Top 5 meditation tips – make it a daily habit

Modern practitioners of meditation face the same age-old question that meditators have asked themselves and each other for thousands of years: how can I motivate myself to meditate every day? We are aware that meditation is good for us, and yet the pressures of daily life and our various commitments can make it hard to ensure we fit a meditation session into our busy schedule each day. These days, when even major news outlets have sections on meditation tips, we can look to the 2,500 years of Buddhist meditation experience for inspiration.
Here we offer five tried-and-tested meditation tips to overcome the most common problems that beginners and experienced practitioners can encounter in motivating themselves to sit regularly.

Girl meditating in a field

Meditation is one of the healthiest habits we can make

Tip 1: Reflect on the benefits of meditation

If we are going to devote some time to our meditation practice, we want to know that the effort is worth it. It’s reassuring to know that not only generations of Buddhist masters, but increasingly also modern researchers, attest to the fact that meditation leads to increased levels of wellbeing. Psychologists have found, for example, that “Loving Kindness meditations can have positive effects, in particular in terms of improving one’s resources and wellbeing”, and can even – literally and figuratively – positively affect the very rhythm of our hearts.
Research on the effects of focussing on the intricate and beautiful buddha forms used as meditation objects in Diamond Way Buddhist meditations has found that meditating on buddha forms improves visual-spatial processing in the brain.
And if that’s not enough for the more worldly among us, it’s even been shown that meditating Buddhists make more rational economic decisions. Something to think about when planning your pension, or when hitchhiking home after your next trip to the casino.

Tip 2: Let go of the idea of a ‘good’ meditation

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, as long as you’re following an authentic meditation technique, it’s difficult to do it wrong. Emotions come and go like the weather, so whether we feel calm or distracted, peaceful or disturbed on this or that day is not so important. When we make the effort to notice the wandering puppy of the daydreaming mind and gently bring it back to the focus, deep, long-term changes become inevitable with regular practice. As Lama Ole Nydahl, a modern meditation master, advises:

One teaching whose time has come, is to not try to evaluate one’s own progress – even for those with many years of practice. We have filled our minds with tendencies since beginningless time, and … even a broad and fast development may not be noticed by oneself. This is because the lack of contrast to one’s former situation will be missing or severely limited. Therefore, the surest sign of development is that expected disturbed reactions hardly appear, or only with limited
power. Another piece of advice is to not fight thoughts during meditation, but simply not care unless something important comes up. (Lama Ole’s New Year letter 2011)

So forget about evaluating yourself and focus on what you can do to establish the habit.

Tip 3: Make meditation a habit, not a decision

If you wake up in the morning, Lama Ole also advises, and have a conversation with yourself to try to convince yourself to meditate, you’ve already lost. You need to make meditating a habit, not a decision. Habits become, through repetition and unconscious association, our default way of behaving. Natural inertia then works in our favour – it takes effort to establish a habit, but once well established, it takes effort to break it.
We have previously reported on research on how to form a habit, and there is ever-increasing interest and psychological research in this area.

Tip 4: Use an external aid

Buddhists have used meditation beads or malas for millennia to help keep concentration during a meditation session, as well as to count repetitions of mantras. Nowadays the modern Buddhist is just as likely to carry their mala as an app on their iPhone.
Popular habit-tracking app Lift say on their blog about getting started with meditation that 11 days is the magic number: after 11 consecutive days of meditating daily, people are 90% likely to continue the habit.
Lift have been running a March Meditation challenge, where members of their community share what helps them to form and keep the meditation habit. See tips from our own London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre, @DWBLondon, and many others under the #marchmeditation hashtag on Twitter.
Whether you choose the Seinfeld productivity method using an old-fashioned calendar, or the latest electronic gadget, you can encourage yourself to meditate, and make it easier, using material things to help you.

Tip 5: Try guided meditation

Many people worry about not doing the meditation “right”, or have trouble keeping focus. If your mind is wandering during a session, you might benefit from a guided meditation.
You might enjoy H.H. 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, head of the Karma Kagyu lineage, guiding a meditation on the breath. In this video, H.H. Karmapa gives advice and meditation tips for beginners and advanced practitioners alike, and guides the meditation aloud:

Or you can try meditating on the Buddha along with Lama Ole Nydahl:

Now it’s your turn. Are you trying to start meditating? How do you keep up the habit of meditation?
Let us know in the comments.

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2 Responses to “Top 5 meditation tips – make it a daily habit”

  1. Clemens says:

    I found it very helpful to arrange to meditate together with a friend or partner. It definitely helped me a lot to make it a daily habit.
    I just now heard of two people who managed to do the refuge meditation daily by hooking up via skype every morning at 6 a.m. and doing it together this way. It worked out fine and by now it has become a group of people spread over Northern Germany who join like that.

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