. You notice you don't take things quite so personally, that you're able to let go, even just a little, of the things you've habitually held so tight.
Have you noticed any differences when you've been meditating daily?