Creating a meditation habit is no joke. I’ve been trying to maintain a consistent practice for over 3 years and I still have yet to be perfectly consistent. However, over the years I’ve seen why establishing a meditation practice is so hard, and I’ve found the techniques and tips to creating a lasting meditation habit.
How do you start Meditating?
The answer is simple- start very small. Meditate for 5 to 10 minutes a day. At the start, use guided meditations and make sure that you meditate every single day, no matter what. Make your goal to meditate consistently, and don’t try to be perfect. Progress will come with consistency.
Why Establishing a Meditation Practice is Difficult
Meditation works against the mind. Most of the things we do help us to survive, however, meditation does not. Meditation is not necessary for survival, so our human drives work against it.
Meditation actually goes against our survival instincts. It fights our knee-jerk reactions, explores the mind, and makes us still. While our mind wants us to maximize stimulation, feast on food, and reproduce, meditation makes us still.
So why is meditation so hard? It opposes our survival.
Another reason meditation is so difficult is that our minds are constantly racing. School, work, family, life in general is stressful, and often overstimulating. Our minds are always thinking, planning, filled with anxiety, and we get used to it. We adapt to this anxiety, and it becomes habituated in our minds.
The natural cure to this stress and anxiety is meditation. However, because our minds are so used to stress, they tend to latch onto that stress. The mind strives for homeostasis– maintaining itself as best as possible, not going too far one way or another. Since our minds are so used to stress, anxiety, and overthinking, our point of homeostasis is that stress, anxiety, and overthinking.
When you try to disrupt this balance through meditation, the mind resists. Although you may want to be calmer, less stressed, and more mindful, the mind is more used to being the opposite, so it is resistant to change. Because of this, establishing a meditation practice goes against our habituated thinking patterns, and thus, is very difficult.
Consider also this reason: meditation is difficult because not many people do it. We are social creatures, so we tend to do what others around us are doing. Unless you were raised in a meditation community, it’s highly unlikely that you grew up around avid meditators. Because people around us aren’t meditating, we don’t feel motivated to do so. However, when people around us are constantly eating bad food, scrolling social media, or subscribing to toxic beliefs, we tend to copy those behaviors.
Taking in these biopsychosocial factors, establishing a meditation practice is difficult because it goes against our survival instincts, thinking patterns, and social norms. To establish a meditation practice, we have to learn to effectively counter these obstacles.
How to Establish a Practice
As stated above, creating a meditation habit is as simple as starting small. If you need to, you can start very small, even with just one minute of meditation per day. If you do not start small, you won’t be able to create a habit because you’ll be pushing too hard against your mind, your drives, and your social environment.
I also recommend that you use guided meditations for your first few months of meditation. This is because it makes creating the habit more effortless. Guided meditations will tell you what to do, teach you how to meditate, and provide a timer for how long you will be meditating. Guided meditations are easy to access and free. There are many on youtube, and many on various meditation apps.
Another way to make establishing a practice easier is to count your days in a strategic way, either using a habit tracker, day counter, or tallies on a piece of paper. If you have a way to track your meditation streak, it will aid you by keeping you accountable and motivating you to maintain your streak. Having a to-do list with meditation on it everyday is also helpful as a reminder that that is a daily task that you need to do.
There are many meditation apps out there, and a lot of them are good, a lot of them are just okay. I personally dislike the more mainstream meditation apps, because they often have misconceptions and generalizations about meditation that can be misleading. My favorite meditation apps are Insight Timer and Medito.
Insight timer has a huge range of guided meditations, a built in timer and streak tracker; and premium courses if you pay a subscription. I’ve used it on and off for the past 2 years, mostly for the timer and a few guided meditations. This app has a lot to choose from and alot to explore.
My favorite meditation app out of all of them is the volunteer-run “medito” which features daily meditations that are different every day, a huge range of free courses, a timer, and a built-in streak tracker. It has a minimalistic and easy to use design, a broad range of meditations, and provides a great way to learn and deepen meditation practice. I am not sponsored by either of these apps, I genuinely like and use them.
If you use all these tips, get a useful meditation app, and start small with your practice, you can be sure to become consistent in no time. Make sure that you also set a dedicated daily time that you meditate if you can, as that will also accelerate the process of forming a habit.
If you struggle to remember to meditate or struggle with consistency, then try your best to make it a priority. Remember that a decision is a commitment with no wiggle room, so if you want to meditate, it is your responsibility to do it every day, no matter what.
Common Obstacles and Traps
If you think you’re the special case that can’t meditate, you’re not. Everyone can meditate, and this is the first trap that people fall into. Out of everyone I’ve tried to get to start meditating, I’d say 80% of them make the excuse that “I just can’t meditate” or “I can’t clear my thoughts”. Of course I say back “that is not the goal of meditation, the goal is to meditate with diligence, not to clear your mind.” I understand that they don’t understand what I mean when I say that, but they don’t want to know anyways. They’re already set on not meditating, so why teach them if they don’t want to start anyways? If they really wanted it, they’d find out how.
Anyways, everyone can meditate, because the ultimate goal of meditation is not some clear mind, an enlightenment, or any special meditative state. The goal of meditation is to meditate, and to do so with diligence and excellence. So you may ask, what is meditation, then? Meditation is the process of examining and exploring awareness without trying to judge it. Therefore, there are many ways to meditate, and many ways to mess it up.
Let’s take for example mindfulness meditation, or “focusing on the breath”. This type of meditation focuses and examines the awareness of the breath, and when thoughts or sensations arise, the meditator is supposed to not judge them. This is the process of meditation. Awareness and non-judgement.
So when one says “I can’t meditate, I can’t clear my head” they should understand that that is okay. The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind, it is to focus on whatever awareness is focusing on, for example, the breath, and to not judge other thoughts or sensations. Furthermore, it is not enough just to do that process once, meditation is the diligent, in other words persistent and focused process of practicing non-judgement and focused awareness.
That new definition of meditation applied properly will aid you in avoiding most of the traps; however, there are some other traps to beware of.
- The trap of “progress”- trying to progress, achieve states, or to force your meditation practice will actually lessen your progress. Trying too hard makes you judge things unnecessarily.
- The trap of “not enough time”- everyone has 1-20 minutes every single day to meditate. This is a lazy excuse and should be disregarded.
- The trap of “being bored”- Not everything in life is supposed to be fun. If meditation is so boring for you that you can’t do it, you likely have some sort of overstimulating addictions or activities in your daily life that you should let go of. Learn to be bored, it’s a necessity for living a good life.
- The trap of “being a bad person”- In buddhist teachings, they teach morality before they teach meditation. If you’re mean to others, unfair, or have a lot of unresolved unconscious issues, meditation will be very hard/ scary for you.
- The trap of overthinking. Quit trying to find out how to meditate, quit looking for a quick-fix solution to your problems. Everything you need to start meditating is in this article, so use this as a tool and start your habit today. Trust yourself that you can take responsibility to create a meditation practice.
My Recommended Resources
I recommend these two books (affiliate links) to deepen your practice and to understand meditation. If you buy through these links, you support me with no added cost to you. Thank you!
The Mind Illuminated
Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha
Thank you for reading and good luck on your journey,