Here are some strategies that will help you stay steady on the path of a regular meditation practice.
“Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait.” George Harrison
It’s the New Year. You make a vow to yourself: This is going to be the year that I commit to my meditation practice. You dust off your meditation cushion, buy a new candle and bust out the prayer beads. You’ve got this! You’re motivated for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. But then something shifts. These voices come into your head and they’re telling you not to meditate. Let’s call these voices Resistance and Distractions. (Let’s capitalize, personify these forces!)
The inner voice of Resistance sounds like a whine. It says I don’t want to meditate. I’m tired, sick, busy. Just skip this one meditation. This seductive, slithering voice may also try to lure you into the den of Distractions. Have a glass of wine. Lie down and binge-watch something on Netflix.
Tempting, but here are some strategies that will help you stay steady on the path.
Invite Mara for tea and meditate. Buddha acknowledged the distractions that Mara, the Demon God, bombarded him with, and invited him in for tea. Resistance and Distractions will not go away any time soon, in fact, they may re-double their efforts as you establish your practice. Acknowledge that Resistance and Distractions are babbling away in your head. Invite them in for tea, and while they guzzle it down, do your meditation.
Meditate first, tea second. What’s the first thing you think of every morning? I wish my soul cried out for meditation in the morning, but it cries out for caffeine. Drinking caffeine before meditation makes it harder to calm the breath, heart and mind. When you wake up in the morning—wash your face, brush your teeth, and immediately begin your meditation sadhana. Reward yourself after meditation with your coffee or tea.
Establish a meditation routine. Create a half-hour routine that you can do every day. For example, ten minutes each of yoga, chanting and pranayama breathing. If you are tight on time, do a ten-minute breath or mantra practice. Do long and short meditations with concentration and devotion.
Eliminate digital distractions. Most of us use the cell phone as an alarm clock. Unless you are highly disciplined, it is very easy to go from shutting off the alarm to checking texts to surfing Facebook. By the time you get back to the thought of meditating, you’ll realize that you frittered away your meditation time. Consider purchasing a simple clock radio, or a clock. Don’t engage with the phone before meditating, unless the phone is helping you meditate.
Guided meditations, apps and chanting. A meditation routine that is done quietly offers the best opportunity for depth of practice. However, when you’re sick, traveling, or more distracted than usual, it can be helpful to put in ear buds and tune into inspiration. Deva Premal’s Mantras for Precarious Times offers seven simple mantras chanted 108 times each. Self Realization Fellowship and Tara Brach both have wonderful guided meditations. If you like using apps, try Calm or Headspace.
Parties and prayer. If you know you might imbibe at a party or dinner, carve out 15 minutes before you go out for meditation practice. Reinforcing a regular schedule of meditation upon waking up and before going to bed is important, so even if you’ve had a glass of wine, do an extra credit woozy prayer (with sincerity!) before bed.
Meet will power, your new best friend. Maintaining a daily practice is a constant discipline. Resistance and Distractions are formidable foes, but there is another strong voice, let’s call her Will Power.
Making the decision to commit to a meditation practice is the first step, but Mara will try to throw you off track with every trick in the book. Will Power is the secret weapon within that helps to fight against the ever-present resistance to meditation and myriad distractions. Employ Will Power and these other strategies to walk with Resistance and dance with Distractions.
It’s the every day vigilance of saying no to resistance and distractions and yes to meditation that firmly roots you in a regular practice and provides a peaceful center point around which your ever-busy life will revolve.
Want more? Read ways to start your own meditation group.