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How to start meditating—and keep doing it


start-here-now-meditation-tipsWe’re not gonna lie: For all of meditation’s recent popularity (2016 is the year that it’s going social, after all), the practice is actually really challenging. And even as many of us have gotten better at incorporating time for meditating into our lives, sticking with it is another story.

Signing up for regular classes at a meditation studio like MNDFL or The Den is one way to stay consistent, but what about those of us who don’t have the time to commit to an in-person class or live on the coasts where these studios exist?

That’s where Start Here Now: An Open-Hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation, from New York Times best-selling author and meditation expert Susan Piver, comes in.

start-here-nowThe founder of the virtual meditation community Open Heart Project wants to help you start and—more importantly—continue a meditation practice.

Her goal with the book? To not only give you the tools to make those “I’m going to meditate every day” resolutions stick, but to also dispel common misconceptions, answer FAQs that you might otherwise be too embarrassed to ask in a group class, and show how meditation can improve your relationships, creativity, and emotions (um, yes please).

Whether you’re starting from scratch, are in the midst of testing out an app, or simply want to try to stop writing your to-do list in savasana, here are five tips from Start Here Now that will help keep you from putting your meditation practice on hold. —Ann Abel

1. Start slowly.
Don’t say, “I’m going to meditate every day for the rest of my life.” That’s like starting a running practice with a half marathon. The reality is that you aren’t going to meditate every day (at least not at first), and saying you are is just too much pressure. Start with something simpler, like aiming to meditate Mondays through Fridays for 10 minutes a day for one month, and you’ll reevaluate at month’s end.

2. Follow the 12-second rule.
This rule states that when you screw up and miss a day (or a week, or a month, or… ) on the cushion, you can feel awful, guilty, and ashamed—but only for 12 seconds. Those are natural emotions, but holding onto them for any longer is just not useful. The only thing worse then slacking off in your practice is feeling like crap for slacking off in your practice. Don’t go there.

3. Keep meditation sacred, not self-serving.
When meditation falls from sacred to self-serving, it becomes just another task on the to-do list (which means it’s probably going to be harder to stay with it). Piver’s teacher told her the antidote is simple: “Just make offerings, request blessings, and dedicate the merit.” For example, the blessings you seek should involve trusting that some force will provide something you can’t exactly name—think more along the lines of “Please let me feel satisfied in my work,” instead of “Please make me VP of finance.”

4. Get over thinking that you’re too busy.
Maybe busy people are busy because they’re important. But when you’re too busy to find 10 minutes to honor your highest priorities—discovering your wisdom and offering your heart—that’s a sign that you’ve let something slip. If you have time to scroll through Instagram, you can make time to meditate. Just sayin’.

5. Know the antidotes to laziness.
Piver lists four: trust (as in, at some point you had an insight that led you to believe meditation was valuable—recall and trust that insight), aspiration (think about what arises when you remember what brought you to meditation, and then trust that initial feeling), effort (it will get easier as your stamina increases), and pliancy (a few minutes every day is better than many minutes on a few days). There’s a point where meditation will become like brushing your teeth, she says—something that will have you feeling icky if you skip.

Former meditation skeptic, and Nightline anchor, Dan Harris is super frank about his messy journey from on-air panic attack to meditation proponent, and six super-successful women share inspiring quotes about what meditation’s done for them.

(Photo: Unsplash/Sergey Zolkin)