Have you ever tried to establish a regular meditation practice but struggled to keep it up after the first week (or day?) Perhaps a so-called '“good” meditation inspired you to begin sitting regularly and when you started to carve out time for this activity (or should I say non-activity!) you noticed the next time you sat was not quite as easy/blissful/peaceful/insert other nice verb as before? This can feel very demotivating I know. It took me a good 2-3 years to establish a daily meditation practice and even now, 9 years on, I still have the occasional day where I struggle to find the motivation to sit and observe my body and mind in stillness. This, I have come to learn, is just part of the process!
In the same way we go to the gym to exercise our body and maintain our physical health, meditation is a workout for the mind. Doing anything challenging regularly - even something you know is good for you - can be hard. Just like the gym, meditation isn’t always the most appealing option, especially when you’ve had a hard day at work or you are struggling with a particular issue in your life. Or on a more superficial level, you might just want to watch that last episode of your favourite Netflix series! But as you know if you have ever meditated, the impact of sitting still and gaining some headspace can be transformational and can completely change the way you respond to your life, especially the challenges.
This is not just theory, it is science. When we sit to meditate we are actively forming new neural pathways in our brains which change the way we perceive the world. We train our minds to be with the truth (whether that is our breath or sensations) rather than getting caught in negative stories and unhelpful thought patterns. Anchoring to truth creates more space in our minds, allowing creative solutions to form and positive, more constructive thoughts to emerge.
But just like a garden path, we need to maintain it and keep the weeds at bay — and meditation is our “gardening”. Ideally we need to clear the path every day. That way the weeds don’t have too long to grow and therefore stay small and easy to pick. It also means we can enjoy using the path on a daily basis, rather than leaving it to become a confusing, overgrown mess that is neither beautiful nor useful!
Here are some tried and tested tips that you can experiment with to re-energise your meditation practice and inspire you to sit more often.
Change your posture (and relax)
There are so many ways of sitting; on a chair, cross-legged, with your legs to the side, kneeling, lying down. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you have to adopt a certain posture to meditate. The most important thing is that you are relaxed. Change your posture up during your sit if you need, you are not meant to torture yourself!
Create a sacred space in your home
Find a space in your home where you can keep your meditation cushions set up and ready to go. Ever since I created a dedicated space in the corner of my bedroom, I have noticed how much more motivated I am to meditate on a daily basis. This is partly because I don’t have to worry about about the hassle of getting my cushions out and packing them away again but it is also because the positive vibrations I generate in that space are supportive for future sits.
Meditate with a friend (or even better, a group)
The benefits of this one are two-fold. Not only does it help with accountability when you sit with a friend or a group of people (especially if you have a fixed day and time that you come together), it is also vibrationally supportive. Joining forces with others, especially if you are practicing the same technique, will amplify the wholesome vibrations and be collectively beneficial. I host a weekly Vipassana group sit and this has been incredibly supportive to my own and others’ practice. In the words of the Buddha “Good friends, companions, and associates are the whole of the spiritual life.” (Upaḍḍhasutta - SN 45.2)
Soak up some inspiration
Sometimes all we need is some inspiration to keep us going. I am always on the lookout for interesting podcasts, good Dhamma talks and inspiring books to keep me feeling energised and connected to my practice. Tuning into the wisdom of others is so valuable for helping you stay on the path.
Book yourself onto a retreat
If you have the time and are in a position to do so, book yourself onto a retreat to recharge your meditation batteries. Retreats transport you to another place - both physically and mentally - and will give you valuable insights and perspective as well as strengthening your practice. It may be challenging to find the time but we have to make the choice to honour our needs otherwise they will forever be hijacked by the demands of life. Your future self will thank you!
In my experience, having a daily meditation practice is the number one way to reap the rewards that meditation can bring. Take a read of this lovely poem below (from one of my favourite books ‘The First Free Women, Poems by Early Buddhist Nuns’) for proof that commitment to your practice will bear fruits!