8 Ways To Strengthen Your Mediation Practice
Meditation isn't just about stress reduction, but it seems to be the place most people enter a meditation practice. It's definitely an effective way to reduce stress, achieve clarity, and attain a mentally calm state.
But meditation is a spiritual practice. Meditation can help you shift your perspective, allowing you see the world from a different viewpoint. It's meditation with creative visualization that opened me up to the world of chakras, spirits, and Shamanism.
If you're already meditating, and you're having a few sticking points with it, here are a few ways I've tried to help me get into a deeper, more joyous meditation practice.
- Be consistent. Have a time and place that you meditate each day. If you want to maximize your skill at meditation, make it a permanent part of your schedule, like brushing your teeth. You always brush your teeth at the same time each day. Do the same with your meditation practice. If possible, have a meditation-specific location where you meditate. This can be a spare room or a corner of the house that you can set aside for your practice. Make it comfortable and inspiring.
- Have at least one longer session each week. While you can receive great benefits from meditating for as little as five minutes, there’s something magical that happens when you sit for a half hour, or an hour or more each day. Have a session or two each week where you add five minutes each time until you’re up to an hour of sitting time. Feel free to go even further if you have the time. (If you don't have the time, consider doing a Time Inventory, and then budgeting your time, like you would your bank account.)
- Avoid comparing yourself with others, or having super-high expectations of yourself. You're not a Monk in Tibet, and even they have bad days. You’ll have both good days and bad days when meditating. There are days you feel that you could sit there for hours on end, and others when your mind just won't STFU. Those days feel like you have no control. Both are fine. Just be aware and sit with whatever is happening.
- Avoid meditating when you're overly tired. With enough practice, you can fall asleep in the sitting position! I've had days where I've been meditating for a full hour, and I've awakened myself from the loudness of my snoring! If you’re extremely tired, you’d be better off taking a short nap and meditating at another time.
- Meditate throughout the day. Sitting on your cushion under ideal conditions isn’t the only place to meditate - it’s just the easiest. The real trick is to be able to meditate while sitting on a hot, smelly bus. Can you focus on your breath and fully experience your surroundings under those circumstances?
- Meditate on an empty stomach. It’s harder to meditate when you have a big meal digesting in your tummy. You feel tired and sluggish. Your best meditation sessions will occur when you’re alert and able to concentrate. Try not to meditate when you’re excessively hungry either. The best way to find this balance is to eat a light breakfast if you're hungry, and wait about an hour before meditating.
- Minimize interruptions. Shut the door and let everyone know that you want an hour of peace and quiet. Turn off your phone. This is your time. Take control of it. If necessary, turn on a bit of peaceful spa-like music or nature sounds to distract you from noises in another room. But instead of focusing on the music or nature sounds, see how long you can focus on your inhale and exhale at the point of your nostrils.
- Try meditating with a group. If you only meditate with a group, try meditating alone. Most people have a definite preference but give the other option a try from time to time. It’s a different experience, and you’ll gain a different perspective. You might even make a new friend or two.
Whether you’re just learning to meditate or a seasoned pro, can all do with some improvement in our meditation practice. Meditation is one of the best ways to relieve stress and increase your enjoyment of life, so consider how you can strengthen your meditation practice, and reap even bigger benefits.