Tips to Maintain a Daily Practice
This article was written by your Meditation Challenge host, Natalie Rousseau. For more information about Natalie, please click here.
Meditation is not a flashy practice, nor is it easy, so is it any wonder that maintaining regularity is one of the greatest challenges we face when committing to practice? If you have struggled with maintaining a daily practice know that you are not alone. Every practitioner faces the challenges of Resistance, Boredom, and Doubt, these obstacles are simply part of the journey and there is no way around them, only through them. One of the tools that I have found particularly useful for overcoming these challenges is to simply name them when they arise, know them for what they are, recognize how they show up, and then practice anyway. Below I will outline the common forms they take so you too can begin to recognize these universal obstacles to practice.
Resistance: this obstacle commonly takes the form of busyness. Though we may know full well that we feel better when we make space for meditation in our day, somehow our busy minds convince us that there is no time for the practice today, there are too many other pressing things to do, too many other people to care for or responsibilities to live up to. The funny thing is that even when we have time we may find our mind looking for alternate things to do rather than commit to simply sitting still. Suddenly we have a powerful urge to re-organize our closets, or check Facebook one more time, or even do the dishes we have been avoiding doing all morning. I like to think of Resistance as a smaller brattier version of myself, a distracted child that doesn’t like to listen and has trouble sitting still. When I can see my Resistance in this way it allows me to tap into that larger and wiser aspect of myself, the one that remembers why I choose to practice, and it is her that reminds me calmly that I do have time, and that the world will keep on spinning even if I choose to take five minutes out to be quiet.
How does Resistance show up for you? What forms does it take? What tools or strategies can you use to overcome the voice of your own Resistance? Boredom: boredom is another form of restlessness and can often be an excuse to avoid practice. We live in a very fast paced and stimulating culture, and so when we sit quietly our “monkey minds” often feel like they have nothing to do and can begin to pout and complain loudly, pulling us away from our practice.
Because this is a universal obstacle most traditional meditation lineages include concentration techniques to begin with, techniques that give our minds something to attend to or stay busy with while we sit. Classical concentration techniques include the repetition of a mantra or phrases of affirmation, a focus on the breath or a bodily sensation, or attuning to sounds in our environment whenever our attention wanders. I myself often use a combination of these in my practice and find them especially useful in the first portion of my sitting period.
Often after the first 5-10 minutes of practice my mind and nervous system have begun to relax enough that my awareness can begin to broaden & focus, without becoming restless, in this way I can move past Boredom and into meditation. Do you have a favorite concentration technique that helps you to focus and overcome Boredom in your practice?
Doubt: this may actually be the greatest obstacle on the path and one that we must learn how to recognize for it can pull us away from our commitment to ourselves very easily. Most commonly it manifests as doubt in the practice itself.
We ask ourselves “is this even working?”, “if I was doing this right wouldn’t it be easier/more relaxing?” We may begin to question whether or not we need a new mantra, a new meditation cushion, a different teacher, or a new place in which to practice. Or we may compare our experience to that of others and assume that if we don’t have similar experiences in meditation than we must be doing something wrong. And finally we doubt ourselves, question whether or not we are really cut out for meditation. Doubt is a universal obstacle that even the Buddha had to wrestle with and while we want to maintain a mind that questions, we must also learn to recognize when our Doubt is simply an easy way out of avoiding practice. For myself I have found it helpful to honour Doubt by allowing myself to internally voice my concerns about the practice while still maintaining my commitment to it. I let my Doubt know that I acknowledge it, and that I trust that the answers to my questions will come clear in time. In the meantime I will just keep practicing.
How do you work with Doubt? What forms does Doubt take for you?
Natalie Rousseau ~ Living Yoga, Sept 2016 (www.natalierousseau.com).