Many people begin a meditation practice with tremendous enthusiasm and excitement about the possiblilities of self-discovery, only to let it go after a few weeks or months as the initial novelty wears off. How can you keep up a meditation practice and, in addition, continue it with the same inspiration and freshness as you had when you first began to meditate? Here are a few suggestions:
Set a proper time each day.
Quite often the reason why a meditation practice gets pushed to the sidelines is that we don’t value it enough compared to the other things we have going on in our life.
Valuing your meditation practice means setting aside a definite time each day – even if it is only 10 minutes – that is dedicated to meditation, and non-negotiable as regards moving/cancelling to make room for something else. The best time is undoubtedly as soon as you wake up in the morning. Firstly, there is much less likelihood of unforeseen distractions and secondly, the atmosphere is much more tranquil, allowing you to have deeper meditative experiences and take the inner peace from those experiences as you enter into the day.
Your own special space
It is best if you have some part of your house dedicated solely for the purpose of your daily meditation, a place set aside for yourself and your own self-discovery. You can decorate this space with anything that inspires you and brings the beautiful qualities in you to the fore – candles, pictures of mountains or sunsets or any nature scene, fresh flowers, a statue of the Christ or the Buddha if you are religiously inclined, beautiful poetry that inspires you to go deep within – you can really make this place your own Aladdin’s Cave of inner wealth and treasures, so that every time you sit down, you are automatically reminded of the goal of self-awareness you are striving for through meditation. As you go deeper into meditation, you will find out different things that inspire you, and you can continually update your meditation space to reflect that.
A constant sense of newness
A successful meditation practice requires a constant sense of aspiration to get in touch with your inner nature. You need to find ways to continually regenerate this sense of enthusiasm and not drift into a sense of ‘same-old, same-old’ and to do it out of routine – this has been the death-knell for many a meditation practice, as then the mind takes over and wonders why we are doing something so joyless in the first place.
Try changing elements of your meditation from time to time, incorporating readings, nature meditations, mantras, music or anything else that inspires you – if you have a spontaneous inner feeling to do something, then go with it! Another thing that also helps is setting yourself little meditative projects, for example setting aside extra time to meditate once a week, learning new meditative songs, or chanting a series of mantras over a couple of weeks. Rather than sitting on ones laurels and being content with the same measure of inner peace you had yesterday, a meditation practice should always have a sense of adventure and exploration deeper into the self.
In Buddhism, the sangha or community is regarded as one of the three main pillars of that tradition, and for very good reason. When we meet together with a group of like-minded people to meditate, the intensity of the meditations are often more powerful. In addition, it can be very helpful to have friends who have also had meditative experiences so you can share the ups and downs of your meditation practice and inspire each other to greater heights.
Don’t give up
“Spiritual progress is not like instant coffee.”, writes meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy. “It is a slow and steady process. Slowly, steadily and unerringly we have to walk along Eternity’s Road in order to reach Infinity’s Goal.” A meditation practice as much in common with playing an instrument or training to run a marathon – there will be plenty of ups and downs, times when you are having wonderful experiences and times that you think that nothing is happening. However, it is often the case that when we persist during those lean times that we make the most inner progress, and we can look back and see that it has all been worth it.
Guest Post by Shane Magee
Photo: Shane Magee, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries