We've all heard about the benefits of meditation.
It helps reduce stress and improves concentration. It can ease depression, while encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Sitting in silence has been proven to increase happiness and improves self awareness.
But how do I start a meditation practice? And when I do, how do I ensure it's something I stick to?
Here are 5 simple steps to create and maintain a meditation practice:
1. Create a routine
Try to set up a time in the morning or evening to create routine — something you can stick to each day. If you sit for 10 minutes in the morning, or 10 minutes at night, try working it into your daily activities and add it in where it would flow naturally with your tasks.
If you wake up and brush your teeth each morning or jump in the shower, why not add a quick 10 minute sit to that routine?
It takes 21 days to build a habit. If you try something for three weeks, you will get used to the flow of time and be more compelled to sit.
The morning is a great time to sit with yourself and set your energy up for the day. While an evening meditation allows for reflection on the day. Of course, doing both allows for you to set up your energy and take time to reflect!
2. Have an accountability buddy
Meditation in a group is beneficial for so many reasons. In person, you share the energy of those around you. In an online forum you can share your fears, struggles and breakthroughs.
When you have someone sharing the experience with you, you know you’re not alone.
Being able to normalize your experiences is a huge support. You’re not the only one whose mind wanders in practice, whose let falls asleep 30 seconds in, or has an unexpected waterfall of tears for no reason other than it just happened.
The more you share, the more you allow the space for your experiences to be just that — passing experiences that do not need to be judged.
3. Front of sight, front of mind
Wearing your intention or building a home meditation space helps to keep your practice front of mind. We all know the saying, out of sight out of mind. Visual reminders can be a powerful motivator.
The Mala I meditate on means a lot to me. It’s activated with the intention I put into it during each practice. Wearing it with me though the day is a beautiful reminder of my practice and helps keep me grounded.
I have also set up a meditation space in my apartment. (Read: How to make a home meditation space)
It started small, but has grown as I've grown in my practice. Seeing the space each morning, walking past my meditation cushions, candles, Buddha and framed mantra inspires me to take a few minutes to myself to meditate.
4. Set your intention + make it clear
Setting your intention is a powerful starting point. (Read: Setting an intention for your meditation practice)
I have a girlfriend who once asked how she could start a mindful practice around her home. Her intention was to nurture and honor her physical body.
We spent some time making fun sticky notes, and started with water — putting notes on the inner cupboard for her drinking glasses to inspire her to be more mindful of hydrating her body. That practice spilled over into other rituals.
Another friend shared that he's layered the inside of his wardrobe doors with affirmations, financial goals, and positive image of success. That way, he can start the day with inspiration and a reminder how he wants to feel. His intention is clear and he has a consistent reminder.
Personally, I’ve scheduled iPhone reminders to receive an "I Am Enough" statement every morning for 30 days. From "I Am Love" to "I Am Grounded" to "I Am Strong." It was a beautiful and simple gift to give myself the power of my intention through affirmations. (Read: I Am Enough — Why are affirmations so powerful?)
The theme here is to start small and build from there. This is a simple step you can do both at home and in the office. A reminder of your intention or your mantra will inspire you to take the time out of your day to breathe and sit with yourself.
5. Be gentle — It’s not an all or nothing game
One of the most common obstacles I hear when people speak about meditation is their all or nothing attitude.
That they know they should be meditating, but either don't have time, or they can't dedicate themselves to a daily practice because they are too busy.
That's ok! You don't have to sit every single day to be someone who meditates. Just like a runner or yogi – while it's great if you can do it everyday, missing a day here and there doesn't make you bad at it.
While it’s great to meditate everyday, you don’t need to go all in every time. You can ease yourself in. With an all or nothing mentality, shame can quickly seep in if we miss a day or two. And when this happens, we’re more likely to drop off a practice as we begin to associate sitting in meditation with negative feelings.
When building your practice, be gentle. Try 3 times a week. You can grow from there. And if you notice you are constantly missing your sit times, perhaps there is a different way to incorporate meditation into your life. For example, mindful walks, guided meditation in a local class studio, inviting friends over 1 x a month for a moon circle meditation, etc.
The sooner you associate love, joy, calm, peace, play and lightness with your practice the more likely you will be to continue.