Daily Meditation Practice

Participants in our stress reduction classes and our mindful eating classes often find that it's relatively easy and rewarding to find moments of mindfulness in everyday life, but more difficult to engage in formal meditation practice with the same consistency. Here are a few things that can help you establish some regularity in your meditation practice.

Know why you want to meditate
. This is first and foremost, because you won't do it unless you are aware of its value to you. Maybe you realize that your ability to be mindful in everyday situations depends on developing that mindfulness in more concentrated periods of formal meditation (this is actually what the research suggests). Spend some time reflecting on your reasons for meditating. See the earlier post on The Most Important Thing for a deeper discussion of this point.

Meditate in a particular place. If you dedicate a room or a corner of a room to your meditation practice, it will invite you on a regular basis and support your practice.

Meditate at a regular time. This could be "clock" time - 8:00 am every day, for example - or "life" time - after you have breakfast or before you walk the dog.

Find a sitting position that feels good. You won't sit unless it's basically pleasurable for you. Even though some postures are more strenuous, they can also feel very open and pleasurable. There is often a feeling of satisfaction that comes from taking on these yogic asanas. It's okay for your sitting posture to be physically challenging as long as it is also physically rewarding.

Figure out the right practice for right now. Body scan, walking meditation, sitting meditation with breath counting, breath poems, breath watching, attention to posture, attention to sounds - there are many options within easy reach. What do you need right now? First, the practice should be consistent with you own values and interests. Second, it's good to remember: the more stress you have, the more structure you probably need. The structure provided by a guided meditation (a body scan, using an mp3, or reciting a breath poem to yourself) is likely to be more calming than a less structured meditation in periods of high stress and mental chatter.

Take care of yourself if a negative state arises. If you are agitated or find youself becoming worried or anxious during your meditation, make the commitment to nourish yourself through those more challenging experiences. Using the breath poem we practiced - "It's okay, just as it is..." - or a gatha that you have written yourself, might help to sustain your meditation through difficult patches.

It's not optional. Consider your meditation to be just something you do, and not anything special. Usually, we don't consider brushing our teeth or taking a shower to be optional. Take that attitude toward your meditation.

Let go of competing intentions. The key to doing something is to relinquish your intention to do some other thing. Some of the real benefits of mindfulness practice are manifest when we develop our skill at letting go of thoughts we are preoccupied with. Consider the thoughts that interfere with meditation ("I should really take out the garbage now") to be something with which you can practice letting go: They are just thoughts, after all, and learning to see them for what they are and let them go is a cornerstone of mindfulness.

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