Written by: Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D.
“Meditation starts when you decide to meditate.”
“This is not a post to convince you that “meditation is good for you.” By now it’s common knowledge that the practice of meditation is another important pillar of wellness, and is about as well-established as are good sleep, regular exercise, and healthful eating. So why is it so hard to get ourselves to spend a few minutes each day meditating? Maybe you’ve had a similar experience yourself. Perhaps you were drawn to the teachings of mindfulness, were introduced to meditation, and even enjoyed the practice. You might have found it relaxing, grounding, even liberating.
And yet you’ve struggled to make it a regular part of your day.
How can we make it easier to make that decision (to meditate) if meditation is something we want to make a regular part of our lives? There are many ways to remove barriers to meditation (in addition to recognizing our own resistance for what it is). Five important ones that I’ve found are:
- Find a regular time. When we build meditation practice into our routine, we avoid having to ask ourselves, “Should I meditate now?” Even if it’s hard to find a time that always works, finding a time that often works will raise the odds of doing it.
- Keep it brief. There is no minimum number of minutes you must meditate. One conscious breath is better than none. One minute is better than none. You can check in with yourself and see if the length of your practice feels more like an opportunity or a sentence. If the latter, consider making it shorter.
- Find a comfortable posture. Being terribly uncomfortable while meditating isn’t going to increase you desire to meditate. For example, if sitting on the floor doesn’t work for you, try sitting on a chair. I used to sit on the floor and often had a lot of discomfort in my back. I found that sitting on a low yoga block felt much friendlier.
- Choose a form of meditation you enjoy. There are many ways to meditate, and the important thing is to find one that works for you. Maybe you prefer a more active form of meditation like tai chi over a sitting breath-focused meditation. We can benefit from varying our meditation practice at times. Most of my practice involves a sitting eyes-open meditation on the breath, which I’ve found I like. When it feels right for you, it’s more appealing to return to over and over.
- Release expectations. If we’re not careful we can bring our ego-driven goals to meditation: “I hope I’m able to focus.” “I want to do this right.” “I want to have an experience like I had the last time.” These kinds of goals can lead us to evaluate our meditation session as “good” or “bad,” and to feel pressure as we consider meditating. We can practice bringing a “beginner’s mind” to each practice, being open and curious about what will happen this time.”
Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor of psychology in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Pennsylvania.
Published in Psychology Today on September 8, 2016