Consistent Meditation Practice

No matter how enthusiastic we are while taking an 8-week MBSR course, or while on a silent meditation retreat, we often fail to firmly establish and maintain a consistent, daily meditation practice. We may well have experienced the profound benefits of daily meditation practice, yet stuff seems to keep getting in the way.

Very useful, proven advice on how to establish and maintain a consistent, regular, daily practice:

"We all know that change is hard. Much research suggests that learning new tricks, adopting new behaviors, or breaking old habits may be harder than we even realize and that most attempts at change, whether by individuals or organizations, fail. It turns out that self-discipline is usually insufficient when it comes to fulfilling our commitments, even those we know are good for us – which is why most New Year’s resolutions fail.

In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz provide a different way of thinking about change: they suggest that instead of focusing on cultivating self-discipline as a means toward change, we need to introduce rituals. According to Loehr and Schwartz, ‘Building rituals requires defining very precise behaviors and performing them at very specific times – motivated by deeply held values.’

Initiating a ritual is often difficult, but maintaining it is relatively easy. Top athletes have rituals: they know that at specific hours during each day they are on the field, after which they are in the gym, and then they stretch. For most of us, brushing our teeth at least twice a day is a ritual and therefore does not require special powers of discipline. We need to take the same approach toward any change we want to introduce.

For athletes, being a top performer is a deeply held value, and therefore they create rituals around training; for most people, hygiene is a deeply held value, and therefore they create the ritual of brushing their teeth. If we hold our personal happiness as a value and want to become happier, then we need to form rituals around that, too.

... Introduce no more than one or two rituals at a time, and make sure they become habits before you introduce new ones. As Tony Schwartz says, ‘Incremental change is better than ambitious failure … Success feeds on itself.’

Once you identify the rituals you want to adopt, enter them in your planner and begin to do them. New rituals may be difficult to initiate; but over time, usually within as little as thirty days, performing these rituals will become as natural as brushing your teeth. Habits in general are difficult to get rid of – and that’s a good thing when good habits are concerned.”

Tal Ben-Shahar. “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfilment.” McGraw Hill, NY, 2007.

So how can you apply this to establishing & maintaining a solid, daily meditation practice?

It can be as simple as this: wake up 15 minutes before you have to, go to the washroom, drink a glass of water, return to sit in the same quiet place every time, set a timer for 15 minutes, and meditate till the timer goes off. Customize, but then keep it consistent. Go for it!

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