How to Make Meditation a Habit
By Tergar Meditation Community Team • 6 min read
We’ve all been there: The jeans don’t zip up as easily as they used to, or you look at your bank balance and get a shock, and you promise yourself to start cultivating better habits, starting today. “From now on, I’ll bike to work! I’ll carry a thermos from home, instead of always stopping at a cafe!” And at first, you love the wind in your hair as you speed down the street on your bicycle, or the virtuous feeling you get from passing by the cafe without going in. But somehow, two weeks later, you’re back in your car …with an extra-large takeout coffee in the cupholder.
From getting out of debt to going the gym to learning a new language, when it comes to improving our daily life, we all start with good intentions; the trouble is, we usually can’t keep it up. That’s because everything new is exciting at first, but unless it becomes ingrained behavior, we gradually lose interest once the novelty wears off. This is especially true if our goal involves personal betterment, and it certainly applies to making meditation a habit.
If it’s not already your habit to meditate, it’s easy to start out feeling excited to sit regularly — and it’s just as easy to get distracted. Perhaps you want to try meditation to cope with anxiety or stress. You might start meditating on a Sunday and do it every day until Thursday. On Friday, something happens and you forget…then on Saturday you have a date…Sunday is too crowded…before you realize what’s happening, you’ve skipped a week. Then, stress rears its head again, and you’re back on the cushion for three days in a row. But as the stress begins to ease up, you start forgetting again. How can we get out of this pattern? By building the meditation habit up in increments.
In the beginning, when you learn to meditate, it’s crucial to do much less than you think you can. So, if your goal is to meditate for 30 minutes a day, make yourself start with 15. Once the timer goes off, that’s it, no more! If your objective is to sit for an hour, start with a half hour, even if you’re capable of sitting for longer. And even if your dream is to make it a life-long practice, don’t think of it that way. Tell yourself, “I’m going to do this for just one month.” When it comes to formal seated meditation, take that approach every day for a month or so.
“The opportunity to experience yourself differently is always available.”
– Mingyur Rinpoche –
People often say, “I wish I could meditate, but my schedule simply doesn’t allow for it. Work, meetings, studying, deadlines, emails to answer…my hours are packed, and when it’s all done, I can’t think about anything but relaxing on the couch with a couple of episodes of my favorite show!” But did you know you can meditate informally throughout the day? In fact, it’s an indispensable step towards building the meditation habit. And because the essence of meditation is awareness, there’s nothing about it that can clash with even the busiest schedule. It can be done anywhere, anytime, under literally any circumstances. It turns even the most mundane tasks into wonderful support for your practice.
For instance, while taking a shower, you can bring your awareness to the sensation of water on your skin. Walking the dog? Direct your awareness to your footsteps, the temperature of the air on your face, the tautness in the leash as your dog eagerly heads for the park. Needless to say, eating provides myriad physical sensations you can bring awareness to. You can even meditate in the middle of a meeting. Will you get distracted? Certainly, and it’s no problem! Just gently bring your awareness back. This is what is meant by the phrase “short times, many times.” You could even bring this type of mindfulness practice to watching your favorite show—who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself making that a meditation habit in itself! Usually we take such activities for granted, without seeing them as meaningful. But actually, every moment is a precious opportunity for awareness.
When big waves of strong feelings are crashing over your head, it’s very hard to experience mindfulness in the middle of it all. This is especially true when navigating stressful emotional situations, such as relationship problems. But if you practice the “short times, many times,” you will find that you are able to remain in a state of awareness even when you feel like you’re swimming in a stormy emotional sea. At times like that, it all pays off — those many brief sessions on the cushion, and those many moments of bringing awareness to little things like eating your breakfast cereal, or checking your phone. You will have built a meditation habit you can count on.
Try to apply this walking guided meditation by Tergar Instructor Myoshin Kelley in your everyday life.
Do you want to try meditation, but don’t know how to start? This free course is specially designed for beginners, and takes only a week to complete.
Tergar Meditation Community supports individuals, practice groups, and meditation communities around the world in learning to live with awareness, compassion, and wisdom. Grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of our guiding teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, our online and in-person programs are accessible to people of all cultures and faiths, and support a lifelong path toward the application of these principles in everyday life.
Many people have the wrong idea about meditation. For instance, one popular but incorrect notion is that in meditation, you’re supposed to think of nothing, and completely empty your mind. So, in trying to do it “right,” some folks will sit bolt upright on the cushion, eyes squeezed shut, concentrating…
If you’re reading this, you’ve certainly received at least a few teachings that inspired you to meditate. But for some of us, there’s just one catch: we somehow can’t get around to actually doing it. “Oh my, the day went by so fast! Well, tomorrow, I’ll definitely make time to…
As a beginner, if keeping your eyes open during meditation is too distracting, it’s fine to close them. And, as your practice progresses, you may encounter particular types of meditation that involve visualization, in which case, having your eyes closed can be helpful. Generally, though, in Mingyur Rinpoche’s tradition, you…