Beginning a meditation practice is a wonderful thing. Beginning a meditation practice with crazy expectations–as in, “I’m going to meditate from now on, every day of my life”–is a nutty thing. Establishing new habits takes time and an unswerving focus on incremental steps.
Here are some thoughts about how to slowly bring your practice to life in such a way that it will become ingrained, as opposed to a bright flash of light that is here and gone.
1. Try to practice at the same time each day. There is nothing magical about this, it’s just that our habits seem to take root more readily when such a routine is established.
2. Establish a realistic goal. Don’t say to yourself, “I’m going to meditate every single day for 20 minutes.” Why? Because you won’t. Then, when you fall off the wagon, you’ll feel like crap and become even less likely to practice. Instead, set up something completely doable–for you. For example: promise yourself to practice for 10 minutes per day, M-F for 4 weeks. At the end of that time, reassess. If 10 minutes is too long, do 5. If M-F is extreme, just do the weekends. You get the idea.
3. Establish a place for your practice. No need to get fancy with silken-covered meditation cushions and ancient shrine objects imported from Bhutan. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Just keep it simple. Place your meditation cushion or chair in a spot you feel happy to be in–perhaps in a part of your house that gets gorgeous light or a corner of your bedroom that is quiet and peaceful. If you like, you could have a small offering table or shrine. Again, keep it simple. Just some fresh flowers or a candle or a photo of someone or something inspiring.
4. Before practice, affirm your commitment to what you are about to do by saying to yourself, “now is my time for practice–everything else can wait.” Because it can.
5. It might be helpful to read a paragraph or a page from a dharma book, or some other work you find meaningful.
To receive meditation instruction and ongoing support for your practice, sign up for The Open Heart Project. Here are some nice things people have said about it:
I so look forward to your emails. Every day you send one it seems to fit perfectly for that day. I first came across you last year when I read your book The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. It helped me through a rough patch, and I came out a better person. Please keep up the good work. I love meditating with you, as I am new to meditation. -CT
It is a great comfort to learn meditation from someone who is both inspiring and down to earth. I suffer from anxiety and have found that using your meditations are enormously helpful in gently encouraging me in a healthier direction. I love meditating along with someone else in my own home. Many heartfelt thanks. -MD
I have wanted to meditate for some time. I tried different books and cds, but nothing ever felt right or clicked for me. I often wondered if I was “doing it right”, or if I was being too picky, or expecting too much, or if I just had a commitment problem, or… etc etc etc. But YOU, wonderful Susan! You have taught me to meditate! You make me LOOK FORWARD to meditating! And I no longer wonder if I’m doing it right. I sit with you and it feels good. I let go and I breathe, and it has made me feel so peaceful. Meditating is helping me to be calm, and to think before speaking, and to notice beauty in the world, and these are all things I struggle with. Thank you for your generosity with your time and your wisdom. Thank you for the Open Heart Project. -LG