On Again-Off Again Meditating: Does It Do Any Good?

On Again-Off Again Meditating: Does It Do Any Good?
Meditation is on the rise—and for good reason. It’s one of the best practices we have to help us manage stress, unplug from the busyness of our lives, and re-center ourselves.

The daily practice of meditation—just like regular exercise, nutrition, and getting enough sleep—requires a level of self-commitment. Unfortunately, our busy lives can make it difficult to stick with daily mediation. Your practice may fall off when your priorities are temporarily redirected.

You will inevitably engage in on again-off again meditation. Your daily practice may be interrupted by a major project deadline at work, travel for business or vacation, or out-of-town guests. You might have every intention of returning to daily meditation, and yet weeks after that deadline has passed and your guests have left, you still haven’t picked it back up.

Sound at all familiar? Not to worry. This happens, and it's part of life's perennial swing from balance to imbalance, and back again.

Don’t get down on yourself. Whenever you realize that you’ve drifted away from your meditation practice, it's a good time to stop, take a step back, and re-evaluate how or where you need to adjust your priorities. We tend to let slide activities that require more of a time commitment, sometimes citing excuses such as "I don't have the time right now," or "I'll get to it tomorrow." Before we know it, it's been a week, a month—or longer—since we've last meditated. This is normal; you've just veered off track for a bit and now, it’s time to get back on.

Some might find that it's easy to jump back into meditation practice. For others, it can be a challenge. Instead of practicing meditation daily, they might only return to it during times of extreme stress or crisis. Crisis meditation, as it’s called, provides little benefits. It simply won't give you the return on your time investment in the long term.

For many, it’s difficult to continue to meditate every day, even as major life events are happening. But this is precisely when you need to meditate. When we take the time sit in stillness and silence each day, we can more easily attain our goals, including improved health and wellness.

The Benefits of Daily Meditation

The practice of meditation helps us to cultivate a better way of living. It helps us manage our stress levels, improves the quality of our relationships, and enables us to access greater levels of clarity, insight, and focus.

Numerous studies show how meditation is associated with improvement in a variety of psychological areas, including stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders, and cognitive function. There's also research that suggests meditation can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels, and even cellular aging. It can be incredibly challenging to adhere to the practices that lead us to live a life of vitality and longevity, even when we’re familiar with the research on the benefits of daily meditation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

"Meditation did to my mind what going to the gym did to my body—it made it both stronger and more flexible," according to Dr. Hedy Kober, a neuroscientist who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation at her lab at Yale University. See her Ted talk here.

Consistency is vital to become a skilled meditator. If we only exercise and eat our veggies once a month, chances are high that we're going to feel less healthy than if we “practiced” these tasks every day. When we consistently exercise and eat well, we feel more energized and healthy overall. Likewise, the benefits of meditation are cumulative. When you have regularity in your practice, the benefits will only multiply over time.

Most of us are driven by results. When we can measure the results we're getting from any given project or practice, we're more inclined to apply ourselves. To experience the transformational benefits of meditation, you need to show up for practice.

When we were kids, if we didn't show up for practice we didn't get to play in the game. Metaphorically speaking, your daily meditation practice is what conditions you for winning championships in the game of life.

When we meditate on a daily basis, life tends to flow with ease. It's not that we don't encounter stressful situations; it's that we've been given a new way of responding to life's circumstances that gives us the opportunity to unfold more potential.

Mediation doesn't require anything other than you taking the time to do it. That means, you’re only one meditation away from getting back into your practice at any given moment.

How about now?