Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to Stay Inspired and Keep Meditating

This post builds off of last week's discussion about how to start a daily meditation practice.

You need inspiration to keep any regular practice going. If your goal is to hit the gym every day, you could watch Schwarzenegger movies and think about the huge muscles you will have one day. I'm not sure meditation translates as well on screen, so you'll probably need to find other ways. Here are some ideas on how to keep the momentum going:

1. Set your intention every day, before you start meditating
When you sit down to meditate you can remind yourself why you are doing this. This will probably change over time, or it might change every day, which is fine. When I first started meditating, I often reminded myself before sitting that I was interested in communicating better with people, as well as building strength and clarity in my mind.

Another option is to dedicate your meditation to someone or something. In Buddhism, it is common to "dedicate the merit," which is formally stating that whatever you are doing is for the benefit of others. You could dedicate the merit when cooking dinner for your friends or family, sweeping the floor of a meditation center, or when sitting down to meditate. Usually we dedicate the merit at the end of some activity, but the principle is the same whether you do it at the beginning or end of your sitting practice. You could also just say something like, "this meditation is dedicated to my friend Luigi, who is having a tough time selling pizzas."

Here is a clip with Sakyong Mipham talking about motivation:

2. Hold onto the feeling after you meditate and take it into your day
After your meditation session ends, don't just jump up and go on with your day. Take your time, allow your senses to experience the stillness you just cultivated and then get up slowly. Try to keep the sense of peace with you throughout your day, reminding yourself of the feeling you experienced in meditation. There are techniques for gaining this sense of presence quickly and in the middle of your day, but that is for another blog post.

3. Meditate with other people
When you are having trouble staying focused or maintaining discipline, it is helpful to know other people are going through something similar. You can bounce ideas off of them, discuss the challenges in your practice, and share resources.

Lots of people have trouble with organized religion, so going to a meditation center regularly can seem like selling out. However, I meditated for many years, without much discipline or regularity until I started visiting a center frequently. For some reason it gave me the momentum I needed.

4. Recharge your batteries by visiting a meditation center
There is something powerful about walking into a meditation center and spending time there. The energy in these places is filled with intention and discipline. After all, the reason people go there is to meditate, so it can be a big motivator. Personally, when I have difficulty with my practice, heading over the DC Shambhala Center often makes me feel like I am getting back on track.

Prana Journal has a  great list of places where you can meditate in DC. Click this link to see it.

Finding the right place for you to study meditation depends on your own preferences. My advice would be to go with your intuition about a place. Talk to the people and see what they are like. In my opinion, you are in good hands if
  • Students are encouraged to question what they are studying and/or you are not asked to believe anything that you can't experience
  • The center is run by volunteers, students or monks 
  • Requests for money seem reasonable in the context of paying the bills

5. Get a meditation instructor
A meditation instructor is kind of like a spiritual friend and a mentor. S/he can advise you on technique and offer moral support. Shambhala Centers in any area can match you with a meditation instructor, no matter what level you are at. This always a senior student. If you are in DC, you can see some info about that here.

Other resources that I have found helpful: 

  • YouTube is full of videos with Sakyong Mipham, Suzuki Roshi, Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trungpa, Krishnamurti and lots of other great teachers. Lots of those videos get posted on this blog too!
  • Turning the Mind into an Ally is a great book for the beginning or advanced meditator to work with.
  • A good reading list from the Shambhala community:

I'd love to hear your ideas about how to stay inspired. Please drop a comment in the comment box below!

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