What's the secret of maintaining an ongoing meditation practice?
by Amanda Votto and Jon Aaron
Amanda Votto: For me, there have been two main “secrets” to keeping an on-going meditation practice. The first is intention. I find that it is essential to have a deep connection with what brings us to the practice. This is not a “goal” by any means. It is an inner wisdom that comes from our most authentic self. It may perhaps be the intention to be present, to feel connection, for overall well-being, or to align with our truest self. This intention is a deep-seated knowing that we can call on when we come up against resistance to practice. When our intention is greater than our resistance, we are able to make choices and take action from an inspired place.
Working with resistance is my second secret for maintaining an on-going practice. There is not a single person that doesn’t encounter resistance in some form or another. The secret is to welcome it in and bring curiosity to our experience. Mindfulness is all about accepting what is. If resistance is coming up, then we sit with it. Turning toward our experience of resistance with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance is incredibly powerful. We can bring our awareness to the physical sensations, emotions and thoughts that are present with resistance. I have found in my practice that resistance has been one of my greatest teachers and deserves the space to be investigated and worked with. Often beyond the resistance is fear and beyond the fear is where we touch our essence.
Jon Aaron: One of the important qualities of mindfulness is to “re-collect” or “remember,” so if you re-collect what you’ve gained from meditation so far, this can lay the bedrock of right intention and motivate you to keep up a daily practice. Even with this intention, though, there are some important keys to maintaining and cultivating your practice. Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t set too high a standard for yourself. Be realistic given your own schedule and start easy on yourself. If you make a commitment to practice 45 minutes every morning but find that you’re only able to do 20 (or less), then the judging mind will call you a failure. Consistency is more important than duration so decide upon a length with which you are comfortable and can regularly achieve.
- Set a regular time when you will meditate. This helps create discipline.
- Have a space in your home (even if it’s just a corner of your room) that is your meditation space. Have a cushion or a special chair for your practice.
- Join a meditation group that you can sit with once a week. If there isn’t a meditation group in your area, start one.
- Find a meditation buddy. Check in daily to hold each other accountable.
- Use a meditation timer app to time your sitting. Some timers offer helpful guidance for practice, and may also offer bells that chime a certain intervals so you can gauge how far along you are in each meditation sitting. Insight Timer is a good place to start.