(Please watch this humorous video. It illustrates some of what is talked about below. - Paul)
Meditation is an excellent way to start making the internal changes which can be the foundation for your personal transformation.
Today, I will discuss how to overcome the external challenges to the habit of meditation. These have mostly to do with logistics.
If you watched the video above, Puppetji wonderfully describes the distractions which can make meditation difficult. As he said, meditating on an isolated mountain top is great, but the rest of us live in the real world.
Consistency and Procrastination
As I wrote previously, it is important to create the habit of meditating. At first, I suggest meditating five minutes a day for one week, and then increasing the time buy five minutes during the succeeding weeks until you are meditating for 15 to 20 minutes daily by the end of one month.
It takes about a month for a habit to become solidified, so be fully committed with yourself to creating this practice. Be “strict but kind” with yourself. When procrastination is knocking on the door, just begin -- don’t worry about finishing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just sit down, close your eyes and observe your breath.
Establishing a consistent practice is important and is the basis for everything down the road.
Noise is probably the biggest distraction most of us experience while meditating, especially for beginners. Meditation is a form of sensory deprivation, and being sensory creatures, our minds crave sensory stimulus. So, when you try to turn off your senses (close your eyes and be quiet), your mind quickly starts looking for something to grab onto.
Depending upon your situation, it may be impossible to find a meditation space with complete silence, but a reasonably quiet place is good enough.
Remember, whenever you are distracted by noise, go back to observing your breath.
Part of the practice of meditation is learning not to react to stimulus. This is an important skill and I’ll talk more about this in my next post.
Find a good place to meditate
Where you meditate will have a big influence upon the quality of your practice. Try to find a quiet room with a comfortable place to sit, a way to control the lighting (a darkened room is preferable), and with a comfortable temperature. Have a blanket handy if it is cold.
Remember, at first to try and meditate at the same time and place everyday. This a good way to solidify your new meditation habit.
You can meditate (almost) anywhere
In addition to your regular meditation practice, you can meditate whenever you have a few minutes free. Think of it as icing on the cake.
Just find a place to sit down and close your eyes. I often do this. It is much better than checking email for the zillionth time today.
There are many places you can do this: sitting in your car in a parking lot, under a tree in a park, or on a bench in quiet area of a public place. Of course, use your best judgement in regards to your personal safety. (You don't want your shoulder bag walking away on you while you are exploring the depths of your soul).
A friend of mine who was visiting Kyoto from overseas once took me inside the Catholic cathedral downtown. We just sat there quietly. Now, I go there quite often.
This friend helped me out in a couple of ways that day -- by showing me a new place to meditate, and by helping me overcome my prejudices about the Catholic Church (I was raised Catholic). Every situation is an opportunity to learn. Thanks Lisa.
Ask for cooperation
Let it be known among the people you live with that you need private time and that you don’t want to be disturbed. It is best to have the people around you be supportive. They don’t have to approve of what you are doing, but as long as they understand and respect your privacy, then it is okay.
Feel free to ask them if they want to join you. But if they are not interested, don’t bother them any further. Everyone has their own way and no one likes to be pestered.
Make your own quiet space.
Sometimes it is almost impossible to find a quiet space, even in our own homes -- so we have to make our own.
I have a good pair of noise reducing headphones and an eye-mask blindfold, the kind you can get at the airport to help you sleep on the plane. These are great and were especially helpful this summer when the house across the street was torn down and rebuilt. Meditating with a jack hammer only a few meters a way is very challenging.
Meditation CDs can also help to block out the sound. Personally, I like this recording. It is a kind of a “white noise” using a technology called Hemi-Sync, which is designed to help you meditate more deeply. (I have no connection with this company. I just like and use their products).
There are many other kinds of meditation music if you look online. I suggest that you don’t listen to your usual music while meditating. Keep them separate.
And, while guided meditations can be amazingly beneficial, I suggest that you learn and practice a simple, quiet meditation first as a foundation. You can try guided meditations later after your practice is more established.
Keep it simple
Don’t make things complicated. Find a good time and location where you can meditate regularly in peace. Nicely ask the people around you to help you have some privacy. Then just sit down, close your eyes and observe your breathing.
Keep at it and you will begin to see the benefits.
In the next post, I will talk about how to deal with the internal challenges to meditation