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5 Tips To Establish a Daily Meditation Practice

As with any positive change we strive to make in our lives, there is a tendency to dig our heels in and go all out right away. For the first few days, everything is under control. Then a rain cloud forms over our heads and saps every last bit of energy we have. We say we'll do it tomorrow, then tomorrow comes, and we push it off again. 

Everyone who has tried to adopt a meditation practice knows this: showing up is easy when you're motivated. When the stars are aligned and the energy is high, you practically float onto your pillow. And then, when the chips are down, the opposite happens.

The good news is, there's nothing wrong with you. Success is all about having a winning strategy. As it stands, you may be making things harder than they need to be, and your approach could benefit from a bit of refinement. If that's the case, you've come to the right place.

Let's dive in.

Limit Your Sessions

There isn't a prerequisite number of minutes or hours one must spend on the mat before being truly "on the path." Letting your ego set goals opens the door to some pretty unrealistic expectations. 

Consider weight lifting. Bodybuilders around the world tout an excellent tip for people new to working out: don't go to the gym for more than ten minutes per day for the entire first month. Even if you feel like doing more, don't.

This approach is less about making substantial muscular gains in the early stages and more about strengthening one's ability to show up. Once making it to the gym is a habit, getting fit is easy. 

Developing a sustainable meditation practice runs along the same vein. You can experiment by limiting sessions to between five and ten minutes per day. Simply arriving each day for an entire month will give your practice a solid foundation. From there, you can begin to lengthen and deepen your time on the pillow.

Take Your Meditation Practice With You

The Buddha sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed is a familiar image associated with meditation. Another is a dark room with incense burning in front of a pillow upon which sits a peaceful meditator. 

Sitting in a designated spot during your meditation practice is wonderful, but it's not mandatory. Meditation trains the mind to be more present and provides a new sense of perspective. That's it. Realistically, you can meditate anywhere: 

  • On the bus

  • At work

  • In the shower

  • On the plane

  • At the DMV

  • During family gatherings

Strict parameters and preconceived notions of what meditation should look like are responsible for many a yogi turning ex-yogi.

Give yourself permission to relax. Meditating for five minutes in line at the coffee shop is as helpful as five minutes at home with incense burning. Besides your judgment of the situation, there is no difference between the two.

Get a Streak Going

There is no shortage of meditation apps on the market these days. And all of them have built-in features that keep track of how many days you've meditated in a row. 

Streaks are a potent tool to utilize in your effort to develop a daily meditation practice. We can all do with a bit of pride in what we do, and seeing a badge boasting your 5-day, 10-day, and 30-day streaks gets those warm and fuzzy feelings all fired up.

Beyond pride, it creates a sense of urgency. After all, who wants to be responsible for breaking a 9-day streak? 

Download an App

Many of the top apps you'll come across offer various features to make the cultivation of a meditation practice as accessible as possible. Here are some apps you should consider checking out:

  • Insight Timer

  • Calm

  • Headspace

Each of them has something for someone. For example, besides helpful guided meditations, Calm has a feature called "Sleep Stories," a library of stories read aloud by people with soothing voices, like Matthew McConaughey. 

Insight Timer has over 45,000 unique meditations to experiment with and hundreds of courses to join.

Headspace is great for beginners, offering an easy transition into meditation with well-crafted guided meditations, breathing exercises, and wind-down practices.

Be Good With Your Imperfection

The fact that no one is perfect isn't anything groundbreaking. We've all heard it before, and it's a commonly held belief. Yet, we often expect ourselves to be perfect. 

Whether that stems from measuring ourselves against others, and consequently expecting to be able to perform as well or better than them, or from a general fear of judgment or disapproval, one thing's for sure: perfectionism doesn't help foster a daily meditation practice. Nor is it healthy. 

It's not uncommon for people to quit meditating before they even start. They'll set the lights down low, cozy up on a pillow, close their eyes and begin trying to observe their breath. After about a minute, they realize they were thinking about what they had for dinner. Frustrated, they declare meditation isn't for them – they don’t have the right “stuff.”

Ironically, realizing that the mind is wandering encapsulates the entire practice of meditation. So the assertion that this hypothetical person isn't good enough couldn't be further from the truth.

When you notice your mind wandering, or you take an unplanned day off, berating yourself might feel empowering at the moment, but all it's doing is, well, nothing. It's doing nothing. Except making you more anxious, stressed, depressed, or whatever else. Learning how to be kind to yourself and accept your imperfections as natural, valid parts of who you are is invaluable.

Take Pleasure In the Journey

We're always going somewhere, chasing something, praying for this or that. Transactional relationships, in which we engage in activities to get something out of them, permeate our existence.

The stories of enlightenment, inner peace, and stillness we hear give rise to a natural desire within us to feel that way too. And while those are healthy wants, chasing after them won't make you any happier. 

Framing your meditation practice as a means to an end is like planting a mango seed and expecting an oak tree to grow. It doesn't work that way. 

Meditation is a lifelong journey, and it opens doors to new insights all the time as you traverse your inner landscape. The joy of meditation, and thus of life, is in the experience afforded right now. Meditation is a tool that helps us unlock that perspective. 

Final Word

Doing right by yourself is never easy. And the brain's cunning tricks seem to effortlessly exploit even our most valiant endeavors to make our lives better. Reframing the approach in a way that seeks to utilize the brain's power rather than fight against it carries a lot of potential. Transform your idea of meditation into something manageable, which brings value to your life, and you'll make a habit out of it in no time.

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