Earlier in the new year I made it an intention to catch myself when my attention starts wandering into the future and guide it back to the present. told myself that when my thoughts start to drift far, far away I should meditate. Ah, meditation. The one thing I dreaded the most when I first started getting into yoga. The one thing I didn’t do enough…primarily because of lack of discipline. Sure, I’ve been pretty disciplined when it comes to physical training and consistency. But my mental state has sort of always been wishy-washy. One day I’m great, the next I’m moody, bitchy, and hating everyone who looks at me the wrong way.. Sometimes, for no reason at all. One day I’m grateful for everything in my life, the next I am wishing to escape.
Maybe this is considered normal. But as I reflected upon the year I realized that I didn’t want it to be MY normal. I don’t want to keep wishing I was somewhere else in my life. I don’t want to keep waiting for Fridays, vacation, or for the lucky weeks out of the year I get to travel. I don’t want to continue waking up sluggish, hating my alarm clock, and wishing I could sleep in.
If yoga has taught me anything it’s how to train myself to make something a habit. So if I want to grow peacefully, grow in faith, and to live mindfully? Then meditation is the only solution. I know this! I’ve read about this, done the research about it, wrote about it. Now I had to apply what I already knew. I had to practice what I was preaching. Without application, we aren’t doers we are hearers. And I never want to just be a hearer!
So I asked myself, “How important is this to me?” And all the arrows started pointing in the same direction. It was clear. I needed to do this for myself. I needed to discipline myself to meditate the same way I disciplined myself to practice yoga every day. I needed to shake things up, shake up my routine in this very specific way. You see, I know that a regular practice of meditation would allow me to have more control of my thoughts, and that is important to me.
It is important because the benefits of this control are HUGE. Mindfulness, contentment, self-discovery, insightfulness, and so much more. Here’s how I put my money where my mouth was and achieved the meditation practice I knew I needed…
Step One: Consciously commit.
I made it a goal to get up earlier every morning to meditate. Yes, five days a week, I get up much earlier than I have to just to sit in silence. At first, the thought of interrupting my sleep to get up any earlier made me cringe. But I wrote it down as part of my “To-Do” list, and that helped to keep me accountable. Also, I knew that if I didn’t get it done in the morning I would have to scrounge for time later in the day. With everything else I have going on, saving it for the evening would be setting myself up to fail. Failure is not an option anymore.
Step Two: PLAN AHEAD. “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Before getting started I asked myself, “How am I going to find the energy for an early rise time?” I know myself and I know that snooze button is all too easy to hit. So I started thinking about what WOULD have me hopping out of bed, ready to start the day at the crack of dawn. Travel!
When I’m about to head out on a three week vacation, I don’t get up and say “Hey, I’m going to Bolivia today!” without planning a thing. If I did that, I wouldn’t have anything ready and I probably wouldn’t have a very good time. Now, I’m not usually the type to plan every detail of my travels, but I do have to plan some of it to get the most out of the trip. I usually do a little research on must sees, must visits, or must eats. I also plan the dates and plan packing for maximum lightweight travel efficiency.
The whole point is that making it a “goal” to go to Bolivia without a travel plan is planning to fail. Yet, this is how many of us treat our goals. We make goals without plans and wonder why we are not seeing results or changes in habit. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. If you don’t plan a vacation you will probably stay home and watch T.V. Same with fitness goals, or in my case meditation goals.
If you want change in your life, you must plan to see it.
So what worked? Planning out when, where, what, and how I was going to meditate. I planned ahead WHEN I was going to meditate (6:15 a.m). I planned ahead WHERE I was going to meditate (in my living room, facing the balcony where I can see the sunrise color the day). I planned ahead WHAT I was going to meditate (which for me involves the Word of God ie) specific Bible verses). I planned ahead HOW long (15 minutes).
And guess what? I’ve been busy making it happen. I’ve been sticking to my goals on a regular basis and I’m starting to see some of the benefits shine through my life already . If you’ve ever devoted yourself to learning a foreign language, you know that you learn it best when you actually have to speak it. The same is true with the “foreign language” of meditation. The best way to learn how to meditate is to meditate. You get nothing without doing. So that’s what I focused on and it worked. I can say with all honesty that I have made it a habit.
Step Three: Stick to the plan
There is something appealing and transforming about the silence and solitude that comes from meditation. I’ve made this realization while training myself to meditate. But more than anything else, the discipline of meditation can be so transfiguring because it provides time to think about life and to seek God. Time for silence and solitude will rarely be easy to chisel out of our schedule. But I’ve learned that if we discipline ourselves to do it, our only regret will be that we didn’t get started sooner.
The impact that meditation has on my life is remarkable and now I look forward to waking up earlier just to do it.
Note: Researching all the benefits may serve as a motivating factor. At least for me it did. Check out Huffington Post and Forbes for specific meditation benefits. You can also check out this video – celebrities that meditate, and why you should too.