To start a meditation practice can feel a bit dauting for two main reasons: first because you don’t know how to do it, it’s not something that is taught to us. And second, it means starting a new routine.
For me it was difficult, and it still is. I have no doubt about the benefits of meditation, yet I still find it hard to find time to stop and practice it.
Meditation is a skill: that means you do get better at it with practice. It’s like learning to play an instrument. And therefore there is a difference between practicing 10 minutes a day and not practicing at all.
What I will share with you here are some tools that helped me on developing my meditation practice. I will try to answer some of the most common practical questions like where to start, how much time one should meditate or how to get the motivation to practice it day after day.
My goal is to inspire you to meditate regularly for you to feel the rewards of a consistent meditation practice.
1.WHY DEVELOP A REGULAR PRACTICE
When you are trying to develop a new habit, or when you start to do something new in a consistent way, this is one of the most important things to consider: Why do you want to do it? Especially when establishing a meditation practice, otherwise you will feel you have no reason to do it and you end up finding excuses not to do it.
The interesting thing here is, often that reason goes deeper than the initial why that brought you to meditate for the first time.
Most people start a meditation practice because they need a pause or as a stress relief tool, but with time they discover some other benefits like deeper levels of awareness available within, longer lasting health benefits or the possibility for real personal expansion.
Your why is going to be unique to you, but connecting to this will help you show up, as this is the thing that will get you out of bed each day, that will help you move beyond the excuses and all the reasons that will come into your head not to, it will help you stay connected to your practice and sit.
2.MAKE THE COMMITMENT
If you want to develop a solid practice, the only way to do it is making the commitment of making your practice a priority.
We have busy lives. I’m sure you know the feeling of having your attention fractured by job and family, social life or the distraction of electronic diversions. It can be challenging.
My advice: schedule your meditation practice and make it a point to keep that time.
You can start by bringing self-awareness on the excuses your mind is telling you. “I don’t have the time” is an excuse. Not having the time means not having your priorities clear, this is another reason knowing your why is important.
When you understand the importance of making time for you, you will find the time.
Write it on your agenda, don’t leave it for last. Schedule it.
It can be hard for all of us to find the extra time. But it is extremely important to plan. After, you just must show up consistently as best you can.
You will start seeing results and that will be all the motivation you need to continue.
When you have a meditation practice, and you set aside that space, it can create more freedom; as you become more focused, have more clarity, feel more grounded and productive throughout the rest of your day.
Understanding the importance of it, and to realize it’s not a waist of your time but instead it can make you gain, not only time, but energy and joy, is crucial for your commitment to the practice.
3. FOR HOW LONG SHOULD I PRACTICE?
Like any other process of learning: start small and work up.
If you are a starting your practice, begin for 10-15 minutes a day.
When we sit to meditate, we need some time just to settle down, we cannot expect everything to get quiet straight away. So, the first part of the practice is to create a sense of calm in the nervous system and in the body, and only after we can focus the mind.
You can gradually increase your time; this will be very organic and fluid as practice continues. When you start to feel comfortable with your practice you can sit for 20 minutes, and advanced meditators sit for 30 minutes or more.
However, this is all very subjective. If you have a busy day and all you have are a few minutes (or moments) to connect with your breath, then just do that. You will still feel the benefits over doing nothing at all. Or if one day, you can only do a shorter practice, it’s ok. It’s all about balance.
My advice: start small and realistic, this will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. 10 minutes of daily practice will have a profound impact in your life and when you start feeling the benefits of it, rather than just reading and hearing about it, the more you will want to continue doing it and your practice will naturally grow. This will also make it joyful and something to look forward to, instead of something you have to do.
Work out what is possible for you, begin, and build up from there.
4. AT WHAT TIME SHOULD I MEDITATE?
One of the main questions that people ask. There is no right time to meditate, it’s going to be different to everyone.
The right time for you, is the time when you are going to be able to practice it in a regular way. If you can figure out the best time for you and stick with it, this will help you to create a routine.
Me, personally, I have my meditation practice in the morning. I like the silence of the mornings and I set the intentions for the day. However, I am not rigid with my practice. If I have a busy day out, I can do it at lunch break or in the evening, before bed.
We all have different schedules, so find the time that works for you and that doesn’t interfere with your day (or you will create resistance).
My advice here is to experiment. Notice how you feel when you meditate at different times and what works with your daily routine. Sometimes what we think works for us, just brings tension, only by experimenting will you know.
One last thing: don’t be hard on yourself. If you miss a practice one day, just show up on the day after. If your routine changes, be open to meditate on another schedule.
Practical tip: CONNECT IT TO ANOTHER REGULAR HABIT. The quickest way to develop your practice routine, and create new habit pathways, is to attach it to something you already do consistently.
I’ll give you my example: In the morning first thing I do when I wake up is to have a glass of water with lemon. I brush my teeth and I do my morning meditation practice followed by some stretching exercises. Next I have breakfast and shower. It was easy to adapt, when I started I just needed to wake up 15 minutes earlier, and I attached my practice between my morning water and breakfast.
