Our ONLINE MINDFULNESS COURSE discusses many of the practical considerations involved in starting a meditation practice. In this month's meditation tip we are going to briefly look at a few of these basic elements that are needed to begin a successful meditation practice.
It is amazing to realize just how difficult it can be to find the time to simply Be Present. A million other things always seem more important. One place to begin addressing this challenge of finding some time to meditate is by paying attention to your own self-talk. What messages are you telling yourself about your meditation practice? Are you giving yourself reasons to postpone or de-prioritize your meditation time? If so, how can you begin to consciously challenge and change some of these messages? Take some time and clarify how important your meditation practice really is to you. Ask yourself, "How important is it to allow myself time to de-stress and unwind?" Although meditation doesn't get the kids to bed or the dog walked, it puts you in a much better mental space to accomplish these tasks with the presence and attention they deserve. Meditation, like other aspects of a wellness lifestyle, improves the overall quality of your life in a broad and general way.
There are no fixed rules for picking a specific time of day to meditate. In our experience it is best to experiment a little and see what works best for you. However it is often helpful in the beginning to pick one time and then stick with it regularly. I personally meditate each morning, and this helps me to prepare for the day and clarify the goals I want to accomplish. Other people find it helpful to meditate at the end of the day as a way of letting go and unwinding from the day's stress. Some find it helpful to take "meditation breaks" throughout their day to refresh themselves and sharpen their focus. Experiment with different times and methods of meditation practice to find out what works best for you.
Once again their are no fixed rules about the right place to meditate. One important goal of meditation is to increase the amount of awareness and presence we can bring to each moment of life no matter where we are or what we are doing. So if our efforts on the meditation cushion don't translate to the other areas of our life they really aren't worth that much no matter how much peace and stillness we can find during our actual periods of meditation practice. Nevertheless, we have found in our experience that in the beginning it can be worthwhile to pay some attention to the setting for your meditation. It may be helpful to set aside a specific part of your home or office as your meditation space. You might organize it accordingly, and avoid using it for other activities. You might set it up in a way that will allow you to sit for long periods of time with a minimum of distractions and decorate it with inspiring or meaningful objects. Your meditation space does not have to stay static, and we encourage clients to change their meditation space as new facets of their meditation practice begin to emerge.
As soon as we set aside our safe meditation space, and finally get ourselves positioned to practice, it doesn't take long to realize how it is we came to be so distracted in the first place. If the phone doesn't ring, there will soon be an agitated child or co-worker at the door demanding our attention. Unplugging and carving out some time in the day that is truly free from distractions can be a nearly impossible task. And in many ways this fact of life directly mirrors the business of our own minds. It often takes some real planning and forethought to create a truly safe space that is beyond the near constant demands of the day. And in some ways that's the easy part. When we finally manage some peace and stillness in the external world, we often discover just how much is going on in the inside.
Many beginning meditator find it helpful to use a meditation journal to keep a record of the lessons they learn and any important insights they might have along the way . We suggest that for the first few months at least you keep a brief record of each meditation session in a journal you keep in your meditation space. This might be a brief note about a particularly helpful new technique you tried that day or perhaps simply the word "DISTRACTED!" if it was a particularly hard session. It can be very helpful and instructive to look back on these notes months later and see the distance and direction you have come. You can also use your meditation journal to collect inspiring quotes and record any of your own flashes of insight or moments of "satori" that often accompany a particularly good practice session. A meditation journal can be a good way of beginning to expand the lessons learned on the meditation cushion into the other areas of your life.