Starting and maintaining a regular meditation practice
STARTING AND MAINTAINING A REGULAR MEDITATION PRACTICE
Just recently while making my way home from a day facilitating meditation, I had one of those precious and insightful moments where I found myself reflecting on how alive and on purpose I felt. I found myself pondering the fact that here I am approaching my 40th year, and how only now, for the first time in my life did I feel truly fulfilled by my work. In a rush of mere seconds, my mind began flashing back through various careers I’d had and the faces that accompanied them, absolutely in awe of the fact that all of it had led me to this moment. Though it was late in the evening and I was tired having had an early start, I felt light and optimistic about the future.
I’ve been exploring the practice of meditation on and off since I was in my mid-twenties, but despite attending workshops and purchasing countless books and CD’s (mp3s weren’t around then!) the practice never stuck, and it wasn’t really until years later in my more recent adult life, that I actually committed to a regular meditation practice.
I know I’m not alone here. Embracing meditation in daily life seems to be a real obstacle for so many of us. Excuses upon excuses come to mind to justify why we can’t make it stick, and yet as I experienced, we continue seeking, filling our bookshelves and ‘favourites’ folder with more and more resources that we scarcely find time to read let alone investigate on an experiential level. Perhaps it’s fair to say that for many of us we’re more in love with the idea of meditation, than meditation itself.
But perhaps not.
Perhaps it’s the promise of hope that keeps so many of us engaged and seeking. Despite the bumpy ride and a journey that often includes detours, obstacles and long stretches off road, we continue on gathering and collecting tools along the way, driven by a primal sense of interconnectedness and a pull towards our natural state of being, a state that ushers us back to the steady, calm centre that we know resides within us, offering us the hope of liberation.
So then how do we shift gears from this conceptual seeking to understand meditation, to actually sitting ourselves down to practice, so that we may develop an experiential and embodied understanding that only comes from meditation itself?
The short answer is intention.
We need to get real with our intention to meditate. Ultimately it’s akin to developing any new habit and doing what you know is good for you, despite how tough it might be making the changes. You’re only going to commit to making change when your intention is louder than your desire to keep the status quo.
Let’s face it; few of us are going to feel motivated to get up early (or stay up late for that matter) and sit with ourselves daily unless we have a very clear intention for why we are doing so. Without a personal vision to keep us accountable and inspired, we’re likely to lose interest at the first sign of boredom, discomfort, inconvenience or doubt.
If we’d really like to experience the benefits of a regular meditation practice, then we must be willing to develop a regular meditation practice which means showing up to ‘the cushion’ daily.
After all, the benefits of meditation are cumulative, so small doses often provide greater benefit than a single dose now and then. We also need to keep in mind that during the practice itself, it’s likely we won’t notice anything happening, and that’s because the benefits of meditation don’t usually arise on ‘the cushion’, but rather arise in our life.
Ultimately, we need to make a choice if we’re serious. We need to be willing to go beyond our books and any other resources, and just start showing up. We need to get real with our intention. Why do we think meditation will improve our life? Why is it worth getting up early for? Why is it worth prioritising? We need to be specific about the why, as this is the starting point from which we can build our practice.
As we grow and develop our practice, we’ll likely come to understand (from our own deepest knowing rather than conceptually) that meditation goes so much further than improving our life, that paradoxically it helps to untether us from the striving of self improvement that so many of us get caught up with, so instead we embrace releasing and relaxing into ourselves just as we are.
My own commitment to practice was preceded by a curiosity and persistence with meditation largely driven by anxiety which had for so long been a part of my life, however it wasn’t until I got intimate with my intention to meditate that the real journey on - and what’s more off - ‘the cushion’ begun. Making meditation a priority and starting small and often with the help of a meditation app kick started my daily practice (now at least 30 minutes daily) and changed the trajectory of my professional life.
By getting clear on my intention to meditate, I have been able to maintain my motivation to keep showing up to ‘the cushion’ daily, and have since uncovered my life’s work of sharing meditation with others so that they too may benefit from all that it has to offer.
I’ve further developed my practice with training, and use a meditation journal to help keep me accountable and aware of what is actually going in my practice – reflecting rather than analysing – noticing any patterns emerging and gaining greater understanding of the workings of my mind.
Seeing now just how many people are turning to meditation, and showing up to daily sessions where I facilitate is truly encouraging, and what’s more finding myself in a position to contribute to their experience leaves me feeling both empowered and energised by my work. If you take anything away from this let it be – that meditation has allot to offer, but you actually need to meditate!
Danyah is a Registered Meditation Teacher with the Meditation Association of Australia and has completed Level 1 MBSR Teacher Training (100hrs) and a Facilitators Certificate in Transformational Meditation. She is the founder of The Mellow Mind in Sydney and author of Dropping In: A Meditation Journal. You can find her at www.themellowmind.com.au and follow her on Instagram (@themellowmind) or on Facebook (facebook.com/themellowmindAU).