It was a hot summer day.
I was sitting in a dark room.
Mosquitoes were buzzing around my head.
I had sweat on my body and head because the fan was switched off.
I had two choices. Get irritated, get up and go or sit calmly through what looked like an ordeal from outside.
Do you wonder why I was sitting in this dark room while mosquitoes sucked the blood out of my body?
No surprises here. I was trying to meditate, after learning a new type of meditation. In this practice, you sat still irrespective of whatever went around you.
I was in early teens then. Thankfully the mosquitos buzzing around my head were not the blood guzzlers that we have today, the kind that win many of their fights with mosquito repellent.
As far as I recall I was able to sit through, without getting irritated.
Osho Rajneesh once wrote that it was the epitome of meditation.
“If you are not distracted by the mosquitoes, then nothing can distract you. Then you have come to a very stable state of meditation.”
I have no illusion of having a stable state of meditation at that point. Maybe I sat still through sheer force of will. I won’t know for sure because I have not tried ‘mosquito meditation’ since then and have no plans to do it anytime soon 🙂
Good news is that it wasn’t my only attempt at meditation.
Since then I have tried to establish a meditation practice many times. I have fallen off the track and started again. I never stopped trying and continued meditating through the years but I was far from a place where I was meditating every day. And, that’s what I wanted.
It wasn’t until 2014 that I was able to start meditating regularly. I still remember the day – Jan 9, 2014. I started with 5 minutes in the morning. Then I added 5 minutes before bedtime. I eventually settled at 30 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before bedtime. I stuck with this routine for more than 1200 days without skipping a single day until August 2017.
I continued even after that but I stopped looking at the watch and aiming for 30 minutes. There were days in between when I meditated for 5 minutes, and days when I meditated for an hour or more. I also skipped some days but that was a small number. Now, for more than 5 years I have been fairly regular with my practice.
Why You Meditate Is Not Important?
You meditate. That’s important.
These days, people often start meditating after reading about how meditation is good for health and how it alleviates stress.
I started for spiritual reasons. I was so young that its effects on health and stress were not even on my mind. My wish to meditate was driven by what I read in books. I fondly remember returning to pages in Living With the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, and A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton again and again. I was fascinated by how Brunton wrote about his experiences at Ramana Maharishi’s ashram, and stories written elsewhere about Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and other sages.
I do it now because I like how it affects my body and mind, and also how it helps me grow as a person.
It does not matter what is your reason for wanting to meditate – spiritual or physical. But it matters that you meditate. Meditation will help you, irrespective of your reason. Physical benefits are worth it but what it does for your mind is more important.
I have thought about what was different for many years before 2014 when I was not as regular as I have been since 2014.
I am sharing those reasons hoping that you will use this learning to start and stick to your own meditation practice.
Now is a good time to share – because I did it recently enough to remember clearly what doing it involves but long enough ago to be confident I have a way to do it regularly now. If you have tried it earlier I’ll understand what you’ve gone through trying to meditate because I struggled myself. I know what lies ahead. The struggles and joys. I’ve been there. It’s worth it.
Here it is.
How I Started to Meditate Regularly And How You Too Can
Here is what changed between my earlier attempts and this attempt.
#1 I Stopped Preparing To Mediate And Just Did It
All those sages that I read about, had elaborate ways to meditate. The message that I got was that you need to do it at a particular time. You should take a bath, get into clean clothes, sit erect in a separate space for meditation.
My yoga guru, who I was learning with during 2007, asked me to meditate every day right after morning yoga. Some days he even used to sit with me to meditate. He told me to burn incense and then do it.
Like you, I was going through the usual stuff and living life. So, all this became a chore so much so that I was not able to stick to this for long.
Only when I stopped worrying about taking a bath, burning incense or about facing a particular direction, I started to do it regularly.
#2 I Set Up A Minimum And Did Not Worry About The Maximum
Whenever I tried meditating regularly earlier I’d set up a goal of meditating for half an hour and even an hour every day.
Like me, many of those who want to meditate worry about meditating for an hour before even starting.
I fixed this and started with 5 minutes a day, and only after I settled in this routine I added 5 minutes at night and gradually increase the time later. This made sure that I stuck to it. It wasn’t always easy but I was able to do it.
If you want to do it, fix a minimum. It can be 3 minutes, 2 minutes or 5. Move forward from there.
#3 I Planned To Meditate Around Disruptions in Routine
I knew that there will be travel days and going out days.
When catching a red-eye flight it was tough to get some sleep and be at the airport on time so I had to be creative about sticking to my meditation routine.
On some occasions, I did it on my way to the airport. If I was reaching a destination late at night, I meditated on the way from the airport to the destination. At times, I did it while on board. There were times when in a city where I was traveling in a car for 2 hours. I mostly scheduled my meditation time right after settling and not for the last leg of travel.
