Some people I know have a daily meditation routine. The others say things like “I know I should, buuut …”, while doing the mental equivalent of slowly walking backward and disappear behind the corner.
I mean, at this point, everyone knows meditation is good for you. Just practicing for as little as ten minutes per day will new beneficial. Still, a lot of us don’t. Then we feel guilty for not doing it. Which makes us even less inclined to actually do it. It's a clusterfuck of not being zen at all.
I'm definitely not sitting on a high horse here. It wasn't until January 2017 I got serious about it. (And true to my nature of taking things to the extreme did the most rigid meditation retreat known to man six months later. But you already know that story.) What made me finally commit was being in a city where I didn't know anyone, had a ton of work and wasn't able to walk around freely by myself. Meditation felt like a hobby as good as any.
With this post, I'm hoping to maybe inspire you to not wait until such extreme circumstances before you get started. What I've learned since is that it really doesn't have to be that complicated. Take this post with my answers to three questions I just totally made up as a not so subtle hint.
1. Why should I even waste my precious time with meditation?*
“Hey, I managed life for like 20, 30, 40 years without meditation, and I’M DOING FINE. JUST FINE.” Maybe that’s you. Fine is good. Congratz.
But if you could do me a favor and listen to this interview, with Dan Harris, which I think describes the value of meditating better than I ever could, I'd appreciate it.
2. Is there an app for this?
The logical follow-up questions for anyone attempting a new habit. Of course there is.
I started my practice with Headspace, which is what I recommend if you’re new and need to establish a routine. Its strength lies in simplicity and encouraging consistency. Zero woo-woo, more pragmatic, and after the initial courses, you can pick them based on your current focus.
Insight Timer is the app I prefer when I'm not practicing Vipassana. It has guided meditations from a wide range of teachers, you’re bound to find one that suits you. But all the options can also feel overwhelming, so, my personal recommendations are Tara Brach and MindSpace (Julien Lacaille), both have nice voices and usually a fair amount of silence (I'm not a fan of too much talking). Joseph Goldstein has a few short ones I like as well.
The other thing I love about this app is the timer function. Set a timer, pick a background sound (rain, birds, rivers, drums, you name it), add interval bells, and enjoy. Sometimes I set the timer for an hour, with an interval bell after 50 minutes, at which point I switch from Vipassana to Metta, to finish my practice.
If you’re practicing Vipassana, you know there’s no need for an app. But if you miss Goenka’s unique singing, Dhamma.org do have an app with recordings you can make available offline.
3. Like, how do you actually do it?
Exactly in whatever way works for you. Sitting on a chair, standing up, laying down, whatever floats your zen-boat.**
Sometimes people have this idea that meditation should be practiced sitting uncomfortably on a cold, wet floor. But meditation is challenging enough, you don’t need to go out of your way to make it even harder. Unless that as your thing, in which case, be my guest.
I don't have a fancy meditation cushion, I just bundle up two pillows on my bed, sit with my legs crossed, back straight. Getting your hips a bit higher helps to find a good posture. Then I sit in silence, maybe set a timer, or do a guided sitting.
Sometimes I practice in the morning, sometimes during the day, mostly in the evenings. Ideally, I'd like to practice longer around sunrise and wrap up the day with a shorter sitting. Maybe that'll be a project this autumn.
What is worth keeping in mind, is to not make it difficult for yourself. Pick an easy starting point. Maybe it's in the morning when you're the only one up. Maybe it's the quiet room at work before lunch. Maybe during the commute to work (yes, it's doable).
Just focus on the habit first, ten minutes a day. After a month you can start playing around with it. Try different teachers, see if 20 minutes works better, practice in complete silence, there's no one size fits all here.
Or whatever kids say these days.
*An even better question would be why you're reading this post if your time is so precious, but this just turned into me having lengthy conversations with myself on my blog, sooo, I'm done here.
**Sorry, "float your zen-boat" sounds too ridiculous to edit out.