NOW is the time is the answer. What was the question? Read on.
Here is the secret to starting and maintaining a home meditation practice.
(Ok, it's not REALLY a secret.)
These are three questions I get asked all the time by my students:
“How do I keep my home meditation practice going?”
“How do I START a home meditation practice?”
“Why am I able to do fine in meditation class but when I try to do it at home my practice just falls apart?”
These questions have a common theme.
Here are some answers that work for me. I'll bet they will work for you, too. And if not, try something else. There is plenty of information out there.
The blanket answer is “you’re trying too hard”.
You’re putting so much pressure on yourself to meditate at a certain time of the day, for a certain amount of time, and in a certain way.
What I have discovered over the years, and I addressed in a previous post, is that meditation is more and easier than you may think.
If you have a place you can designate for meditation, that’s great.
If you think about it your entire home is an opportunity to meditate.
Try the sofa, the lounge chair, the chaise outside on the patio, a soft patch of grass in your yard, or anywhere you can put a blanket or cushion.
I’ve even sat on my carpeted stairs, in a dining chair, on the floor on the rug or on the porch stoop for a quick meditation.
Then there is the question and pressure of how long you need to meditate?
I say as long as you can meditate.
I am the last person to ever tell you if you don’t meditate for X amount of time, or more, that it is fruitless or you might as well not bother.
If ANYONE tells you that kindly excuse yourself.
I went to a 4-day silent meditation retreat run by a very well known organization. The silent part was wonderful. Eating outdoors in silence, staying silent in the residence, and meditating in silence was a gift.
What I couldn’t wrap my mind around was that I was instructed to meditate in one way and one way only. I was instructed that this was the only correct way to meditate.
It didn’t feel right then and it doesn’t feel right now.
I certainly don’t instruct my students, or any teachers I train, that it’s my way or the highway.
Needless to say, I enjoyed my time at the retreat but I have never returned.
Meditation looks and feels many, many different ways.
How do I know this?
Through trial and error as a practitioner and through trial and error as a teacher.
I see what works for a broad cross-section of students over and over again.
I have been meditating for 27 years and I have gotten as much out of a 5-minute meditation as a two-hour meditation.
Now to answer the first question:
“How do I keep my home practice going?”
Do you like how good you feel during a meditation, yoga or Tai Chi class?
Grab that good feeling, take what you have learned in class, or through research online, and plunk yourself down in a chair, on a mat or in the grass. Without pressuring yourself replicate what you can.
If you have a semi-regular practice at home, that's great. Find other times to do it outside of what you already are accomplishing.
Once something is a habit - and it takes about 21 days to form a habit - your mind, and body will crave it. That goes for good and not-so-good habits.
I’ll tack my meditation sessions onto the end of my workouts. I’ll meditate in between chapters of a book I am reading. If I am having my tea on the lanai, which happens to face a lake, it is SO easy to float right into a meditation - birds chirping, fish splashing, water flowing - those are focus points for a relaxing meditation.
Binge-watching a show on Netflix? Close your eyes and do deep breathing between episodes!
Of course, it would be optimum if you carved out time to sit in meditation and formally meditate.
Choose a quiet room without much noise or traffic
Pick a chair that you like, one that is comfortable enough to sit in for a while. I guarantee the next thing you know you will have been sitting for 30 minutes. It flies by.
I did a lot of chanting and mantra at the beginning of my meditation journey. It kept me really present and engaged and I couldn’t THINK while I was repeating the words.
Pop in a chanting CD, or stream one.
Do you want to light a candle? DO IT!
Incense? Why not?
Set the mood.
When you set the mood, and make yourself a space, it will have more meaning for you. It puts you in the meditation frame of mind.
Question number 2:
“How do I start a home practice?”
This is totally up to you.
But starting is 50% of doing home meditation.
TODAY IS THE DAY!
Do some research, take some classes.
Try things on and see what fits.
Bring them ALL home.
After that, experiment with different types of meditations, in different locations in your home, for different amounts of time.
You may also do one technique for a while and then try something new.
The point is TRY IT and try it long enough to see what works for you.
Don’t just meditate once for 5 minutes, say “this isn’t working, I still have thoughts and I'm not getting any more peaceful” and then quit.
That’s not meditating.
That is letting your brain dictate to you:
“What shall I make for dinner?”
“Did I mail that bill?”
…and on and on and on.
That’s the brain fighting YOU making IT more peaceful.
Your brain is used to go, go, go. It even gets used to chaos.
That means you need to retrain your brain.
When your brain and mind is more peaceful then your body will be more peaceful, too.
Meditating at the VERY least is being in the moment and focusing on something:
A mantra, a chant, a quote, a candle, water flowing, birds flying, petting your dog, music, the wind blowing, deep breathing, and YES, even silence
…it’s pretty limitless.
Let your brain get used to being relieved of the watch for a few moments. You will continue to have thoughts, but let go of the activity of THINKING for a while.
It’s a thought, BIG DEAL. It will be there when you are done. And if not, most likely it will return. OR not.
Find opportunities during your day to get into a meditative state.
Snippets of time will turn into moments and then minutes and the next thing you know you will be in that state of mind for many minutes, hours, days - for LIFE!
And last, but certainly not least, here’s my answer to question number 3:
“Why am I able to do fine in meditation class but when I try to do it at home my practice just stalls?”
Time, commitments, family, work, illness, vacations - YOU NAME IT - interfere with us bringing home what we do in class.
SO here is where the three questions overlap.
Take the time, make the time, schedule it, carve it out…
How badly do you need it?
If you are asking yourself any of these questions, I imagine that you need it.
It’s not that hard to sit in a class and follow what a teacher instructs.
What IS hard is to make meditation, in its many forms, a priority along with brushing your teeth, doing the laundry, preparing meals, etc.
Your mental, emotional, physical, psychological and (if it applies to you) spiritual health is just as important as anything else that you tend to.
Jump right in.
NOW is a good time.