You might not be traveling for work as I did. But you may have night outs or celebrations to attend. On such days, do it in the mornings even if your usual routine is to do it in the evenings.
Planning ahead is important. See how you can fit it in your schedule. You plan should include where to meditate and for how long.
#4 I Made It A Priority And Something That is Non-negotiable
While building my meditation practice I realized that the only way to do something consistently is to make it non-negotiable. I committed to doing it, along with a small number of other things that I do and chose it over other seemingly exciting things.
#5 I Noticed My Body’s Energy Rhythms and Built My Schedule Around It
It is easy to get off any routine when too tired or sleepy. There were times where I meditated in such a state due to sheer force of will. But I knew I could not rely too much on will. For this reason, I usually meditate first thing in the morning. This makes sure that I won’t have to worry about missing it due to being too tired, or sleepy.
So, this is how it worked. Some of these ideas can also work for you.
Are you ready to start meditating now?
Still on the fence?
Let me share why we don’t meditate and why we should. Then I’ll give you some simple tricks to start meditating regularly.
Why We Don’t Meditate
We are busy living our lives.
There is so much to do always. We work almost incessantly to change our external circumstances.
Do you know why we do what we do?
It is to reduce or eliminate suffering.
We remain in jobs or businesses because they give us the security of a pleasant present and a secure future. For a small group of people when this is done, they start seeking meaning in work because a meaningless life and work without purpose is painful. Same goes for building relationships, eating food, or sex, etc.
From time to time, we should think about it.
If reducing suffering is so important for humans then what if we thought about the after effects of doing what we do. Like staying in a job that you hate from your gut or working with a client who is a pain in the ass. It might give you security but does it give you a lasting reduction in suffering?
Because we don’t think about it we continue in the rat race of the day to day routine.
The truth is that external effort can only give us freedom from suffering to a small extent. What we need to do instead is to tackle internal conflict and control what decides our response to situations in our life. That thing is mind. This brings us to the point of ‘why meditate?”.
Because it changes us from within.
Does it mean that we should stop our external efforts to change our circumstances? No, do not stop anything you are doing to change your circumstances and secure your future. Instead meditate, to become calmer, change your world view and be more effective in the external world.
Meditation does it by working on your mind.
How Meditation Works On Your Mind
You can understand this by taking a look at your relationship with the mind.
You and your mind is not the same thing. You want to do something but your mind pushes you to do something else.
You want to meditate but your mind wants you to fiddle with your phone. You want to relax, but mind won’t let you. It instead pushes you in the direction of unwanted thoughts.
Meditation works on the relationship you have with your mind. Generally, mind rules but through meditation, you learn to rule the mind. When you do it, you increase your ability to do what you want to do instead of your mind pulling you in 100 different directions.
The ability to have control of your mind is the biggest reason for you to meditate. It changes how your mind reacts to external situations and how you feel when in the midst of chaos which is a reality of life.
Meditation has done a lot of good for me. It has made me less angry. It has helped me push through what I wanted to do. It has made me conscious of my responsibilities, made me more self-aware of what is good and what I need to work on. I am still not able to conquer the devil called procrastination. There are days when I win and there are days when the devil overpowers. I hope I will do it someday. I don’t want to fight it too much for now.
Now you why meditation is important and how it works on your mind. Let’s move forward.
How To Meditate
Here are some simple tips for you to get started with meditation.
When? Do it first thing in the morning or right before you sleep. Try mornings because it will set the tone of your day.
For how long? Start with the shortest time and the simplest method. 1 to 3 minutes is good to start. When I started my current practice I started with 5 minutes in the morning.
Where? I meditate in bed. But you can sit in a chair and do it or sit cross-legged in lotus pose on the floor and do it. Choose anything that you can stick to.
Posture. Sit with your spine erect. Put a thin pillow under your butt while you sit. It’ll make it easy for you to keep your spine erect.
Where to focus. Close your eyes and choose one of these two spots to focus — either the space between your eyebrows or area around your nostrils. I suggest starting with nostrils. Feel the breath going in and come out of your nostrils. Don’t change the point where you focus, pick one and stick with it. You can try both points for a while to see which one you enjoy more. Stick to the one you like better.
Don’ts. Don’t meditate right after having a big meal. Also, don’t meditate in a very hot or cold environment. The idea is to make it comfortable and not make it too tough for yourself.
What to do if you find it too tough to focus. Use a mantra. If you get religious vibes from a mantra then use this simple counting technique. Exhale while counting from 1 to 10, and then inhale while counting from 10 to 1. The idea is to keep your mind occupied so that it will not have any space for other thoughts.
This way you will teach your mind to focus and stay on a single track despite all the distractions around you.
So, this was a brief glimpse into how I started, how I continue with it and how you can use my experiences to start meditating.
Let me know if you have questions.