“Connect to that light, that spark that brought you to practice. Recognise that despite the excuses you made it here, because there is a part of you that yearns to grow and expand.
Acknowledge that part of you, because each time you do that light grows a little stronger and the path forward a little easier.”
~ Sian Pascale, The Light Collective
One of the questions I get asked the most is, “How do I develop a meditation practice?”
When we want to start new routines, it can feel a bit daunting, where do we start, how do we build it, and how do we create that desire to show up day after day?
Know Your Why
This is probably one of the most important elements to understand about yourself.
Why do you want to practice?
It usually goes deeper than the initial reason that might have bought you to sit for the first time. Initially you may have come for some stress relief and a greater calm, but over time have discovered the deeper levels of awareness that are available within, and the possibility for real personal expansion.
I encourage you to sit and really connect to your deeper why. What is your reason behind the desire to have a consistent practice?
Your why is going to be unique to you, but connecting to this will help you show up, because this is the thing that will get you out of bed each day, that will help you move beyond the excuses and all the reasons that will come to your head not to (and there is always plenty of them), it will help you stay connected to your practice and get you on the chair.
Make The Commitment & Make The Time
Making it a priority is really the only way to do it. There will be hundreds of other things that can take up your attention within the busy 24 hours you have each day, another reason knowing your why is so important.
In the end you have to decide to do something and show up to it consistently as best you can.
I love the expression “If you don’t have 5 mins, meditate for 10”.
It might help you to know that when you have a meditation practice, and you set aside that space, it can in essence create more freedom; as you can be more focused, have more clarity, feel more grounded and connected throughout the rest of your life.
Start Small & Realistic
When I first started my own practice my teacher said to me 10 mins daily will make an incredible difference to your life. So this is what I started with, and he was right, the impact it had was profound.
It was also realistic for me to find 10 mins in my day, and the more I experienced the benefits of the practice on a personal level, rather than just hearing or reading about the positives, the more I wanted to practise.
My own practice has grown and developed overtime, as I have changed and evolved, but I started small and I encourage you to do the same.
Perhaps for you initially it might only be 10 mins on weekdays, but making that commitment can create a significant shift. Even just 5 mins connected to your breathing can have a beneficial effect on the mind and body.
Start small so it’s something joyful that you look forward to, rather than going in hardcore where it may become overwhelming and more like a chore. This is often where the resistance comes in.
Work out what is possible for you, begin, and build up from there.
There are so many different techniques out there to try, find one that you connect with and practise that for a period of time. The more you can stay with one technique helps you to build that consistency, the body gets to know what to expect on a physiological level, it helps to rewire the neural pathways, and you can start to see the benefits.
Then when you are ready you can start to expand and incorporate new practices into your repertoire.
Practise At The Same Time Each Day
There is no right time to practise, however working out the best time for you and making it consistent helps you stick to your chosen routine.
For me I find the morning is great, because it means my practice is done early on so I can’t find excuses later, which can happen toward the end of the day if I get busy and tired; I also find it sets me up for the day ahead.
However, we are all different, with different schedules, so mornings might not work for you. Experiment; perhaps it’s on your lunch break, or when you first get home from work.
I will add the caveat that don’t be so rigid that if you miss a practice, or your routine changes on some days, to not be open to practising at other times. A reminder that it’s your practice, so making it work for you is important.
Where To Practise
I find having a dedicated spot where I practise very helpful, but this is not necessarily a requirement, as we can practise anywhere; it’s one of the beautiful aspects of meditation.
That being said when creating a routine, you might find it easier to sit in the same place each time, as it starts to make it a bit of a ritual.
I’ve always lived in relatively small apartments, however, I’ve always set up a place where I can put a few sacred objects that creates an environment that I can dedicate my practice to. At one point it was a window ledge with some crystals and a candle.
Now I have a little altar with some images of the deities, a special plant, I light some incense and candles and sit in front of it on a cushion and yoga mat. For me it is the sacredness of ritual that I love, and it creates an extra dimension.
There have been times though over the years where sitting on the same spot on the couch has been just what I needed, so to be clear, an altar is not necessary, it’s totally all about what suits your needs and lifestyle.
Perhaps meditating on the train on the way to work is how you fit it into your schedule, and this is perfect, if it’s the way you can create a routine for meditation in your day.
Find A Teacher
Find a teacher that you resonate with and feel comfortable asking questions of, so that you can explore any challenges that come up, and also share your experiences.
You can find teachers in so many different places, whether that be in a class environment, 1 on 1, or even on apps, my favourite app is Insight Timer.
My incredible teachers have been my greatest gifts in developing my own practice, they have shown me the patience I needed, the humility, the tenacity to hang in there when it got tough, and also a sense of humour to not take myself too seriously. As one said recently.
“Be serious about your practice, but not yourself.”
This is a totally optional one, and to be honest it’s not something that I use daily, however, I know a lot of people find journaling after their practice very helpful, as it assists you to reflect on your meditation journey, develop a greater understanding of whats going under the surface, and helps you to see the underlying patterns that might be holding you back in life, or identify areas for development.
I highly recommend this journal by The Mellow Mind if it’s something you would like to explore.
Personally I find it takes me more than 21 days to change a habit, which is an idea that was populated in the 60’s, although this definitely makes a shift. There was a study in 2009 by a British University that says it takes 66 days for something to become automatic, and up to 254 days depending on the person to create real change.
While this might seem a bit daunting, once you start to feel the benefits, you really start to want to do it, you actually feel a bit off kilter when you miss your practice.
I know there are groups that often run 30 day challenges, so this might be a good start for you, where you have other people to support you during the process.
One thing I will say is that if you miss a day (or a few), don’t give up and consider that a failure because you had a misstep. It happens. Just begin again the next day, and start where you left off.
It’s Your Practice
I hope one of the key take outs from all that I have written above is that it’s your own practice. What works for me or someone else, might not be right for you.
Find that spark that helps you to show up each day, acknowledge yourself for being there for yourself, and most of all be kind to yourself with any setbacks or challenges. These are actually one of the biggest ways to growth, so give yourself that support you need to move through these, so that you’re able to continue on.
It definitely gets easier with time and consistency, and if you’re like me, you might just fall in love a little with your practice, it nurtures and supports you, and carries you through your life with just that little bit more ease and grace.
If I can support you in your practice in anyway don’t hesitate to get in touch. I do 1:1 mindfulness and meditation training, as well as small groups and workshops.