I started out great! I was beginning to see the actual benefits of my practice…but then I got busy. My lapse in practice started with one day when I didn’t have time. Then, the next day it was really easy to say, “I broke my streak, I’m still busy, and I’ll get back to it tomorrow.” Then the next day, it was, “One more day won’t matter.” That was two months ago, and now whenever I think about meditating, I just feel guilty. How can something that was beginning to make a real difference in my life become so dispensable?
Does any of this sound familiar? It sure does to me. I can’t tell you how many times I have started a routine, any routine, found it incredibly beneficial, and then just quit.
So if that is where you are with your meditation practice, don’t despair. Help is on the way.
First, be kind to yourself! Remember that we are all imperfect beings who have these things called habits. We’ve been not meditating for a lot longer than we’ve been meditating. To make a change, it is necessary to rewrite some powerful programming. It’s time to make our habits work for us, not against us.
Following are some recommendations that can help you use the power of positive habits to reestablish your meditation practice – or make any meaningful change in your life for that matter.
Examine Your Intention
Why do you want to make this change? Why is this important to you?
If you are like me and the person at the beginning of this piece, you might take some time out, reach back into your memory, and reflect on how you felt during your last foray into meditation. “Did I have less or more of an emotional hair-trigger? Did I take things in stride more or not? Did I feel less/more rushed (even though I was taking time out for meditation?) Did I get more/less done? Did I feel more/less stressed, more/less confident?” These were the things that came up for me.
So really soak it in. Relive your life as a meditator, and then come back to why you are thinking of starting your practice again. Are you motivated? If so, write down your “WHY” and put it someplace you can see it EVERY DAY.
Make a Plan
Next, create a reasonable plan you can live with. If your plan is something like “I will sit down and meditate “at some random time” during the day for 30 minutes or so.” Go back to the drawing board.
Ask yourself, “What is the maximum amount of time I can really commit each day for the next 30 to 60 days?” If you said 10 minutes, cut that in half, just to be safe. (Remember: You can always stay there longer on any particular day.)
Okay, we have a reasonable amount of time for your commitment. Now let’s get even more specific.
What do you plan to do? Maybe “I will do sitting meditation, walking meditation, or mindful yoga.”
When will you do it? Really, when do you have 5 minutes that you can carve out of your busy life, no matter what? Not “sometime during the day,” but every day at the same time.
Where will you do it? I would suggest it not be the TV room at 7 pm when the kids want to watch TV, or 7 am in the bedroom when your partner is getting ready for work.
How can you create a formula that ties meditation to something you already do consistently? The formula might go something like this: “After I brush my teeth, at 7 am, I will sit down in the den and meditate for 5 minutes.” Non-negotiable!
Create a Special Place
Make your meditation space enjoyable? Maybe find a cozy corner where you won’t be disturbed. Make the space your own by placing a candle, a picture of someone or something that is meaningful to you, a stone, or another object from the natural world. Any or all of these can make this place special.
“Celebrate” Your Success
Give yourself a high five when you are done. Savor the feelings you get from taking care of yourself in this way. Be grateful to yourself for taking the time out of your busy hectic life to just ‘be.’ Take some time to remember the fruits of your practice, how it has been beneficial to you and those you love.
Keep track of your meditations on a calendar or meditation app. (See links below.) When you string a couple of days together, remember to savor this accomplishment. Before long you won’t want to break your streak.
To build a meditation habit in your life. Every day, remember your intention, follow your plan, tie it to another activity that you always do, and create a warm and comfortable environment. And don’t forget to CELEBRATE your success! And whenever you falter, don’t criticize yourself, just BEGIN AGAIN!
If you would like to refresh your practice with the support of a community, please join us in one of our upcoming October classes.