I’m writing this post today after receiving this question once again via a phone call this afternoon. People ask us all the time how to build a daily meditation practice, and it’s a beautiful intention to have. We have a wish within ourselves to practice more, but we just don’t seem to be able to follow through consistently. If you are in this boat, know that you’re not alone! Many of us want to meditate regularly but don’t make it happen.
Before jumping into a few tips for building a regular sitting practice, it’s important we first mention that we don’t need to be perfect with anything. We should be careful not to strive too hard for the perfect meditation practice in our minds. When we find ourselves clinging to a daily practice, we should use that as a point of investigation. The truth is that a daily meditation practice doesn’t mean every sitting period will be joyous or that you will suddenly stop experiencing anything unpleasant. We can have a healthy intention to sit more regularly without striving or grasping, and I encourage an honest self-appraisal of your relationship with the idea of daily meditation practice.
1. Listen to Guided Meditations
Listening to guided meditations is a great way to go toward building a daily meditation practice. Especially if you’re new to meditation, guided meditations can help you know what you’re doing a little more clearly during your practice periods. There are guided meditations available on a variety of topics from a ton of teachers out there, and you can look through YouTube, DharmaSeed, and podcast applications to find different offerings.
Try listening to different guided meditations so you can find one that works for you. As you listen to more, you will discover teachers with whom you connect, practices that work well for you, and traditions that land well. This isn’t to say that we find what is right or wrong or inherently good or bad. Rather, we can uncover our own truth and see through our own experience what is useful to us. This offers us the opportunity to find a way to meditate that interests us, is useful, and connects with our deeper intentions.
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One of the biggest reasons we hear from our students about why they cannot meditate regularly is that they just can’t seem to find time. We’ve covered this repeatedly, but the truth is that we pretty much always have time to do something if we make it a priority. Try really taking your intention to practice daily seriously. Even with a job, school, family, etc., we can set a time for meditation every day. This may be a brief morning meditation, a sit before going to sleep, or a meditation on your lunch break.
Personally, I actually put my meditation periods in my work calendar! I know that sounds a bit silly, but it is what works for me. It helps me make meditation a priority and remember to do it. I block out the time from my work schedule to meditate on my calendar, and it helps me actually do so in real life. Whatever it is, find a way to make meditation a priority so you can follow through with your intention to sit more regularly.
3. Find a Sitting Buddy
This is one of the greatest things you can do for your practice. Community is one of the three jewels of Buddhism,
and an important piece to a healthy meditation practice. Recent research has found that having a companion while exercising can help an individual exercise more, especially when the companion is emotionally supportive. Research has also shown that studying with a partner increases learning capability and retention of information. Although these studies aren’t pointing toward meditation buddies, it’s easy to see that this may a beneficial practice to undertake.
See if you can find a friend also interested in meditation practice. Ask them to be your sitting buddy. Maybe you can meditate together regularly, or maybe you can check in every day with your practice. This can help us not feel alone in our investigation of something new, make us accountable to someone else, and help us learn from our experience.
4. Utilize Technology
We often think of technology as a hindrance to mindfulness and awareness, but it can actually be of use to us in building a daily practice. You can of course download the One Mind Dharma app, and we also love Insight Timer. Insight Timer is great because it allows you to connect with other meditators, join groups, listen to guided meditations, and keep logs of your meditation. You can look at your stats and see when you’re meditating, how long you’ve been sitting, and more.
You can also use your device to set reminders to meditate. Whether you put it in your calendar or just set a reminder on your phone, you can use technology to help you. Try setting a daily reminder to meditate at some point during the day. When we get hectic with everyday life, this simple reminder can make the difference and help us to actually sit and practice.
5. Find a Meditation Group
Although it may be scary, finding a meditation group can be incredibly helpful in building a daily practice. By sitting with a group, we develop a community, deepen our understanding, and are encouraged to meditate at a regular time. You can use something like Meetup.com or FindASit to find local meditation groups. You may be lucky enough to find a sitting group within a reasonable distance from where you live or work.
There are also opportunities to practice online! Worldwide Insight offers online meditation groups that we highly recommend. You can find various online sitting groups and video chats to practice regularly with other people and have a community. This can be super helpful. Although an in-person group is ideal, it’s still beneficial to find an online sangha.
6. Investigate Different Practices
I work with a lot of students who are super new to meditation practice, and find that they’re often sitting with a single practice they learned. Often the practice of investigating the breath, it can be boring or overwhelming. We do have to learn to sit with boredom and allow ourselves to experience it, but when we’re new to practice it may be beneficial to find different practices that spark some curiosity.
You can try mixing in some heart practices and insight practices, perhaps investigating mindfulness, concentration, metta, forgiveness, and compassion. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with different practices, but it may help you to try different practices to see what makes you actually want to meditate. When we find something we like, it can help us want to practice and encourage a more regular sitting schedule!
7. Dive Deeply into One Practice
Of course this is the opposite of the previous tip, but it may be helpful to you! Sometimes we need to dive a little more deeply into a practice. We can work with the difficulties, the boredom, and the changes in our experience. I find it beneficial to really investigate the breath or mindfulness of the body to start with. Although we may become bored, it can help us to really see what we can learn from practicing continually with one practice. Again, this is the opposite of the previous tip, so I encourage you to investigate what works for you!
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