There are few reasons to skip the powerful activity of meditation. After all, research has found that the practice can provide a wide array of health benefits from preventing age-related brain structure deterioration, increasing memory capacity, and regulating your mood to slowing the aging process, reducing chronic inflammation, and increasing immunity.
Yet, knowing that something is good for you doesn’t always translate into doing it. The chasm between knowledge and application can sometimes be too wide to jump. However, there are some simple steps you can take to help start and maintain a healthy meditation practice.
Link Meditation to a Habitual Activity
Activities such as showering, brushing teeth, or driving home from work are deeply ingrained habits that don’t require effort or forethought. They are known as instrumental tasks. By linking your meditation to one of these tasks, the effort needed to initiate the meditation session is significantly reduced.
Davidji, author of Secrets of Meditation, offers the acronyms RPM (rise, pee, and meditate) and RAW (right after work) as guidelines for linking meditations to habits. Not only are these acronyms catchy, they can reduce the resistance most people experience when trying to create a new habit. Linking your meditation session to an automatic activity, one that doesn’t require the use of will power, increases the probability that your new habit will take root.
Meditate for short periods of time, in which you experience no resistance. For instance, you might start with just 10 minutes. It should be easily attainable and create absolutely no push back from your mind. Establishing the habit of meditation is much more important than increasing the length of time spend in meditation. Once your initial time commitment becomes habitual, you can then begin to lengthen your meditation practice.
Experiment With Guided Meditations
New meditators are often not sure what to do during a meditation. Guided meditations are an excellent way to settle into this practice. Guided meditations will lead you through breathing techniques, relaxation, and visualization, mantra, or mindfulness-based practices. This takes all the guesswork out of your meditation and can help you free your mind and surrender to the experience.
Attend a Group Meditation
Meditation is an individual activity. That doesn’t mean group meditations can’t be beneficial. Meditating with others can reinforce your personal commitment to the practice and provide access to a huge reservoir of knowledge. Groups can create a tangible energy that can inspire even the most reluctant meditator. Studies show that meditating in groups can increase peace in your community.
Use an App
Who says you have to turn off your smartphone during meditation? While you should refrain from checking emails and texts or taking calls, there are a variety of apps that can actually enhance your meditation. These apps allow you to choose the length of time for your meditation and select ambient sounds, ending tones, and interval bells. Some apps, such as Insight Timer, also allow you to connect with others who are meditating at the same time.
Just as you warm up your muscles before a workout, pranayama helps to prepare your mind for meditation. Breathing mindfully and consciously relaxes the body, calms the mind, and even slows the aging process. It has been proven to fire up the autonomic nervous system, ushering both mind and body into a state of relaxation. This state of relaxation is helpful if you want to experience the benefits of meditation.
Schedule Your Meditation
If meditation is not on your schedule, it’s easier to put other activities and tasks ahead of this important practice. Sometimes just seeing the word “meditation” penciled onto your calendar can be enough of an incentive to show up for this daily dose of peace.
In an accomplishment-oriented culture, schedules can fill up to the point that there is little time left for the activities and pursuits that really matter. By scheduling meditation, you make sure that nothing will interfere with your commitment to yourself. If possible, schedule meditation at the same time each day. Your body and mind will eventually begin to relax as that time draws near.
Create a Meditation Space
Carve out a little corner of your room to use exclusively for meditation. In that corner, place your meditation seat of choice such as bolsters, blankets, or any props that you need to support yourself. Then fill your space with objects that inspire you such as photos, soft lighting, candles, incense, a diffuser, sacred books, or anything else that speaks to your soul. Use this space only for meditation. It will absorb the vibrations of calmness. Eventually, just entering your sacred space will initiate the relaxation response.
By practicing the above techniques, you will see your meditation practice move from, “I know I should,” to “I always do.” Once you achieve a consistent meditation practice, your level of health, peace, and happiness will expand.
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