My thoughts on building a meditation habit
Over the past 5 years, I have meditated hundreds of hours. Initially, I was doing it very infrequently. Over time, I slowly learned how to build up a daily habit. Below you'll find some information about learning how to meditate which I found very helpful. Based on reviews online and recommendations from friends, my main sources of information are:
Disclaimer: there are hundreds of schools of thought around Buddhism and Mindfulness. Use whatever works for you.
Waking up mobile app
Start with this. The app has both (1) guided meditations (2) lessons. This app contains the highest quality spoken material I found so far, giving you an easy but thorough understanding of the usefulness of meditation.
The mind illuminated book
An incredibly thorough, detailed and scientific book with enough practice material to keep you working for years. This book has an emphasis on non-guided meditation: you will mostly be sitting alone to become more aware. This is the practice which I follow now, as in the "real world" you won't have any narrator to help you along either. I won't summarize it here but it mentions many techniques to grow awareness such as following, connecting, labeling, body scanning, investigation of mental objects, etc.
A note on posture
There is no single optimal way to sit, figure out what works for you. Don't make yourself too comfortable as you'll fall asleep, so I advise not using a chair or bed to sit on. I sit as Burmese or Seiza.
Source:The way of meditation
Some notes on building a meditation habit
Interestingly, most meditation courses are not just talking about meditation, but they consist of large sections on how to build habits. Humans suck at discipline and have a limited attention span, so better learn how to let your unconscious brain do most of the work. Therefore, it helps if you:
- Make it obvious (create a cue ):
The two most common cues are time and location. Prefer to practice every day at the same time and place. One slip-up can always happen, but never miss two days in a row. Create a separate meditation space in your house. Use a calendar entry, physical sticky notes, or anything else which grab your attention and to remind you that you're committed to meditate.
- Make it attractive (create craving):
Think about how you can make the experience more relaxed and joyful. For example, you can take the time to make your mediation room smell, look and feel nice.
- Make it easy (create a response):
Prepare everything you need for meditation the day before: place your pillow, download your app, grab your glass of water, etc. etc. Place your meditation pillow on the way to something you already do in the morning.
- Make it satisfying (create a reward for doing it and a cost for not doing it):
Measure progress: how many days have you meditated already? Celebrate progress: remind yourself of the fact that you just succeeded in making an effort. It is not the duration of sustained attention which counts, it is the fact that you're making an effort to improve in the first place which counts. Take a coffee, walk or get a hug when you're finished. Find someone to share your experiences with. Agree with someone that you pay them time or money if you skip a day.
Finally, preparation is half the work and ensures that you don't have to spend any actual willpower on meditating. Keeping it up is easier if you take for example 5 minutes per week to actually write down and plan the specific steps you will take. E.g.:
- “I will meditate for [DURATION] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”
- "After [CURRENT HABIT], I will mediate."
- "To prevent [EXTERNAL DISTRACTION], I will try [STRATEGY]."
- "I will meditate [X] days to evaluate if I like it."