This article was written by your Meditation Challenge host, Natalie Rousseau. For more information about Natalie, please click here.
I began my journey with meditation as a 24-year- old working single mother. I did not receive instruction while on a forest retreat, nor have I ever had the opportunity to spend extended time in a monastery or other place dedicated to practice and removed from the noise of daily life. Like myself I have no doubt that you too are busy, engaged with the responsibilities of your own life, whatever they may be, and yet you also desire a relationship to practice. Very few of us are able to drop out of life for a period of time in which we can commit ourselves solely to meditation & contemplation, and so the question of how to develop a meditation practice in the midst of the demands of our daily lives is an important one. Below are my top three tips for weaving meditation into your everyday experience so that it nourishes and enriches all that you do.
Start Small & Be Realistic About Time: many people have the idea that if they can’t sit for 30-60 minutes of meditation then it simply doesn’t count, but this belief is often a form of resistance and will keep us from doing any practice at all. I have found that practice bears the most fruit when it is done consistently, rather than in short burst of overly heroic activity. In other words sitting for meditation for 5 minutes a day during your work week is often more supportive than one 30 minute sit on Sunday. Ending each day with 10 minutes of stillness is often more valuable than trying, and failing, to sit for an hour each morning. A number of years ago I chose a minimum number of minutes that I would sit for each day, a number small enough to overcome my own resistance, so that even on the busiest of days I can say to myself “oh it’s only _____ minutes, I have time for that”, and this gets me on my cushion nine days out of ten which has had a profound effect on my daily life, offering me greater clarity and calm.
What is a minimum amount to time you could commit to practice for in order to meditate each day? Be Creative: another common form of resistance is to believe that we can’t meditate unless conditions are perfect- the children are quiet, the house is clean, we have our own meditation space, we aren’t feeling angry/sad/ restless etc. But the truth is that the conditions are rarely perfect, so learn how to meditate anyway. The way I work with the changing conditions of my life is to have different ways of doing practice when needed. If I am very restless and agitated I will do a silent walking meditation in the forest rather than try to sit still at home. If I am travelling I will do lovingkindness or mantra meditation in my mind while sitting beside strangers on an airplane or ferry. I will meditate sitting in my car between appointments if that is the only time I will get that day, or I have been known to walk around the block saying an affirmation internally before I enter my house for the evening, knowing that once I open that door my attention will be drawn to my family. In other words I adapt my practice to my life.
In which ways can you be creative in your approach to practice so that it works with your life as it is? Be Compassionate: self criticism is a major obstacle to practice and one that we must learn to overcome as it gets us nowhere. It is very common to hold ourselves to an impossibly high standard of perfection when it comes to practice, and when we fail to maintain it we can very easily fall into an all or nothing type of attitude. It has always been very helpful for me to consider practice as a relationship rather than an achievement. It is something I attend to, in different ways on different days, not something I simply tick of my to do list, not something to simply pass or fail at. To be compassionate for ourselves is to cut ourselves some slack and remember that there will be times where life demands all that we have and we may miss a practice or two- this does not mean that we have failed or that the practice is lost. We can always begin again. Like a good friend the practice is always there for us.
Can you recognize the ways in which self-criticism has acted as an obstacle to maintaining your relationship to practice?
How might you be more compassionate with yourself so that your relationship with practice can be maintained?
Natalie Rousseau ~ Living Yoga, Sept 2016 (www.natalierousseau.com).