Why is it so difficult to stick with a daily meditation practice if it only takes 10 minutes? The girl that got me into practicing had "taken a break from it”, even though she raved about its incomparable benefits. The few folks I encouraged to try Headspace didn’t make it past their first week. “Mornings are too hectic,” they explained.
I’ve practiced for 203 days, missing no more than five sessions. These are the tricks I use to stick with it.
First, my thesis for the mystifying lack of adherence is an irrational anxiety about oversleeping. It may be the alarm clock, hearing neighborhood noises, other people already awake around the house, or something else, but many of us, the moment we wake up, feel like we are already behind. It’s an illusion.
To kickstart and maintain the daily practice, I’ve used a handful of mental and other tricks.
- Think short-term. Opening my eyes at minute 10 of the session always feels amazingly calm and peaceful. I tell myself to simply get there. Nothing else. Forget about the long-term ancillary benefits such as enhanced creativity, improved focus and alertness, reduced stress, more amiable disposition, and improved overall happiness… the thought of minute 10 has the added bonus of helping me push through uphill trail runs.
- Remember that there is no death penalty for oversleeping. Or for showing up late to work. If the death penalty is instituted, then I would remove or shorten parts of my morning ritual other than sleep. I’d probably pack my gym bag the night before.
- Stretch while meditating. There’s no need to sit with my legs crossed while connecting the tips of the index fingers and thumbs. I slowly stretch my hips during meditation. I get the benefits of meditation plus stretching.
- Gamify the habit by tracking the number of consecutive sessions. I use Headspace for my daily sessions. It tells me how many days in a row I’ve meditated. I enjoy watching the counter go up. I don’t enjoy it resetting to zero when I miss a session. This silly trick has saved me several times when all my other techniques had failed.
- Give myself permission to fail. But only one time, never allow myself to miss two days in a row. Two fails lead to three, then four, then you “take a break from it.”
Well, that’s it. Short and simple. Ah, someone told me the other day that “sitting still for 10 minutes with your eyes closed is not meditation, it’s simply sitting still with your eyes closed.” No problem, let’s name this daily practice brain fitness, or mindfulness, or neko no zen.