For years, I’ve been someone with an unwavering curiosity about meditation. Unfortunately, as intrigued as I was, I also had little belief that I possessed the discipline and knowledge to implement it into my daily routine.
As time passed, my life became increasingly stressful. I would often use terms like, “overwhelmed” and “disconnected” to describe my state regularly in my journals.
Finally, as a new year was just around the corner (and after a summer of watching the entire Star Wars series for the first time and desperately wanting to become Yoda) I decided to make meditation my number one goal for the year. Even through the toughest of moments, it’s one decision that I will never regret.
Although I am certainly no Guru, I’ve learned a lot about meditation in general simply through trial and error. Of course, the most important thing I learned was the seemingly infinite ways that making meditation a daily habit benefited my life. These days, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s with joy and appreciation.
If you’re in a place where you’re interested in beginning a meditation practice, but you aren’t quite sure where to start or what to expect, here are a few key factors that have helped me stick with it long enough to feel real improvements in my everyday life.
A Daily Practice of 3-Minutes is Better Than Longer Sessions Once A Week
There are many differing theories about how long each meditation session should be. Transcendental Meditation vows that two 20-minute sessions a day is that sweet spot that will make all the difference. An Art Of Living Foundation course might tell you that their 35-40 minute breathing exercise will help you find your inner Zen.
While both schools of thought (and many more) can be true, when you’re initially trying to make meditation a daily habit, you need not worry about the length of your practice. The most important thing is that you pick an amount of time that is practical for you to perform daily.
It’s the practice of carving out (any amount of) time to get still and quiet with yourself that will put you in a position where you can steadily grow your practice over time.
Forget to meditate today? YouTube a “5 minute sleep meditation” before going to sleep. Of course, your goal should be regularity.
For instance, if you always meditate at the same time of day (when you first wake up, after the shower, right before bed, etc.) it will eventually become as ingrained in your brain as brushing your teeth!
However, it takes some exploration to figure out when the best time is for YOU, so don’t worry if you’re inconsistent at first. Just squeezing it in on a daily basis is enough to start.
Also, it will likely take several attempts, possibly over the course of years, to actually turn this goal into a reality. Don’t stress if you if you drop the ball. Keep going!!!
It Doesn’t Matter HOW You Meditate, Just That You Meditate At All
How you go about making meditation a daily habit really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Following the same concept as above above, there is no one-way, or even best way, to meditate.
Don’t let the idea of wanting to “do it right” prevent you from doing it at all. It’s important to remember that meditation is a life long practice. It takes time, and different experiences, to figure out what works best for you.
This means that to start, you can simply pick a free app (or free trial). You can even just YouTube the length of time you’d like your practice to be, and go for it. It could be guided, mantra, focused on breathing, or anything really!
It doesn’t mean that the kind of meditation you begin with is the kind of meditation you’re going to practice in one or five or twenty years from now. But you have to start somewhere, so go on and get your feet wet!
As you continue on your journey and try different methods, you will naturally begin to lean in one direction or another. Perhaps, as your practice becomes more regular, you’ll have a natural desire to explore different methods more thoroughly. This is a great idea to expand your practice!
I personally love Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day meditation challenge, which they make available for free every couple of months. Their challenge is a great way to gain consistency that will surely inspire you to keep going once your 21 days are complete.
Sometimes, you might even discover some low-cost or donation based meditation practices going on in your own neighborhood!
Don’t Fight Your Thoughts–You’re Not Going to ‘Clear your Mind’
I know this seems counter-intuitive, right? Why try meditation at all if it’s not going to clear your head?
While reaching that higher state of awareness sounds awesome, making your meditation practice goal-oriented in that way could work against you. You could wind up robbing yourself of the actual experience because you’re stressed out that your practice isn’t what you thought it should be.
I promise you that even if your thoughts are going 100 miles per hour, it’s still a constructive practice! Even if you spend your meditation practice being stressed out because of your pesky thoughts, it’s STILL constructive!
There are times when I go into a session feeling aggravated, and still, I somehow feel better throughout my day. I still feel that deeper sense of connection to myself and others. I found that I was able to bring myself back to the present moment rather than fretting about some trivial matter.
When my mind get away from me, I take a moment to recognize those thoughts and focus on them (even welcome them) for a few seconds. But then I remind them (and myself…one and the same) that I can resume thinking about them after my meditation (if need be), because now is my time to rest. Then I lovingly bid them farewell.
More often than not, they’ll return again. But the act of recognizing your thoughts is a huge part of the process. No matter how often you have to shoo them away, you’re still taking a giant step in the right direction.
The key is that, no matter what, DON’T WORRY!
I have learned that telling myself this throughout my practice has been really beneficial in slipping into a deeper, more content state. I (we) have the ability to stress about so many different things without even realizing it.
Am I doing this right?
Why can’t that thought go away?
Is this session even going to make a difference in my life?
What deadline do I have coming up?
Am I capable of accomplishing all that I want in life?
When you meet these thoughts with “Don’t worry!” it’ll feel like a great weight has been lifted, and it can be a game changer for your meditation.
Ready to Make Meditation a Daily Habit?
When beginning your meditation practice, it’s really about patience. Over time, your desire to learn more and “go deeper” will blossom. You’ll begin to notice how impactful being in the present moment is.
Your eventual goal will be to find one daily meditation practice that works best for you. Even better, one that you can implement at the same time every day effortlessly. It could take a lot of exploration and time before you achieve that sort of regimen.
Luckily, meditation is a powerful enough tool that you don’t need to wait for that sort of perfection before feeling the benefits. So be kind to yourself and enjoy the journey!