Daily meditation is important because regular practice brings regular benefits. Just like playing an instrument or going to the gym – you get what you put into it. I think that you are courageous for exploring how daily meditation can help you build calm and clarity in your life.
Don’t just take my word for anything in this article – experiment and see what works best for you. This is about you creating a daily meditation practice that fits your life. If you have any questions or comments, I will happily respond to them.
An example: My Daily Meditation Practice
I do a formal sitting meditation for about 30 minutes every morning, after a period of yoga and qigong. Sometimes I do another session lying down in bed at the end of the day. During the rest of the day, I bring as much mindfulness to whatever I’m doing – walking, washing dishes, eating, writing emails, etc.
When should I meditate?
Several of my teachers have recommended meditating in the morning. The idea is that our energy rises, like the sun, until about noon and decreases as the sun goes down. I’ve found that a morning practice is useful to me for several reasons:
- It sets the tone for the rest of the day.
- It allows me to begin my daily work from a calmer, more stable inner space.
- I simply have more energy for everything that follows.
How long should I meditate for?
When I first started meditating daily, I could barely manage 10 minutes. Any longer was overwhelming. I recommend starting with 10-15 minutes as you build up your habits. You want a daily meditation period that feels doable, regardless of how it actually turns out, and is a consistent part of your day. As a busy high school teacher, I forced myself to get up about 15 minutes earlier each day to meditate. After a few weeks, it had become my new normal. (We humans are remarkably adaptable if we don’t buy into mental chatter on why we can’t do something)
How often should I meditate?
Start with 1 session per day – it’s achievable, builds confidence, and brings benefits. As mentioned above, I do a formal sitting practice in the morning. I also bring as much awareness and acceptance to every part of my day as I can – which also counts as meditation sessions. In this way, I’m meditating many many times throughout the day, with a structured, formal start. Morning sitting helps me keep my self-discipline strong and not get lost in “Oh, I’ll just meditate while eating cookies.” At least, not too often. (It can still happen. Especially with peanut butter cookies.) I recommend getting into the habit of doing one formal practice a day before doing more sessions. If you’re already experienced in meditation, perhaps 2-3 per day would be useful to you.
Ok, I’m going to meditate today. What do I do?
This varies. Often, I’ll start with a concentration meditation (Counting the Breath) to establish focus. If I feel stable and my mind is calm, I might transition into an insight meditation, such as Following the Breath or Fusho. It depends on how I am in the moment and responding to that. I appreciate this responsiveness and flexibility in my tradition.
If you’re setting up a daily meditation practice, I recommend doing concentration meditations to start. Having a stronger focus sets you up for success later on when you practice looking deeply (insight). I speak from experience – it’s hard to see clearly when your mind is a whirlwind! If you have a specific daily meditation practice you already work with, use that.
How do I do a concentration meditation?
Let’s practice together right now.
- Sit or stand with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your spine upright with your shoulders relaxed and falling downwards. Take a few deep breaths into your belly.
- On your next inhalation, count ‘1’ in your mind. Exhale, ‘2’. Count like this until you reach ’10’ and then restart at ‘1’. If your mind wanders, restart at ‘1’.
- After at least 10 minutes, take a few deep belly breaths and notice how your body and mind feel.
Can I follow along with a recording?
Great idea. You are welcome to use my guided meditations on the Insight Timer app or those included in my online courses. If you’ve signed up to my newsletter, you can use the free guided body scan meditation for deeper relaxation, awareness, and acceptance. If you’re not on the list yet, you can sign up here.
A daily meditation practice doesn’t have involve sitting. Traditionally, the four postures of meditation are sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. Any of these work as well as the others. A word of advice: an upright sitting posture is very stable and I have found that this grounding does improve my daily meditations. If your back is hurting or you’re falling asleep, it can be extra difficult to meditate – try different things to see what is most useful for you. There’s no reason to hurt yourself in the name of meditation.
My life is pretty busy. How can I fit daily meditation into my schedule?
Try the following reflections to set up a practice that works for you. Keep in mind that it takes time and exploration to see what best suits you and your life. If your daily meditation practice weakens, come back to these questions.
- Which time of day works well for you? Could you adapt your current schedule to accommodate it?
- How does 10-15 minutes of meditation feel? Could you do a bit longer?
- Where feels like a consistent and calm place to build a habit of meditation?
- Which meditation posture(s) would be most useful to you – sitting, standing, walking, or lying down?
- How does 1 session a day feel? What about 2?
I’ve been trying to meditate but it feels like nothing’s happening
I felt the same way when starting out. Results can sometimes be subtle and sneak up on you. Creating new mental habits takes time. By doing your best, you’re doing great! Keep going! Perhaps this blog post will help.
If you’ve made it this far, I salute your dedication to calm and clarity! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at jason@tallmountainmindfulness. I respond to all emails.