5.WHERE DO I MEDITATE?
This is one of the wonders of the practice: you can do it anywhere.
Some people find it easier to sit in the same place each time. It helps them to create a routine.
You don’t need to create any special scenario. Your favourite chair, a comfortable cushion or couch, in your favourite spot in the house, is perfect. A place where you feel good and comfortable. You probably have that space already, mine is on my office, near a window, in a comfortable couch. Is also where I read, I didn’t have to make any alterations or to adapt it in any way. And, of course, if you want you can add an extra dimension to your space, by adding a candle, a warm blanket, plants or whatever makes sense to you.
Other people just prefer to do their meditation practice on their lunch break in the park, or in the train on their way to work. It’s ok. Whatever fits in your schedule and helps you to create a routine.
6. FIND A TEACHER
This is important. One of the reasons people don’t give meditation a fair chance is because they feel they fail at it. Well, meditation has to be taught. If you never learned, how will you do it? There is a lot of misconception about it, and that is why is so important to find a good teacher that you feel comfortable with. Questions and doubts are normal and a big part of the process. Also it’s good to have someone to support you, to share experiences and to explore any challenges that come up.
Nowadays you can find teachers in many different places: online, on apps or in classes. Just look for it and find one that resonates with you.
My advice: create a community for yourself. It can be online or in a studio, or just to go on a retreat occasionally, but to have other people to interact and share your experience will keep you motivated. You can meet regularly, and this creates connection. When we meditate in a group, we begin to see that we all have the same challenges and struggles within meditation. And in a group our practice goes deeper.
7. MEDITATE WITH A CONSISTENT TECHNIQUE
Again consistency. There are so many different techniques out there to try, find one that you connect with and practise that for a period.
Whatever it is, the more you can stay with one technique helps you to build that consistency, the body gets to know what to expect on a physiological level, it helps to rewire the neural pathways, and you can start to see the benefits.
8. CHALLENGE YOURSELF
In order to transform your practice into a habit, you need to go through the difficulty of the first months. To pass through this first period in a supported way could be a good idea. You can find online groups that often run challenges, like a 30 days meditation challenge, with guided meditations, where you’ll have the support of the community. You also have apps, where usually the first 7 days are free, and you can challenge yourself to finish it.
Remember, if you miss a day, or more, don’t give up and feel like a failure. It happens. Just begin again next day and start where you left off.
WHAT IF I HAVE A SETBACK? It’s ok. Its life happening. If you have a setback just acknowledge that and you can begin again. It’s normal when you start to build a regular practice, to not always be able to keep up the consistency. It happened to me. When I started, I remember to not being able to find the time (but I had time to endless scrolling on my Phone). It takes time, and a few fails, and the commitment to get back to maintain it.
One of the realities of meditation is that when we practise consistently it starts to bring up some deep awareness. These aren't always easy to face and can be challenging, but they don't have to stop you from practising.
And this is another reason why support it’s important. If you need meditation support you can always contact me, or any other teacher. Sometimes the practice can feel a little overwhelming and it’s very ensuring to have someone to count on.
On the other side of the challenge I promise you it gets easier and you begin to have some real shifts that can be life changing in a very positive way.
9. BE KIND
This is my most precious tip: be kind to yourself throughout your meditation journey.
Whenever things get challenging or you have a difficult day, see if you can bring in a sense of compassion, of self care.
We all have off days, and you're not alone on this journey.
If you're having a challenging day, you might like to ask yourself: What do I need right now? How can I take care of myself in the moment? Can you speak to yourself the way you would to a good friend?
Journaling after meditation has helping me to maintain my practice and to improve it.
It assists you to reflect on your meditation journey, develop a greater understanding of what is going under the surface, and helps you to see the underlying patterns that might be holding you back in life, or identify areas for development.
This can be something you write a short paragraph on after you meditate, and you can either keep the notes to look back on later. Or simply write it all out and then bin it, more as a brain dump to help you with processing your experience.
Some of the questions you can ask yourself: What insights did I have from this meditation? What do I think about consistently? Is this something I need to work on outside my meditation practice? How stable was my meditation? Was I able to keep focus or did I feel distracted? Was I kind to myself with any challenges?
Remember: you don’t need much time for this. Some days you can just write a line, another days 5 minutes. Just go with the flow here.
11. IT’S YOUR PRACTICE
Own your practice. What works for me or someone else, might not be right for you.
Find that spark that helps you to show up each day, acknowledge yourself for being there, and most of all be kind to yourself with any setbacks or challenges.
This is one of the biggest ways to growth, so give yourself that support you need to move through them, so that you’re able to continue on.
It definitely gets easier with time and consistency, and if you’re like me, you might just fall in love a little with your practice, it nurtures and supports you, and carries you through your life with just that little bit more ease and grace.
“ The most powerful benefits of meditation come from having a regular daily practice.” ~ Deepak Chopra
I hope this is useful for you! Let me know if this information helped you in ny way and if you are having difficulties or struggles with meditation, please reach out.
Take good care of you,