Here are the main things to help maintain a good routine for your meditation practice.
- Time of Day
- The place
- Before and After
Before I jump into these four tips, I’ll share two principles that make your practice more likely to progress…
It takes Time
The first principle is that you need to do enough meditation to see the benefits. This goes for learning every skill. Meditation is like everything else, you do get this little immediate benefit from doing a practice, but actually the impact is cumulative. It’s all the practices over time that add up, and they start to trickle into your day in surprising ways.
Practice is needed for this to happen. Once you begin to see the benefits, you begin to like the practice a lot more, it starts to seem worthwhile. However this really won’t come with a few sessions. Principle number one is to just put the time in.
Love your Meditation Practice
Principle number two is to learn to love the practice. The more you can turn it into something that you enjoy, the better chance you have of sustaining it. You never want your practice to be a chore or to be another thing on your to-do list. It’s nice if it’s something you’re naturally drawn towards.
And now for our top four tips for your meditation practice…
So let’s jump into the nuts and bolts of the practice. The first thing is the time of day. It’s important to choose the right time of the day for yourself. I’ve never met anyone with a steady practice who practices at random times. It’s nice to imagine that we could meditate when we feel like it… but I find that people who have a regular time to practice are way more likely to actually do their practice. So consider your life and what would work for you and test out different times and see which suits you best.
Time of the Day
The most obvious times are first thing in the morning and nighttime. About 70% of people who have regular meditation practices do it first thing in the morning. Doing the practice first thing in the morning sets it as a priority.
We’re more likely to control our time to make sure it happens, even just by getting up 20 minutes early. For me, that’s the time of day when my mind is a little more still. I haven’t yet gotten into all the details and logistics of the day and all the tasks. There can be this kind of window where it can be a little easier to meditate.
I’ll get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, try to avoid my phone, ideally, not even talk to people, and just head to the meditation room. That’s the best setup for me. That way, it’s the first thing I’m doing and I’m just waking up . Then before I even know, I’m meditating, and then the session is done.
We’re all unique and for some people, that’s not a time of day that’s available. There’s just too much happening already with getting kids ready for school or life’s other challanges .
For me there were phases in my life where I couldn’t get to the morning practice. Another nice option to explore then is nighttime practices. It’s finding that window of time where you feel that you’ve got everything done that you need to do for the day. Your mind is becoming more restful. I know lots of people with great practice who find they can meditate well at nighttime.
The place is just like the time. It’s helpful to have a consistent time, and it’s also really helpful to meditate in the same place. You begin to associate the place with meditation. It becomes easier to do.
This can be a corner of a bedroom or a corner of a room, a favorite chair. It’s nice to mark that this place is special to you. So you can be creative in how you do that, whether that’s candles or a scent, or incense, a favorite blanket can be a nice thing, or if you sit on the floor having a cushion you like. If you’re in a chair, something that allows you to be upright and maybe to have your feet on the floor..
It’s easier to meditate in a quiet place. I first learned to meditate on a rooftop in India in 1999, where there were mosquitoes and traffic, and I still got on fine. But generally, the quieter the better!
In terms of posture there are two basic principles.
First, you want to have a feeling of solidness. Of connection to the ground. You want to feel like you’re connected to the chair or the cushion. So if you’re on a chair, it helps to have your feet on the floor.
The second feeling is the opposite, where you have a sense of a lift up through the back up to the top of the head. But you always want to be comfortable as well.
Lying down may be more suitable for some practices which is perfectly fine, and again, making sure you have something nice to lie on. That is why practicing meditation can be hard work, so you want to make your posture comfortable. You want to make things as nice as they can be.
Before & After meditation Practice
What to do before and after the meditation practice?
If it’s morning time, it’s great to do as little as possible. If it’s nighttime and your mind is kind of buzzy, sometimes it’s hard to go straight from a very active mind and into trying to meditate. I think transition activities are helpful, something as simple as going for a walk, or perhaps just listening to one piece of music or something to kind of help you shift gears. Sitting and listening to your breathing can also help relax your body and mind in a transition from a busy day to your nighttime practice.
I’ve become a fan of ritual over the years, meaning doing a physical thing in a sort of intentional way. So for me, I always have my meditation cushion in the same place and ready for me. I’ll do a little bit of tidying. I light candles. I find that taking that minute or so helps me to know that I’m going to meditate. Some days I feel like I need a few stretches to open up my back or shoulders, and I just tune in to see what I need to feel relaxed and alert.
How about what to do at the end?
I think it’s really important to close your meditation nicely. During meditation, you can become a little more aware, and a little more sensitive. If you jump straight off the cushion or the chair and into everyday life and rush straight into a conflict with the kids it can be a little jarring! So I think it’s nice to take one or two minutes at the end of your practice where you just relax, you don’t make any effort. You just rest.
In my case, I have this ritual where I’ll rub my hands together and clap them. And to me, that means Okay, it’s done. And now I’m moving on to the next thing.
Hope you find these helpful for your meditation practice.
Until next time…