When I started meditating, I was taught to sit cross-legged with a single object of focus. I did that everyday for 4 years, in the silent bedroom of my apartment, the challenge was to be persistent and to get over repetition and boredom. Same room, same exercise and same cushion…everyday.
Later, when I became a Monk, I’d meditate when my peers did, I’d run to the temple and throw my shoes on a pile of sandals to join a messy crew. I hated to be interrupted in the middle of the day for collective rituals but that was part of the lifestyle.
Now that I’m back to the city, I practice when there’s a tiny window in my schedule, in the subway, super early or super late, the cat comes and meditates with me sometimes, in his own fashion, I can hear the TV next door and I often refrain from checking my FB notifications.
Life’s gotten messier and busier as time passed, but I kept meditating despite hectic circumstances. It’s now nearly 20 years that I pulled through no matter what and I’ve decided to write a post for all those who’ve decided to crush the main obstacles to a daily practice.
Size doesn’t matter
Don’t be too obsessed with the length of your session: it’s not that important.
You don’t need to meditate for long periods of time to get results (at least not in the beginning) quality matters over quantity, so take it easy and allocate 5 mn a day everyday. Make it a must and give it your all daily: a few minutes of intense awareness takes more effort than one might think.
Repetition is the mother of skills, in the long run these daily 5 minutes sitting on your pillow will do more to change your life than a mind-blowing retreat in a Thai Monastery.
80/20: the Pareto principle of Zen
Spend 80% of your energy igniting your session and the remaining 20% meditating.
Starting is the hardest part, for some mysterious reasons there’s always a trillion things that get on the way when you’d like to practice: the phone rings, you need to buy beers before the store closes or you suddenly feel a vital need to open the fridge and scan its content.
Determination will be your best friend to cut through all distractions and make your practice a priority. Use most of your strength to summon the courage to start the session, the rest of your energy is enough to meditate.
Come as you are
If you feel you’re not in the right mindset to meditate, you probably are.
You might feel mad or horny or even depressed beyond recognition, it doesn’t matter: you’re still completely eligible to practice. Many people believe that meditation is about having a pristine clear mind, so they wait until they’re OK to start a mindfulness session but isn’t it how clean-freaks generally end up constipated?
Meditation is a tool, not a sacrament, don’t wait to be perfect to use it! (in my case, I need it all the time).
No matter where
Ideally, you’d need to practice in a quiet environment…but if you live in the urban chaos you’ll have to make the best of every opportunity that comes your way: sitting in the train, in the Doctor’s waiting room, even in the bathroom if need be. Any casual circumstance is a chance to watch your breath or do a body scan.
As long as you can keep your back straight and both of your feet on the ground, you can secure some practice time. And even if you can’t do that , you can still intensify your presence to the moment.
You can’t fail
Meditation is unique, it stands out from many other activities because it’s not a contest and it’s completely personal: there are no competitors, no price to win. You can have an instructor to help you in the process but he’s never going to tell you that your “meditation is bad” because this concept doesn’t apply in this field (good riddance).
You’re invited to let go of any expectations on the outcome of your practice, that’s good news for all the perfectionists who get paralyzed by their own fear.
Because there’s no such thing as screwing up in meditation, you can enjoy it as much as you want. Of course there’s always a risk of applying your instructions badly, but it’s never as bad as not to meditate at all, is it?
If this quick and dirty guide helped you in any way, please USE IT :)
Once again, there’s nothing to lose and no one is watching.