Meditation can quickly become like your new diet or going to the gym: just another chore that you beat yourself up for not doing. The challenge of establishing a daily meditation practice is universal, and it’s really the first step on the road to mastering your mind. Every beginner faces the monumental task of establishing their practice, so here’s how you can approach the challenge.
1. Momentary Meditations
At this point, you’ve probably meditated enough to feel its benefits, but you’re not good about prioritizing it in your day. A common mistake is to stress about the fact that you should meditate. In fact, the very mental voice that harasses you about meditating is the exact voice you’re trying to subdue through meditation! So, it makes absolutely no sense to indulge that voice by beating yourself up.
Whenever your internal dialogue starts stressing that you’re not meditating enough, just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths with full, mindful awareness. This momentary meditation will halt the negative thought pattern in its tracks. Once the feeling of anxiety passes, carry on with whatever you were doing. If you can meditate for longer than a few breaths, go for it. But if not, don’t worry about it.
After doing these momentary meditations for a little while, one day you’ll notice a joyful desire to meditate, rather than angst & frustration.
But that voice of anxiety is quite cunning, because it will quickly mutate into another common excuse: time. Most everyone faces the pitfall of feeling like there’s simply not enough time to meditate. But the sad truth is the more you feel like you don’t have time to meditate, the more you need to meditate. No matter how busy you are, you owe it to yourself to make time for silent stillness. If you have time to go to the bathroom, then you have time to meditate.
If your mental voice is resisting your joyful desire to meditate, then try bargaining with yourself.
The average meditator sits for about twenty minutes each session, up to an hour. If your mind is balking at sitting still for twenty minutes, try fifteen minutes instead. Or ten. Or five. Even one minute is better than nothing. In this manner, practice your meditation for even just one minute at a time, every time that you feel a desire to practice. Eventually, the pleasure of the practice itself will naturally entice you to lengthen your sessions until you’re comfortably sitting for twenty minutes and hungry for more when the bell rings.
When Gandhi was asked how he found the time to meditate in between being a husband, father, politician and spiritual guru, he said something along the lines of, “When I feel that I am too busy to meditate for one hour every day, I meditate for two hours.” Meditate, and your perception of time will relax, giving you ample time for all your tasks.
3. Give the Gift
Ultimately, in order to successfully establish a daily meditation practice, you need to change the language your mind uses to conceptualize the practice. If your mind is convinced that meditation is something you should do, that it’s an unpleasant chore or difficult task that must be accomplished, then you’ve already lost the fight.
Instead, realize that meditation is a gift that you give yourself. It is a break, a respite, a private vacation from the world, from your problems and even from yourself. You wouldn’t pass on a free spa day because you were too busy, would you? Of course not. But that’s exactly what you’re doing each time you opt to skip meditation; you’re depriving yourself of a much needed release valve from the continual barrage of information from the outside world and your own mind.
Most people establish their daily practice in fits and starts. They’ll go strong for a few consecutive weeks before falling off the wagon, only to discover that they’re suddenly more irritable, more tense, more restless than they were the preceding weeks. After going through this cycle a few times, most people realize that the meditation is what keeps all that anxiety at bay, and they never look back.
If you’re having trouble establishing a daily meditation practice, don’t get discouraged. Remember that you’re facing the very first hurdle on the path, and that it’s totally normal. Simply apply the methods above to slowly and methodically gain true mastery over your mind.