After meditating (almost) every day in 2016, I thought of a few tips I would tell my beginner self one year ago.
Find a time of day and length of sit that work for you and stick with it. I started out sitting before bed (fell asleep a lot), then tried after work (couldn’t stick to it), and then finally landed on first thing in the morning. I brush my teeth, drink some water, and then get to it. [Thanks to the book Sit Like A Buddha for this advice]
For the length of sit, I stuck with a 10 minute session for the entire year. While I was tempted to extend this, I realized the length isn’t the point for beginners. The point is getting hooked. Hooked on what you ask?
Catch Yourself Thinking
I got hooked on catching myself thinking and analyzing the ways in which my mind wanders, what it wanders towards, and so on. Then I got hooked on the feeling of being present when my my is NOT wandering, which isn’t that often. Either way, there’s a lot to be curious about and entertained by in your own mind. I think that’s what beginners should be focused on building this habit around.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Some days I spent the entire session lost in thought. I started my meditation timer and the beginning gong went off. Then, the ending gong went off, seemingly simultaneously. This is part of it. Just brush it off and move on.
This is a Practice, Not a Performance
Along those same lines, realize that the point of meditating is to practice for real life.
Pair with a Teacher
My meditation practice is more insightful when paired with a spiritual practice. I love Pema Chodron. She taught me just this week that meditation is not about getting security – getting “ground under your feet” in this crazy world – it’s about getting comfy with the “groundlessness” the utter insecurity of real life. This totally flips my practice on its head, and who knows how long I would have gone on and meditated without seeing this truth.