It has been almost 10 years since I began developing a meditation practice.
And it has taken a very long time for it to “stick.”
I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do. Silence my mind? Impossible. Watch my breath? Watch it do what? For how long? What was I supposed to feel? How long would it take to reach enlightenment? Because, you know, I had to get to work.
When I first started to get serious about building a daily meditation practice, I would set a timer for just five minutes. How is it that sitting for five minutes could feel like an eternity? Unsure of how and why I was sitting, I would stop. I wasn’t invested enough to keep a steady practice. The simplest of distractions would disrupt my habit of sitting daily.
But there was always tug that kept me exploring different methods and different teachers. I was determined to learn how to meditate and to understand how to make it real for myself, how to make it feel like I was making progress alongside my inward journey.
There are many meditation practices out there, and not all are created equally. I have learned that practices are designed for different purposes. Some are meant for healing, others are meant for increasing awareness or compassion, and we may find ourselves drawn to certain practices based on our needs at the time. It is up to us to find one that resonates and keeps us committed to practice.
I have researched many teachers and methods of practice to find one that fits my life and helps me to discover myself more deeply. I don’t believe that the mind is the enemy for us to conquer. I believe that the mind has been in charge for our entire lives, and it will take time and patience to discover our innermost self. But when the balance shifts to something deeper, something more in line with our internal observer, we feel grounded and at peace, we discover our innermost truth.
When I first sit to practice, there are times when my mind is resistant and chatty. I’ll indulge my mind for a moment or two before beginning my practice. I let that be okay. Then, I create an invitation for my mind to follow points along the body in aharana pranayama, and, by the time I begin sweeping awareness along points in the body with deep, smooth breath, my mind is pulled in enough that the flow of breath and awareness is as seamless as a horse and jockey.
Practices that unite the mind and breath are critical in bringing peace to the body. That’s probably why I love practices like alternate nostril breathing (nadhi shodhana), aharana pranayama, and others where the mind and breath work in partnership. When we work with our mind as a partner, we join in a journey and, little by little, we unfold into a sense of unity.
These are the core practices of Vishoka mediation, and they’re the foundation of harnessing the mind to deepen meditation. Vishoka is a systematic approach to practice that uses breathing techniques to unite the body and mind. The techniques begin with learning how to strengthen the diaphragm and create smooth, steady breathing, thereby uniting the breath with awareness. (Learn more about the Vishoka meditation practice here.)
There are many meditation practices out there, and I encourage anyone looking for a practice to find one that feels right. And, once you do, continue to let the practice evolve. That means trying a method for at least 40 days before you abandon the practice and decide it doesn’t work. Giving the technique a sincere 40-day effort will be enough time to realize results, and then one can decide where to go from there.
I have been building a practice for the better part of a decade and what I have learned is that the practice of developing a practice has been an integral part of my journey. By trying on practices, learning new techniques, and wearing them for a period of time, I have learned how different practices affect my body, mind, and spirit. And part of the journey has also been all the times that I’ve dragged myself back to my meditation cushion again and again. It has taken me the better part of a decade to realize that all these tools have been me adding skills to develop a daily resource to steady my mind and calm my spirit.