Science underpins what has been common sense all along: Commitment to a regular practice is the single most important key to recognisable progress in almost everything we do.
In terms of mindfulness it is our brain that we re-invite and lovingly encourage to reshape with each recurring meditation session, and this is a serious job. Repetition allows for “neurons that fire together to wire together”, which in turn rewards us with the growing ability to focus our mind, centre ourselves, expand our capacity to accept the difficult, find more clarity, and generally become more fluid in the adaptation to life’s ever changing nature.
In the end, just three things matter:
How well we have lived,
How well we have loved,
How well we have learned to let go
― Jack Kornfield
If you are reading this article, it is most likely that it will not be your first one on how to start, establish or pick-up your Mindfulness Practice. You might already be in the possession of a book on this matter, have found an audio- or video course, or perhaps joined a group. You might have even finished a guided meditation course, and find yourself equipped with a great list of how-to-tips yet keeping up with the everyday practice seems just impossible. Well, you are not alone!
One of the most challenging bits about meditation is to actually establish a regular practice. Here are our five tips that will hopefully inspire you to start or to pick up your practice.
1. Find the right motivation & intention
Although you might not feel up for it every day, it is important to look at the ‘glass as half full’ as opposed to ‘half empty’. It can be helpful to remind yourself of why you are sitting, how it will benefit you, and enrich your life. Watch out for approaching your daily routine automatically, and take a moment to renew your intention to do something for your health and well-being. Remember that just like with most new things sometimes, before it get’s easy, things have to become more difficult. Keeping this in mind will help you to stay open and find forgiveness when everything appears to go pear-shaped.
2. Find the right attitude & attention
Mindfulness practice is not a competition or performance. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sitting but each practice will allow you to learn more about yourself, and to gain insight into how your very mind works. This in itself is a win, even though there might be days where it just feels, well, much less pleasant. It is important to keep in mind that what you are trying to do is not rigidly sticking to a task, such as observing your breath, but to become fluid in guiding your wandering attention back to the object of observation. Each moment holds a new opportunity for a new discovery.
3. Find the right time & timing
Sometimes five minutes with the right intention and right attention are much more useful than forty minutes half-hearted practice. Although this might not be news to you, there is still the nagging, competitive mind lurking in the back, condescendingly dismissing minimum times. Lose it, and start with what you can actually really sustain. This way you will have a much more rewarding experience rather than feeling you have “failed” over and over. Therefore, it is double important that you take one moment at the end of each session to really appreciate and acknowledge yourself for having taken the time to stick to your commitment to do something for your health and well-being.
4. Find the right spot & posture
Wherever you decide to practice, make sure that you are feeling safe, grounded and find a wakeful posture so that you provide for yourself the best possible conditions. Go ahead and get yourself your favourite cushion, chair, mat, blanket or block. Over the years there might be some days where you find yourself in a less than ideal environment, then the second best spot will do just fine. Whilst it is clearly vital that you find a place and posture that work for you, it is equally important not to put too much importance on either choice. What you are looking for is an open-hearted, curious approach to being with whatever the moment presents.
5. Find the right routine & stick to it!
Short and sweet, and probably most challenging: Whether you sit once a day or more often, perhaps just a few minutes or longer periods of time, find a minimum commitment which you can sustain every day for the rest of your life. Imagine yourself practicing on your birthday, New Years Eve, the day you do your taxes, your friend’s wedding, the day you buy the new car, your daughter’s graduation, the day you lose your job, your grandson’s birth… Stick to it. No excuses.
So, how about starting right now? You could close your computer, and start by taking a few mindful breaths…
Wherever you go, go with all your heart. ― Confucius
VERONIKA teaches yoga and mindfulness meditation to groups and individuals in private, public and corporate settings and schools as well as works as a counsellor with young people.