How to Start a Daily Meditation Practice
Starting a daily meditation practice may seem easy at first for some people, but it took me four years before making it happen every day for at least a month! I thought I would share what I have learned from Tibetan Buddhism as well as my own experience on how to get this train moving everyday! So without further adieu, here are some relevant causes and conditions that helped me create and maintain a daily meditation practice.
Help someone else who wants to meditate daily: Use the 4 karmic steps: 1. State what you want. 2. Find someone else who wants the same thing. 3. Make a plan to meet with them weekly. 4. Rejoice as you fall asleep. If this is too much to meet weekly, start by just finding a buddy and announce to each other out loud and in person or over text: your plan to have a realistic goal: i.e. “I will meditate every day for 7 days in a row”. Then check in with each other: “I meditated for 24 minutes today how about you!?” It’s like a workout buddy, but the benefits will last many more life times than a summer in your bathing suit bod.
Find a Teacher. If you wanted to learn how to play a guitar would you not find someone else who knows how? Here is a list of 10 qualities of a teacher. You can also find more information from this Lam Rim retreat: “How to Find a Teacher You Can Trust”. Use your discernment with anything you learn from someone else. If you have doubts, then meditate on it! It’s better to prove things for yourself, on your cushion than accept on blind faith! Help other people find a teacher as well. That is an amazing and beautiful thing to do.
Set up a space. Start with setting down a cushion (traditional cushions are filled with buckwheat), or lighting a candle, or setting up an altar. Create a space that will remind you every time you see it that something sacred is meant to happen there. Maybe you don’t sit but once a week but every time you step over that area it will remind you and the karma of habit will eventually kick in.
Practice. Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. get your bum on the cushion!
If you don’t have a meditation cushion, sit on a pillow on your bed, or in a chair. Get your spine straight and meditate on something you learned from your teacher.
It is ideal to meditate first thing in the morning before checking your phone or talking to anyone. Maybe shower or brush your teeth and go straight for the cushion. Make it a routine just the way brushing your teeth in the morning is.
Be patient with yourself. If you miss your morning meditation, do it on the subway or find time at night or even in the bathroom, or over a cup of coffee. At any moment you can be meditating on something virtuous. Try to lead up to an hour a day eventually.
Rejoice anytime you meditate. Associate joy and gratitude with that meditation cushion. If you miss a day just rejoice that you even noticed you missed a day! That is good you are even thinking about meditation! The fact that you are even reading this article is profoundly rare. As rare and special as the turtle, who only surfaces every 100 years, poking its nose through a moving ring in the ocean.
Develop Renunciation and the Wish. Renunciation is a desire to get out of the same old cyclic habits that keep us in the realm of suffering. Renounce old age, sickness, birth and death or maybe you renounce a cycle as simple as the same old argument you keep having with your significant other, boss, or family. The Wish is the Wish for your own Enlightenment for the sake of all beings (See class 2 ACI course 10 for benefits of The Wish for Enlightenment). Meditating on these ideas are are great motivators to keep a consistent practice.
Practice Death Meditation If you were going to die today, would you not meditate even for just 5 minutes on this possibility, to think about what you would take up during your day or let go of ? Even just meditating on the fact that we cannot know when death will arrive helps us find joy and make the most of the day. When you wake up still alive and rejoice in this fact, you will eventually realize how this precious human life, has the perfect amount of suffering and happiness so that we seek out wisdom. You can find many different 5 minute death meditations in this recent Lam Rim Retreat, the Unsurpassable Life with Geshe Michael Roach.
*If you are serious about being a Buddhist, Take Refuge vows after studying them with a qualified teacher. I started my regular, daily, morning, meditation practice right after I took refuge vows.
Jacquelyn Autrey is a student of Hector Marcel and Geshe Michael Roach; a yoga and meditation teacher at The Three Jewels, New York City,; a freelance writer; and an art consultant.