I meditate for at least 45 minutes every day and it brought numerous benefits to my life. It wasn’t easy to develop that habit but now it’s more or less automatic.
For the benefit of all beings, I will tell you how I did it.
In a favorite book about meditation – The Mind Illuminated – you can learn about different stages of your practice.
The first stage is the most difficult as it’s about making an honest commitment to sit down and pay attention to your breath every day unless there’s a big emergency.
It’s really hard to do it at first – especially if you meditate solo. You’ll find lots excuses for not practicing and you’ll miss your days. But worry not, here’s the method you can implement to start a regular practice:
1. Make a strong decision you’re going to meditate
Making a decision means cutting yourself off from other possibilities and self-doubt. Starting a meditative practice requires a strong commitment and without it, you will simply not follow through on your plans.
Write it down. Make a plan. Say – “This year I’m going to become a good Vipassana Practitioner”. Surround yourself with the books, symbols, and music that will reinforce your decision.
2. Set your meditation goals
You may think that meditation as an esoteric practice doesn’t require goal setting, and that actually it would defeat the whole spiritual purpose of your journey. Nothing further from the truth.
In a way, it’s a discipline similar to painting writing or learning to play a musical instrument. It requires focus, concentration, dedication and strong effort over long periods of time. You should treat it as something more than just spiritual entertainment.
Your goals will depend on the stage of practice you find yourself in:
- “I’m sitting down to meditate every day”.
- “I can focus on my breath for 20 minutes without any interruption”.
- “I experienced powerful mindfulness during my everyday life”.
3. Aim to meditate for 21 days in a row
It takes around three weeks to two months for the human mind to develop a strong behavioral habit. Do your best to meditate for twenty-one days in a row. You can either mark it on your calendar or even create a spreadsheet you will update every day after your sitting.
It’s quite possible that at the beginning you will fall off the wagon. The important thing is to start again and persist until you’re finally able to do 21 days straight.
4. Use the Habits App to track your progress
Habits are one of the most powerful tools for self-development I’ve ever found. And there are lots of habit apps out there. You set your habit up as a question. For example:
“Did you meditate today for 20 minutes?”
Then you set a daily reminder for a specific time and simply mark “yes” if you did it. The app will show your progress on a graph.
You can use it for other good daily practices as well, such as yoga, Prana breathing, or cardio exercise.
5. Start small and grow from there
In the beginning, it’s really hard to focus on the breath for more than a few seconds. You will inevitably be plagued by distractions and the “monkey mind”.
That’s why it’s good to start with just 15-20 minute sessions and go from there. With time you can quite easily move to 45 minutes or even one hour or more.
7. Set a specific time for your daily meditation
Setting a specific time for your daily sits the lets you develop the habit more quickly. For most people, early morning is the best time to meditate.
I have a strong morning routine. I get up between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and then go straight for the meditation cushion to sit for around 45 minutes.
In the morning you will encounter the least amount of distractions and your mind will be more clear.
It’s might be necessary that you are just your daily schedule to get up a little bit earlier because it’s really important to condition the mind to practice meditation at the same time every day.
8. Prepare a good meditation spot
With the advent of yoga and meditation in the West, marketplace got filled with specific products you can use to make your practice more enjoyable.
There are meditation cushions, belts, statues and even special seats used in Zen practice.
Full Lotus or half Lotus are the recommended positions for meditation. For most westerners, however, it’s really difficult to sit in a crossed legged position for extended periods of time.
If you have knee issues you may sit on the chair but, but still, make some effort to create an environment conducive to focus. A candle or a statue of the Buddha will remind you of the purpose of your practice.
9. Avoid distractions
There is a reason why to become monks go to the mountains to meditate for months. There is also a reason why the mystics go into the desert in search of the truth.
It’s the ambiance but it’s also the lack of distractions. Silence is a fertile ground for The Seeds of Enlightenment.
So make sure that you have a nice and quiet place to sit.
10. Do a quick mental preparation before you start
Another worthwhile habit I’ve learned by reading The Mind Illuminated is doing a quick mental prep before plunging in.
It should take no more than two or three minutes but it can vastly improve your focus.
- Motivation – why do you meditate? To be more mindful? To achieve enlightenment?
- Goals – what is your goal for the current session? Maybe it’s to concentrate on the breath just for a bit longer?
- Expectations – check your expectations, and then drop them. Let things happen on their own and don’t interfere.
- Diligence – resolve to practice in a serious manner rather than think about your plans for the day and events of the past.
- Distractions – is there anything in your life likely to come up in your mind during the session? Decide not to get distracted by it.
- Position – are you sitting with your back straight, chin slightly down, muscles relaxed? Good.
11. Set a timer for your sitting session
It’s much easier to develop a meditation habit if you set a timer before starting out. Set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes if you’re a beginner and grow from there.
12. Keep going until you succeed
There will be times when your motivation level drops. That’s why it’s really great to have written goals for your medication and remind yourself of them as often as possible.
It’s also fantastic if you read great books about meditation like the ones listed below or if you have a meditation partner or a group where you can come and talk with other practitioners on a regular basis.
Recommended books for beginner meditators:
- The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa
- Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana
- Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation by Sakyong Mipham
How did you like this article about developing a meditation habit? Would you like to share your progress on your spiritual journey? Please take a moment and share your experiences below.