After 300 Days of Meditation, Here's the Best Way to Make It Stick

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An honest guide to establishing the habit

Almost 500 million people in the world are meditators. Companies are going crazy behind it. And by 2022, the US meditation market would be $2 billion. Saying that meditation has taken the world by a storm may be an understatement.

But I’m guessing you don’t care about all this.

I can literally hear you say, “So what, Shiv?”

You know that meditation is important. You hear about it from CEOs like Jack Dorsey and monks like Thich Nhat Hanh.

Still, you’ve not gotten around doing it. Perhaps you fail to make the habit stick and think it’s not for you. You think you suck at meditation. That you’re too restless or too distracted.

If both of us were talking face-to-face, I’d say, “Shut your mouth. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” By the way, that is exactly what I’d say to my younger self.

I was where you are — struggling to meditate. Should I focus on the breath? Should I open my heart (whatever that means)? Should I just sit and close my eyes?

All this made my head spin. Too many questions, and no answers.

But I eventually got out of that loop. And not only did I make meditation a habit, but I’ve also been able to increase my sitting time to 1 hour, twice a day. This morning, I meditated for 2 hours.

I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying this to make you believe it’s possible. If a 21-year old sitting in India can do it, then you can too.

Yesterday, one of my friends on LinkedIn, Noelina Rissman told me, “I’ve been meaning to get back into my daily practice but just haven’t yet.”

I started typing faster than I could think. I had so much to say because every time I see someone struggling to meditate, I run to help them.

Here are some of the things I told her, and that you can use in your own efforts to meditate.

Everyone Says They Do It, but No One Does

Meditation is one of those things that we like to admit we do. It’s kinda cool to say you’re a meditator or a spiritual person.

As Niklas says, we run behind gimmicks or tracking our progress whereas the simplest way to do it, is to just sit.

“All you need to do for meditation is to sit down, close your eyes, comfortable position, whatever happens, happens. If you think, you think. If you don’t think, you don’t think. Don’t put effort into it, don’t put effort against it.” — Naval Ravikant

You don’t need an app. You don’t need earplugs. You don’t need a zafu cushion. You don’t need to put your hands in a certain way.

You need to sit. Don’t think about what you’re gaining from it.

In the early stages of meditation, more than anything, you need to build a habit. The habit of stepping away from your life to sit for meditation.

It seems super easy, but it’s the hardest thing I’ve done.

After almost a year, I can tell you it doesn’t really matter if I sit for 30 mins or an hour — the amount of willpower needed is almost the same. The difficult part is to get started. It’s to leave your work, shut down your laptop for some time, and meditate.

So, how do you do it?

You don’t go after the length of your meditation or the extraneous details.

Just sit for five minutes. If you don’t have five minutes you don’t have a life.

Close your eyes, and see what happens. Nothing more.

When you first go to the gym, you don’t do a 500-pound squat right? Similarly, don’t think you’ll be able to meditate for an hour when you’ve hardly done it before.

“Start small, rig the game so you can win it, get in five sessions before you get too ambitious with length,” says Tim Ferriss. “You have to win those early sessions so you establish it as a habit, so you don’t have the cognitive fatigue of that practice.”

The future will take care of itself. Because the funny truth about meditation is, that the more you meditate, the more you want to meditate.

A Small Mindset Shift

A small mindset shift is all you need to meditate regularly.

And that is to make it a priority. I know it’s not sexy advice. But it works.

There will be days when you don’t feel like meditating. That is when this mindset will help you. Use your willpower. Mind-over-matter it.

Speaking of willpower, there are ways you can do without it.

How to Never Skip It

Most people I’ve met mediate the first thing in the morning.

And you should too. Thinking you’ll meditate when you come back from work, tired and drained of all your willpower, is not practical. It’s wishful thinking.

You might be the most enthusiastic person about meditation but you still operate within the bounds of human nature. And procrastination is a big part of it.

So save yourself the trouble and do it as soon as you get up.

Most people, including me, have a problem with sleep inertia which makes it difficult to meditate. To overcome it, I use this set of 39 exercises that take ten minutes to complete in total, before meditation.

Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

“Do not be anxious if you don’t have meditative experiences. The path to God is not a circus! Don’t even be anxious about such fruits of meditation as inner joy and peace. Everything will come in time. Meanwhile, consider meditation, too, as a form of karma yoga: an action without desire for the fruits of action. Meditate above all to please your higher self, not your ego” — Parmahansa Yogananda

Your logical mind, aka your ego, will make tons of excuses for you to skip meditation.

