No More Excuses! How to Meditate Every Day
Overcoming the struggles of maintaining a consistent meditation practice
Posted Feb 15, 2012
Setback 1: I don't know how to meditate.
In order to enjoy the practice, we have to discover the type of meditation that gives us pleasure. This can take time. Just as learning to play the piano doesn't produce beautiful music at first, we have to be willing to invest time figuring out the type of practice that suits us best in order to experience its benefits.
Your initial motivation to meditate may come from what you've heard from others. Perhaps a friend introduced you to it, or maybe you read a scientific study extolling its benefits. Whatever the reason, you do it because you want to feel good. Although I can assure that the "feel good" part will come, it may not happen right away. Meditation won't provide the immediate gratification of slamming a few beers in Vegas, but over time you will be rewarded for your efforts...without a hangover.
There is no right way to meditate. It's a practice that spans thousands of years, and there are probably as many styles of meditation as there are meditators. Finding what works for you will take trial and error. For example, some of us are scientifically minded. Thus we'll be motivated to take on a practice that is based on research. There are plenty of studies out there, and you can easily identify what technique the participants in a particular study used.
Meanwhile, some of us enjoy seminars, retreats, and group meditation. These are examples of strength in numbers: Just as some people enjoy exercising at the gym versus alone at home, you may be inspired to meditate regularly in the presence of like-minded individuals.
Also, finding a long time meditator whom you respect is a solid source for motivation and guidance. This person can inspire your practice because you recognize what it has done for him or her. If you can't find someone in-person, then search online. For instance, I have a meditation podcast that's free and updated regularly.
Setback 2: I don't feel motivated to do it.
If we're going to invest 30 minutes, twice a day, in an activity, regardless of what it is, we probably expect to experience some benefit from our commitment. After all, the day-to-day is often packed with too many places to go and things to do. Thus we don't have time to waste doing something that doesn't improve our lives.
One way to increase our motivation to meditate is to set strong goals. You need a compelling "why" behind your daily practice. Why, for example, do medical students endure hundred hour weeks during their hospital residencies? Because they realize that the hardship will lead to a lucrative and stable profession. They delay their gratification in order to experience something far greater later on.
So what will be the "why" for your meditation? For me, my main motivator was realizing that meditation was the number one practice for self-transformation. I'm a clinical psychologist by trade, so personal growth has always intrigued me. When I learned that meditation would accelerate my personal development, I plunged wholeheartedly into it. Even when I was tired and meditation was one of the last things I wanted to do, I kept at it. I realized that each sitting session would contribute to the long term results that I sought. Although your "why" may be different from the example I provided, in my experience, those who place meditation at the top of their to-do lists are often motivated to do so because they recognize that it is a radical agent for change.
I can absolutely guarantee that if you're looking for an activity that will lead to a beautiful, wonderful life that you'll find it in meditation. But until you believe this yourself, any number of distractions can keep you from your practice.
If meditation doesn't initially provide enough pleasure to maintain your attention, my advice is to be patient. If you hang in there, the joy will come. Allow me to compare meditation to an exercise routine. If you keep up a consistent workout schedule, you've probably felt times when the last thing you wanted to do was go to the gym. But you realized the benefits of physical activity, which kept you coming back despite the temptation to play hooky. Our minds react the same way to meditation. The more we practice, the more we'll crave its benefits. Over time your sitting practice will be the highlight of your day.