Habit is the opposite of mindfulness.
Structure and routine are your friends.
If you accept either of these as true, take a moment to think about how they work together. Take meditation, for example – how do you find a balance between having a steady meditation routine and not letting your spiritual practice stagnate?
Other than finding a teacher, which we highly recommend, here are four suggestions to bring more joy, energy, and spontaneity into your meditation practice.
1) Exercise vigorously before you sit
Do you slide onto the cushion straight out of bed, or exhausted at the end of the day? If so, do you find you’re lacking the energy to stay alert on the breath and the arisings?
Try some vigorous activity just before meditating and see how this affects your sits. What does vigorous mean? Think running around your house three times. Think as many jumping jacks as you can manage, as fast as you can do them. Think running on the spot, bringing up your knees as high as you can.
Of course, safety first, so base what you do on what your body can cope with.
Add in some stretching of the face muscles, jaw, and perhaps a good old “aaaaah” while sticking out the tongue, and you’re good and invigorated and ready to sit.
2) Sit with other people
If your meditation time is your “quiet time,” then perhaps think about opening it up to others. Invite a friend to sit with you once a week, or a few times a week. Tell a few friends what time you meditate and make standing invitation for them to join you. You could even start a local online Meetup group to help motivate yourself and others.
Aside from the added motivation and discipline to sit, doing it with others offers a richer energetic experience. After the sit, try reviewing the meditations together – each person speaking about their sit using the four foundations of mindfulness: body, feeling (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral), mind states, and objects of mind.
Honor the space by separating the practice time from any socializing, which tends to take us back to habit mind. This could be by moving into another room to talk, or agreeing beforehand that there’s no need for more than simple goodbyes.
3) If you’re “too busy to sit”, give yourself permission to sit shorter
If one reason you feel your meditation needs revitalizing is that you’re not sitting regularly, are you saying to yourself “it’s an hour or nothing?” Let’s face it, ten minutes a day is better than nothing. In fact, lots of ten-minute sits might be better than just once a week for 50 minutes on Sundays. If you can get it to 20 minutes a day, even better.
To take this point a little wider, try looking for any assumptions that might be stopping you from having a regular meditation practice. This could be a perfectionist or all-or-nothing mindset, or carrying some guilt, blame, or other self-defeating beliefs about giving yourself time to meditate.
4) Book your next retreat
I wrote another blog about this some time ago. When I started meditating, I knew it was a life changer for me. I also reflected that I have a pattern of being really hot for something for six months, then dropping it. I didn’t want that to be the case with meditation, it was too important.
So I looked ahead eight months and booked a retreat. And yes, I did stop meditating in the meantime. But I didn’t cancel the retreat, and that cemented my practice in a whole new way. I didn’t have to look back in 15 years and think “ah, why did I stop meditating?”
That was a 21-day retreat, but it could be a weekend retreat if that’s what you can fit in or afford. Anything that helps you keep the practice going.
Practicing with Clear Sky
As well as our meditation cabins, Clear Sky does offer other ways to boost your practice. Check out our third Ignite Your Spiritual Life online course, starting September. We also offer a 3-month Karma Yoga program with intake dates most months.