Weekend Meditation ~ Achieving Regular Practice

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The recipe is very simple. It takes time, patience, effort, and joy.

by Katy Brennan

Why do we meditate? Most of us engage in meditation — or intend to — in order to cultivate inner peace, train in concentration, and as one reader of my previous column on meditation pointed out, to simply appreciate our present existence and delight in the moment. Whether we aim to develop profound spiritual realizations, achieve enlightenment, or simply feel a bit happier in our daily lives, our desire to meditate generally grows stronger with practice.

The more we meditate, the more motivated we are to continue and to gradually develop a regular daily practice. If we’ve tasted a bit of refreshing peace and stillness in meditation, we may have motivation to continue, but that taste can be elusive, at least initially. Many new meditators find themselves dipping in and out of meditation, whether guided or solitary.

So… why don’t we meditate? We may feel we are too busy, we can’t find the time. Or we’re not sure it’s actually meaningful or worthwhile, that we are capable of it, or even truly enjoy it. From a Buddhist standpoint, busyness is a form of spiritual laziness. We compulsively fill our time and our minds with so many distractions at once that we can scarcely focus on a single thought or action for more than a moment. I often refer to meditation as uni-tasking in a multi-tasking world — a rare opportunity to train in concentration.

The recipe is really very simple:

1. Take Some Time.

We all have out own rhythms and schedules, so the key is finding a time of day when you can be awake, alert, and alone long enough to absorb some sense of stillness. Initially this can be as little as five minutes. Once you begin to perceive the benefits of even that short respite from stress and mental spinning, you will find you’ll want to make more time… and it may become easier to find. Most regular meditators agree: Once we develop a more peaceful, centered mind, our sense of time actually expands.

When I began my own practice a little less than eight years ago, I enjoyed meditating in classes at first once, then twice a week. But I am not a morning person, so I found I would too easily fall back to sleep if I tried to meditate upon rising in order to set a positive intention for the day (as I was advised to do, and as I advise those of you to do who are up to it!). So I began meditating on my own in the afternoons or evenings, the same time I had gotten used to meditating on class days. Then, feeling that I’d like to begin the day with a clear, peaceful mind and a positive intention, I began rising a bit earlier each day to allow myself 15 to 20 minutes of meditation after a nice cup of coffee.

2. Be Patient.

As with any goal we set, we’re more likely to be successful if we set something reachable. It is also best to actually enjoy the practice, without judgment as to its quality or efficacy and without grasping at results. Remember that the benefits of meditation, though cumulative, are not necessarily linear. In my experience they have never been. I can have a wonderful, deep experience of peace and happiness and an utter absence of anxiety or attachment one day, and the next day experience an extremely chaotic mind, unable to let go of distractions for more than a breath.

3. Keep It Going… and Enjoy!

Over several years of meditation I have found that the effort itself is never wasted; I generally discover something to enjoy in the experience of meditation, if only a realization of my mental tendencies toward one distraction, anxiety, preoccupation or another. The point is to not allow ourselves to become discouraged, to be patient with ourselves, and to enjoy the process, whatever comes up.

Like a trip to the gym, a trip to the meditation cushion (or chair) is something we may initially resist, but nearly always feel good about having done. Similarly, we find that we feel energized by the exercise, and are also lighter, happier, healthier — all motivations to keep it up.

 

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