The number one challenge every new meditator deals with is making meditation a daily habit.
How I keep a healthy mind is similar to how I keep a healthy immune system. Everyday I eat a good diet and do some form of physical exercise to keep my body healthy. I do this to be proactive incase I get sick. Who actually likes to be paralyzed in bed with the flu?
I meditate everyday to be proactive incase situations arise that cause stress, anxiety, or some overwhelming emotion. I prepare for that moment so that I can step away from the emotion or thought and think clearly. I prepare so that I do not not engage with that emotion or thought instinctively.
The word instinctively is key here. When is there time to think about whether we want to get stressed from a thought which causes stress? There isn’t. We naturally do it, so how do we rewire our minds? By practicing every single day.
During my mindfulness meditation practice, there is a repeated cycle. A thought arises, my mind wanders, I recognize I have wandered, and I return my attention the breath. It is this back and forth that builds my muscle to be present. I am training my mind not to engage with my thoughts and emotions in a relaxed situation for that single moment.
That single moment when I realized I forgot to pay my taxes on time. That single moment when someone cuts me off while driving. That single moment when I look at someone’s picture on Instagram on the beach at Turks and Caicos, while I’m at work stuck in meetings.
I’m also finding that a growing number of new meditators only meditate when they are stressed out or feel like they are on the verge of an anxiety attack. That’s like if the Karate Kid called Mr. Miyagi to teach him how to throw a punch over the phone while he is in the midst of a fight. You need to train everyday so you can handle the situation naturally and gracefully.
If you find yourself in this category or just starting out, I implore you to meditate everyday to the degree that your schedule allows.
It’s better to meditate 5 minutes per day then an hour or two once per week.
Here are three things that you can do to make sure its part of your routine.
- Set a consistent time and place. I keep two pillows next to the couch and whip them out first thing every morning. I always meditate right when I get out of bed before I catch up on social media and email.
- Prepare for your meditation. I reflect on my motivation for meditating before I actually meditate every time. I wrote more about that here.
- Find someone to keep you accountable. It’s so important to have a friend or community to keep you on track when you veer off. This was big for me.
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Originally published at medium.com