I learned to meditate as a child and my parents are lifelong meditators. I began to take my own practice more seriously when I was 20, but it wasn’t until nine years later that I was really meditating every day.
It was an uphill battle, but I can say without hesitation that it has changed my life for the better. Daily meditation is a “pearl of great price” that I don’t take for granted. It’s the most important thing I do each day.
Meditation makes me a more intuitive, loving, calm, and joyful person. It allows me to cut through habitual thought patterns and create new ones that result in an ever-more fulfilling life.
From a scientific standpoint, meditation creates stronger neural pathways in my frontal lobe, the seat of “executive function” and problem solving. Esoterically, it draws my consciousness toward my spiritual eye, the seat of wisdom.
Here are a few hard-won lessons that I found on my journey to a daily meditation practice:
1. Create a sacred space. Somewhere in your home, find a way to carve out a little place to call your own and dedicate it to your practice. Keep your space beautiful and be sure you have what you need: a chair or pillow, layers for warmth, a candle or soft light, pictures that inspire you (nature, saints, sacred places, etc), objects that you consider sacred, and uplifting smells like incense or essential oils. Make your sacred space appeal to all five senses in an uplifting way.
2. Choose a time of day (or two). Stick with a schedule. Even if it’s not a specific time, try to select an order for meditation in your daily flow. For me, it is when I first wake and before sleep. Of course, with my two small kids, it’s not always that simple, but my husband and I work as a team to make meditation happen for both of us.
3. Never miss your meditation. Even if all you have energy for is to sit on your cushion and take a few long breaths or say a prayer, just do it. Like your daily ritual of brushing teeth, habit is your friend, but it is only going to work if you make it real. I haven’t missed a day brushing my teeth in my entire adult life; so this can be the same! I have two children under five years old; I know tired, I’m with you. But don’t let your ego get you down in the dumps with the “I’m so tired, I deserve to go to bed,” argument. Just sit up straight, even in bed, take a few yogic breaths (filling the belly and then the lungs with air), fix your gaze toward the horizon behind closed eyes, and rest there for a few minutes. It will send you into the day, or into sleep, with a higher state of consciousness.
4. Find fellow meditators. Build a community of people who inspire you and help to keep you on track. Marathon runners hang out together. Scientists do too. Musicians, too! Find your tribe and make this a central part of your life. If you can, make it your highest priority.
Do your best to create support in your home as well. This one is sometimes out of your control, but thankfully, there is a lot of research to back the idea that meditation makes you a better human, so hopefully it can fuel a winning argument to help convince anyone who lives with you.
Finding my tribe was the game changer that moved me from attempt after failed attempt to a successful daily meditation practice. There are meditation communities online and in person. There are awesome meditation apps. My tribe may not be the same as yours, but we humans typically need community to thrive, so let’s embrace its purpose and live in an environment that helps us pursue happiness.
5. Re-inspire your practice. Your relationship with meditation is akin to your relationship with another human; it requires freshness and perseverance to succeed. In my practice, this means reading inspirational books, participating in spiritual ceremonies, visiting sacred pilgrimage places, and attending group meditations as often as possible. This is serious business.
The dentist motivates me to care for my teeth by fear of cavities but that doesn’t work for meditation. Find what motivates you and use that as often as you can to support your practice.