Most meditation teachers agree that daily practice brings about the best results, but almost every meditator I know struggles with daily consistency. I definitely did. When the time came to sit, I’d usually feel the urge to skip it or put it off, which was totally irrational because I knew that meditating made me feel great. It took six years of trying and failing before I finally locked down a daily practice. Here are the two tricks that solved it for me:
1. THE CLEVER TRICK
I use this trick whenever I feel the dreaded resistance to doing my morning sit, that visceral urge to skip it or do it “later” (i.e., never). The trick is:
I just shrink the length of the session in my head until I hit a level I don’t feel resistance to.
Like, “Could I do 15 minutes? No, I feel resistance, I’m not gonna do it. Okay, what about 10? Still too long, the thought puts me off. Okay, five? Huh, I don’t feel resistance to that. I feel like I can sit for five.” Then I sit.
It doesn't matter if I needed to shrink the session down to one minute, or 30 seconds, or 10 seconds, before I felt comfortable sitting. What matters is that I sat.
2. THE BETTER TRICK
That first trick helps me bust through the resistance to meditating that can sometimes arise. But my favorite trick (actually more of a rule) keeps resistance from even coming up, which is better. The rule:
I wake up at a set time every morning and immediately meditate, before doing anything else.
If I do anything else first — breakfast, a workout, checking my phone — I have trouble getting myself to sit. Actually, I’ll go further: putting off the morning sit almost guarantees that I won’t sit at all. So there’s a second part to this trick: admitting to myself that “I’ll sit later” is code for “I’m skipping my sit today.” Once I owned up to that, meditating daily became almost effortless. I just stopped believing my own “I’ll sit later” lie and committed to sitting first thing in the morning, when I’d actually do it.
WHY IS SITTING LATER IN THE DAY SO HARD?
I’m not sure, but I have a theory:
From the moment we get out of bed, we’re in constant motion — washing up, picking out clothes, checking email, shoving breakfast in our faces, rushing to work, checking five different things on our phones, getting to the office, starting work… just going. I think this constant motion creates a momentum in our minds that’s hard to stop, like a flywheel that’s been revved up to high speed. Every task, every conversation, every glance at email or social media spins the flywheel faster.
Getting yourself to meditate once you’ve started your day is hard because you’re fighting all that momentum. After hours of doing stuff, you’re trying to suddenly hit the brakes and do nothing. But if you sit as soon as you wake up, you avoid the problem. You get your session in before the flywheel starts spinning.
For me, these two tricks pretty much solved the problem of falling off my daily meditation practice. The second trick — meditating first thing in the morning, admitting that “I’ll sit later” is a lie — is my first line of defense. If resistance to sitting crops up, 90% of the time it’s because I didn’t sit first thing like I was supposed to. When that happens, at least I have the other trick: shrinking the session length until resistance fades. That’s my safety net.
These are just two ideas, and I’m sure there are other solutions. Play around and see what works for you. If you get frustrated, remember that you’re not alone. Most meditators fall off their practice sometimes, whether they talk about it or not. A little patience and kindness toward yourself can make a big difference. You’ll enjoy your practice more and be more inspired to do it.