Have you meditated today? There are few skills you can learn in life that will enhance it more than meditation -we already know this. But what most of us don’t know is the real hurdle isn’t just learning how to meditate, it’s learning how to meditate daily.
Here’s something I’m not proud of: it took me four years of trying to start meditating on a daily basis.
I only meditated when I felt like it, and became frustrated when I wasn’t feeling all the benefits those famous people like Hugh Jackman, Jim Carrey and Buddha go on about in interviews. In contrast to Wolverine, I don’t meditate before I host the Oscars.
When I started going to meditation groups and talking to people around me, I realised I wasn’t struggling alone – almost everyone I spoke to about meditation craved the ability to practice every day, even if only for five minutes. Regular practice was a missing piece in a lot of puzzles.
And it’s really not hard to understand why we have trouble with this. Over 3,000 advertisements a day now jostle for our attention, and our minds have been sneakily trained to be always processing, multi-tasking and being asked to buy hamburgers or life insurance we don’t want.
It makes developing a daily habit of quieting the mind a challenge, but it’s a skill you can learn if you know how.
There’s a Hogwarts library of material out there about everything meditation, which is awesome. But if you want to transform your practice and take it to the next level, it’s essential that you learn how to meditate daily.
Here are the 5 best tips I’ve learned that help you do exactly that.
1. Keep your goals in mind
This is crucial.
Most people mistakenly overlook this because it sounds like a paradox. Meditation should help you live in the present and stop planning the future, right? Yes – but you need to stay motivated.
When something isn’t a priority it’s going to get left behind as soon as you feel tired, get distracted or have a busy day. If you’ve ever tried keeping a regular fitness routine, you know what I’m talking about. Anything needing a commitment demands constant inspiration, or you run the risk of failing fast and wondering why the wheels fell off.
Since we’re trying to develop some consistency, you need a clear idea of where you’re going and why you’re going there.
Here’s how you can make sure you stay motivated to keep up your meditation schedule:
- Get a pen and paper, write down the top three reasons why you’re interested in meditation. How did you first hear about it? Is it a ‘mind like water’, a relaxed body or mental strength you’re after?
- If you haven’t already, go and do a bit of research and find a meditation technique, discipline or style that aligns with those goals. Here’s an easy place to start.
- Keep this list next to the place you meditate and review it every day. This made a big difference for me, and it know will for you too.
2. Lower your expectations
This is exactly what some of the veterans in the meditation groups told me to do before anything else.
You’ve no doubt been told to lower your expectations before, but I’m going to take it a little further: think of meditation like a new skill you’re terrible at. I chose dancing. I’m a terrible dancer, and unless I’ve had a few drinks, I move like an 80’s robot with a cheap circuit board.
When you lower your expectations about something, you immediately start relaxing, enjoying it more, and ironically, seeing faster progress. More time gets spent on the foundations because it’s no longer a race.
And hey, even if you really do get nowhere with your meditation, at least you lost nothing (but you will, I promise!).
3. Get used to uncertainty
Take a moment to consider your most treasured skill. Did you it take a while to learn? Chances are it did. And was every practice session a positive experience? I’ll bet there were almost as many frustrating moments as happy ones, when you felt like it was one step forward, two steps back.
But you know what? You still rocked up. You took the subway to the basketball courts, pulled out your guitar, or opened your books. Rain or shine. And I’m sure you didn’t think too often about whether it was worth it. You just did your thing.
Meditation is like that.
You’re always going to sit down and hope to feel awesome by the end of it, ready to write a status update about being connected to the universe and how pretty the bird outside your window is when it sings. But in reality, your sessions will ebb and flow, and sometimes you’ll feel like squeezing that goddamn bird until it pops.
But trust me, it’s worth putting up with the bad to get to the good, just like your favourite skill. Think about it like this: when you go to work, you expect to have good days and bad days. How do you deal with the bad days so well? Because you know at the end of that month or fortnight, you get rewarded. It’s easier to accept the day, dust yourself off, and move to the next one.
4. Read about it
This is simple: To build mastery faster, build your neural pathways by immersing yourself in meditation. Visit that magical library and ask the elves to find you a few things.
Read blogs, read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, talk to friends, connect with a group near you. Seek to understand the philosophy of meditation and discover the history of the practice. Read about the pioneers, and find out what they said.
Different teachers explain concepts in different ways. You will find something makes more sense when explained in a particular story, and relate to particular people and perspectives more than others.
One of the things that blows my mind about meditation is how rich its heritage is and how deeply you can analyse it, which is crazy considering it’s effectively doing nothing, and trying not to think about which subway sandwich you want for dinner.
I’ve read a huge number of books about meditation over the years and my understanding and quality of practice is infinitely better for it. Try this great list of meditation books for beginners, or read anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the guy who teaches Google how to relax.
5. Don’t take it so seriously
Some of my friends will have a chuckle at this one.
I churned through years of on-and-off meditation rituals and routines because I didn’t follow this simple piece of advice.
Take your exploration into meditation seriously, but don’t take it too seriously.
Firstly, make the time for it, respect it and make it a habit. Introducing any regular habit gets harder as we get older because we’re hardwired to live the same way we did yesterday. But the good news is you can do it. If you’re someone who’s never been great changing habits, watch Matt Cutts explain how.
But why shouldn’t you take it seriously?
Your mind can (and will) go all over the place when you’re meditating, and it’s easy to get angry with it. If you’re prone to self judgement, remember to loosen up! If your mind gets carried away when you’re trying to focus, bring it back. If it happens thousand times that’s ok. Identify it, Bring it back, move on.
Challenge: Give one of these a go for 30 days.
Apply all these and you will uphold a regular meditation practice in no time. Your mind will re-calibrate, and thank you for it later. Remember: Two steps forward, one step back, is still the way.
What did I miss? If there’s anything that’s worked particularly well for you that have made a massive impact on your ability to meditate daily, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!