September 18, 2013

10 Easy Steps To Establishing a Daily Meditation Practice.

photo: flickr/Ryan Oelke

Ah, meditation.

Like all the other shoulds and musts in life, it’s hard to make it a daily habit. We are so burdened by the laundry list of our day to day responsibilities, the thought of adding one more thing is enough to make our brains explode and our bodies march over to the nearest source of ice cream and start scooping.

We are busy. Who has the time to sit for 10 minutes every single day and do “nothing”?

Well, first of all, we do a lot of nothing already, so if you’re cutting into your Facebook or your television time, you’ll probably be okay. I don’t say this derogatorily—I was on Facebook moments ago, and I was most certainly not meditating.

But, as the saying goes, “Everyone should meditate for at least 10 minutes a day. Those who are too busy, should meditate for an hour.”

Thank you, Buddhism, for yet another lucid catchphrase.

More importantly, though, meditating is unlike any of the other “chores” we do, in that it is the exact opposite of work. If you begin to look at your meditation time as a mini-vacation, you’ll have a lot more success in your practice.

People can be quite mystified by meditation, and often wonder if they are doing it “right.”There are conflicting schools of thought on this, and many different styles of practice.

For my money, though, the simplest way is often the best and has all the benefits of any other method. Ten minutes a day of mindful sitting (or lying down) will buy you centeredness, self awareness, peace and compassion. Not a bad deal.

Here’s how:

1) Find a place.

It doesn’t have to be a special place (though it can be– I have a shrine set up in my closet with my favorite Buddha and some embroidered pillows and prayer flags and such.) It just has to be a place where you can shut the door and be comfortable for ten minutes.

If you have kids like me, consider making a sign to put on the door of this place reading “Do not disturb.” Then make a pact with yourself never to open that door while meditating unless the house is literally burning down.

2) Have a timer.

I use my cell phone. The last thing you want while meditating is to succumb to the compulsion to peek at the clock. There are lovely ringtones you can download so your alarm isn’t jarring. I recommend one with Tibetan singing bowls. In a pinch, a cheap kitchen timer will do.

3) Have a time.

Pick a time of day when you are most likely to consistently sit. Many people say you must meditate in the morning. Hogwash. Meditate any time that makes sense for you.

4) Write it down.

Make an appointment with yourself for your meditation until it becomes a habit.

5) Sit (or lie down).

Sitting is preferable if you tend to fall asleep as soon as you lie down, but if you have back problems or other issues, lying down is fine as long as you stay awake. Make sure you can remain comfortably in whatever posture you choose for ten minutes. Leaning against a wall or sitting in a straight backed chair is fine, as is sitting on a cushion or folded blanket. Experiment. See what works for you.

6) Close your eyes.

Feel the automatic shift in perception the moment your eyes close. Take a “look” around inside your body. Move from the face to the neck, to the chest, the belly, the arms and hands, the knees and the feet, relaxing each part as you go. Notice any tension in the body and try to release it. Let your facial expression be neutral, except perhaps for a tiny Buddha smile on your mouth. That tiny smile is the fastest way to soften the face and the mind.

7) Focus on your breath.

Feel the air entering and leaving the nostrils. Notice the belly rise and fall. Any time your mind wanders, and it will, acknowledge the intrusive thought by labelling it. You can label it with an emotion (fear, confusion, happiness) or with a noun (work, family, plans). Then let it go and return to the breath.

8) Repeat step 7 for 10 minutes.

9) Turn off your timer.

Once you’ve turned it off close your eyes again for a few moments as you reflect on your meditation and how it made you feel. Take some deeper breaths here and feel yourself transition from a meditative state to a more conscious state.

10) Give thanks.

In many ways the most important part of meditating is taking the opportunity to express gratitude daily. I believe the key to happiness is simple; cultivating and living with a profound appreciation for all that we are given. Getting into a habit of expressing thanks actually rewires your thinking and will change your life.

Good luck and happy sitting!


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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