The biggest barrier by far is comparing yourself to others. If you read about the benefits of meditation online, you’ll find a huge variety. From felling a little calmer to catching flies with chopsticks and levitating.

So don’t judge your progress or compare your progress with anyone else.

Go into the practice without expectations for you can’t predict what benefits you will reap and how long will it take for them to show.

The only way to stick with meditation is to make it autotelic — an end within itself rather than a means to something else.

How Tim Ferris Learned to Meditate

Tim himself took a while to get into meditation. But he finally kicked off a successful streak of two years by going for a transcendental meditation course.

The course itself isn’t what I want to focus on. Instead,** it’s the coaching and accountability that comes with it.**

I cannot tell you how many videos I saw on meditation and kept on failing to make it a habit. This continued until I went for a formal class at Ananda Sangha, New Delhi. I learned the techniques taught by Paramahansa Yogananda including his most famous technique, Kriya Yoga, which required a year-long meditation practice before initiation.

This was the greatest shift in my meditation journey.

If you take away one thing from this article do this — find a meditation institute or a support group where you can learn proper techniques. But more importantly, a group where you can meditate together, ask your doubts, and keep yourself accountable.

I would’ve told you simply to find an accountability partner or use but I don’t think it would be as effective.

If you don’t know about other organizations near your area, you can find a center by Ananda Sangha. If not, you can also connect with them online.

Whatever you do, don’t skip this point. It can completely change your life. It did for Tim. It did for me.

Why You Can’t Meditate and How to Fix It

The biggest hurdles people have before meditating are distraction and restlessness.

In order to sit in one place and not go crazy, you need to relax and learn to concentrate. I wrote about this in another post.

Here are the few things you can do to fix this:

  • Do less: So much of our days go waste in doing things that don’t need to be done. Remove the extraneous matters. Focus on the essential. More than anything, it would give back your peace of mind.

  • Train your concentration: Always focus on one thing. Don’t be watching the TV while checking your emails. Quit multitasking. Because if you can’t concentrate, you can’t meditate.

  • Let mindfulness enter your life: When you walk, be aware of your feet touching the ground. When you eat, chew your food consciously. It will train you to be more aware, calm, and focused.

The Myths You Hear Are Only Excuses

I’ve heard people come up with absurd myths that are just excuses to not meditate.

  • It triggers negative emotions: No it does not. It only gives you an opportunity to see your mind as it is. If you only find negative thoughts there, it’s time to change them instead of getting upset about them.

  • It alters sensory perception: When people start meditating, they realize that there’s a whole new world inside of them — a world completely different from what we see. This alters their sense of perception. Don’t be afraid. It is just a sign of heightened awareness.

  • It demotivates you to work: Meditation and spirituality do not mean the cessation of activity, only the attachment to its results. True non-attachment comes from being in the world, performing your duties, and not thinking about the fruits of your labor. In this sense, meditation gives you the power to do much more without worrying about the results.

  • **It makes you socially impaired: **Just because you value your new-found peace and solitude, doesn’t mean that you’re socially impaired. At the most, it will cut out unnecessary conversations with people you don’t want to talk to. You will appreciate being with yourself more. And how is that bad?

  • Short meditations make no sense: This excuse is given by people who have an all-or-nothing mentality. As I said, you cannot start meditating for hours in your first week. You have to start small. Even the smallest meditation makes perfect sense when you compare it to no meditation at all.

Final Thoughts

This was an honest attempt to help you stick to meditation once and for all. When I was struggling with this, I read a lot of posts, and most didn’t help. I hope this isn’t the case with this one!

To sum up, here are the actions you need to take:

  • Make it as simple as you can. Don’t focus on apps, gadgets, or your setup. Just focus on sitting and turning that into a habit first. Rig the game to win it.

  • Prioritize it and protect that time like its sacred. Until you take it seriously, you cannot work your way to it.

  • Do it first thing in the morning, if you can, before the demands of your schedule kick in.

  • Don’t compare your progress to anyone. Quit expecting something in return.

  • Find a support group to learn proper techniques, keep you accountable, provide support, and solve your doubts.

  • Fix your life to support your meditation. Remove as many distractions as you can, and work on reducing your stress levels.

  • Don’t pay attention to myths that trick you into believing meditation is not for you. It’s for everyone.

And if you stumble along the way, I’m here to help you — hit me up on LinkedIn.

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Written on September 12, 2020