12 Jun Part 3: Maintaining Your Meditation Practice
Arjun joins us for the final part in the 3-part series – maintaining your meditation practice. We also look at how to integrate mindfulness (or mini-meditations) into our daily lives.
Setting a lofty ambitious goal can be great, like planning to practice meditation at 6.30am every morning but can also be frustrating or feel like failure if we miss a day because we’re tired or not in the mood. A point we touched upon in parts 1 & 2, is the importance of being kind to yourself or not being hard on yourself. This can relate to during (being gentle with ourselves if we get distracted), but also our approach to the practice in general – we all have off days, and starting a new routine in our busy lives is not easy, some days the idea of calming the mind seems impossible. Forgive yourself and stick with it as best you can.
We can approach the practice like an experiment, after all, it’s called meditation ‘practice’ for a reason
Perhaps a morning meditation is good for you to start the day with, but have you tried in the afternoon to create some space in the day? Some like to practice before bedtime to let go of the day and settle the mind for a good night sleep. We feel different each day, try and feel it out for yourself…
Building some consistency is important with any new endeavour and meditation is no different. It may be comfortable to begin with just doing 2 minutes a day, then 5 minutes a day, and when you feel ready, extending to 10 minutes and so on…the point is to commit and get consistent. Be accountable to yourself, without beating yourself up if you miss a day – perhaps your friends are also experimenting with meditation and that’s a great opportunity to inspire each other and share experiences.
Let go of any expectations about the practice
this is a tricky one. Our minds may make up things about what meditating can achieve, like superhuman powers or floating in clouds! If we don’t experience what we may have built up to expect, it can feel like ‘it’s not working’ – letting go things we want to happen by meditating and just doing it for the sake of doing it, can help us to continue on.
Lastly, have fun and enjoy the process. Without a goal in sight, we can experience things as they are, learn about ourselves and let the benefits of meditating take care of themselves
So you’ve begun to meditate regularly and wonder how you can translate that into your daily life, after all we can’t shut ourselves of from the world in midst of our duties. As mentioned, meditation can help to strengthen the quality of mindfulness, which is something we can bring to anything that we are doing, all of the time.
In their book ‘Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy…’ authors Williams, Teasdale & Segal outline some tips and ideas for weaving mindfulness into your every day.
When you first wake up in the morning
Before you get out of bed, bring your attention to your breathing. Observe five mindful breaths.
Notice changes in your posture
Be aware of how your body and mind feel when you move from lying down to sitting, to standing, to walking. Notice each time you make a transition from one posture to the next.
Use any sound as the bell of mindfulness
Whenever you hear a phone ring, a bird sing, a train pass by, laughter, a car horn, the wind, the sound of a door closing—really listen and be present and awake.
Throughout the day
Take a few moments to bring your attention to your breathing. Observe five mindful breaths.
Whenever you eat or drink something, take a minute and breathe
Look at your food and realize that the food was connected to something that nourished its growth. Can you see the sunlight, the rain, the earth, the farmer, the trucker in your food? Pay attention as you eat, consciously consuming this food for your physical health. Bring awareness to seeing your food, smelling your food, tasting your food, chewing your food, and swallowing your food.
Notice your body while you walk or stand
Take a moment to notice your posture. Pay attention to the contact of the ground under your feet. Feel the air on your face, arms, and legs as you walk. Are you rushing?
Bring awareness to listening and talking
Can you listen without agreeing or disagreeing, liking or disliking, or planning what you will say when it is your turn? When talking, can you just say what you need to say without overstating or understating? Can you notice how your mind and body feel?
Whenever you wait in a line, use this time to notice standing and breathing
Feel the contact of your feet on the floor and how your body feels. Bring attention to the rise and fall of your abdomen. Are you feeling impatient?
Be aware of any points of tightness in your body throughout the day
See if you can breathe into them and, as you exhale, let go of excess tension. Is there tension stored anywhere in your body? For example, your neck, shoulders, stomach, jaw, or lower back? If possible, stretch or do yoga once a day.
Bring mindfulness to each activity
Focus attention on daily activities such as brushing your teeth, washing up, brushing your hair, putting on your shoes, doing your job.
Before you go to sleep at night
Take a few minutes and bring your attention to your breathing. Observe five mindful breaths.
*It is important to consult a health practitioner before trying any breathing or stretching exercises, especially with any underlying health conditions.